A Memoir
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A pop-culture–infused, sexually charged memoir of growing up in the Pacific Northwest in the 1970s.

Sampsell (Creamy Bullets, 2008, etc.) structures the narrative as a series of brief vignettes, retroactively assembling the jagged pieces of a family history splintered by abuse, abortion, incest, addiction and institutionalization. The author effectively combines swift, lyrical prose and provocative subject matter, including childhood and adolescent exploits in suburban environs, fluctuating interpersonal relationships, sexual experimentation, popular music, pornography addiction, Catholicism and racial tension. The author presents his work as a “memory experiment” spurred by the death of his father and the resulting revisitation of old places; the fragmentation of the narrative reflects the piecemeal nature of memory. In the introduction, Sampsell focuses tightly on his father, presenting him as a wrathful phantasm. The author then moves on to his adolescence, during which he remained ignorant of his complex and troubled father’s greatest transgressions. He chronicles his growing interest in radio broadcasting, relationships and sex. Eventually he had a son of his own, prompting an oath to be a better father than his had been, but we see little of that father/son relationship, other than an occasional mention. It’s an odd reticence, considering the candor with which Sampsell describes the loss of his virginity to an impassive prostitute, or his participation in mutual masturbation in a sex-shop video booth.

Crisp, punchy reminiscences that mostly resonate but occasionally ring hollow.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-06-176610-7
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2009