Ruffin (English/Sam Houston State Univ.; New and Selected Poems, 2010, etc.) offers a collection of personal essays that read like script ideas rejected by the Farrelly brothers.
Though the author boasts a fairly impressive Southern Lit CV—founding director of Texas Review Press, founding editor of the Texas Review and 2009 Texas State Poet Laureate—most of these essays are just offensive and miss the mark. They find great humor in excessive drinking—Ruffin devotes an entire piece to his history with alcohol and lubricates others—and many of the essays celebrate a sort of arrested adolescence, especially with women. The author ogles teenaged waitresses and watches a mosquito probing a thigh of “a beautiful young woman” sitting next to him at a reading—guess what the probing reminds him of? Ruffin dismisses women who don’t turn him on, including one waitress to whose apparently unsavory looks he devotes an entire paragraph. The author also displays an infantile pleasure in the body’s waste products; One essay is entirely about our multiple uses of the word shit; another records his mother’s (!) eccentric practices with her used Kotex. Throughout, the author oddly reveals a disdain for the Southern and Southwestern people whom he putatively celebrates. One mean-spirited essay ridicules the doggerel written by some law-enforcement officers at a convention—a bit like a martial-arts expert’s flattening some eager movie fan in line to see The Karate Kid. Ultimately, this collection reveals the author’s inability to know what’s important and what isn’t. An interminable essay about a flight in a cargo plane features pages of ain’t-goin’-nowhere-in-particular dialogue and crude comments about women’s body parts.
Essays for the drunk and disorderly. Ruffin should stick to poetry and fiction—see The Man Who Would Be God (1993) or Jesus in the Mist (2007).