BENCHWARMER by Josh Wilker


An Anxious Dad's Almanac of Fatherhood and Other Failures
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A sports-obsessed memoir of fatherhood.

The delights of this fatherhood confessional are various. Perhaps most striking and unusual is Wilker’s (Cardboard Gods: An All-American Tale Told Through Baseball Cards, 2010) choice of framing his narrative in the form of an almanac. The almanac becomes a moving metaphor for a universal need to organize the chaotic borders of life experience. The author divides the book into four volumes spanning the first year of his son Jack’s life. The almanac is then subdivided alphabetically, starting with Aardsma, David, ending with Zidane, Zinedine, and running a curious gamut of terms, personae, ideas and anecdotes. The first entry in Volume 4, section W, for example, is Webber, Chris—the now retired all-star NBA player. The entry beneath his name reads, “Time can’t be stopped,” referencing his disastrous timeout in the 1993 national championship game, while making light of the fact that there are no convenient timeouts in real life, either. For sports fans (who also happen to be experiencing fatherhood), Wilker’s almanac is rife with poignant, essayistic forays into these dusty corners of sports history. Perhaps the memoir’s most important takeaway is the acknowledgment that even the best of parents are sometimes faking it, doing what they can to make the world less dangerous for the young and still innocent. “When Jack was first born I didn’t know how to hold him,” writes the author, “but within a week or so the awkwardness of holding him gave way to the feeling that holding him was the thing I’d been born to do, the feeling that made me whole.”

This almanac of fatherhood (and other failures) is honest, relatable and humorous—an indispensable read for fathers (and sons) whose joy in life comes not from winning the big game but being alive to witness the beauty of its happening.

Pub Date: May 5th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-61039-401-7
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: PublicAffairs
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2015


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