Noted cult writer Saknussemm’s (Reverend America, 2012, etc.) darkly funny, offbeat memoir of growing up around San Francisco in the 1960s.
It's immediately evident that we’re dealing with a poet who’s operating in a sublimely blurred space between poetry and prose. The opening sentences of many of these fractured vignettes are some of the most strangely evocative lead-ins out there: “I turned ten inside a giant tire, honoring the engineers and earthmoving machines of the Oroville Land Dam, and a memorial to a mummified Indian chief who disintegrated into dust the moment he was exposed.” So goes the amusingly confounding opening of the short piece “Fire and Forget,” in which the author recalls his life at 10, when he was apprehensive of both the future and the past, just wanting to hide away until everything made sense again. Much of Saknussemm’s early childhood, as captured in short sketches and longer, more essayistic remembrances, often seems little more than common childhood horseplay, but filtered through the author’s undeniably funhouse-mirror sensibilities. Nevertheless, there are some truly singular incidents that almost read like a West Coast take on Southern Gothic fiction (especially the scene involving the author as a young kid finding the bloody severed limb of an amputee friend). The autobiographical sketches that cover the author’s early adult years are full of the sort of boozing, drugging and sexcapades one would naturally expect from an alcoholic preacher’s son. Highlights from these years include the author’s stint as a soul radio DJ (“Mr. Very Late Night”) and a Henry Miller–esque romp through Saknussemm’s many sexual conquests as a randy college professor.
A wonderfully warped grab bag of memories from a wilder and weirder time.