An inventive debut refracts the life of a disaffected young man through his fascination with The Guinness Book of World Records.
Now 32 and a nonfiction editor for the arts organization Many Mountains Moving, Church lives in Colorado with his wife and son. Most of his memoir, though, looks back on growing up in Lawrence, Kansas, with his mother, father, and brother Matt. While still in elementary school, Church became an avid Guinness reader, buying a new copy every year at the school book-fair. He imagined the motivations of those listed and shares some of those imagined stories here. At other times, Church imagined himself as a record holder, though he knew he lacked the motivation to see any activity to such a conclusion. He opens chapters with citations from the 1980 and ’82 editions, beginning with “Most Variable Stature.” The holder of that record stood less than 4 feet tall at age 21, but eventually topped 7 feet. The entry grabbed the author’s youthful attention because he was an oversized boy, threatening to his classmates. Today, Church is 6 feet 4 and weighs 260 pounds; his bulk plays a significant role throughout the memoir. Brother Matt, younger by 19 months, was more normally sized, more comfortable in his body, and an accomplished daredevil; Church was sometimes irritated by Matt, sometimes in awe of him. Matt figures so prominently in the narrative that it is a shock when, halfway through the text, he dies at age 18 after losing control of his car. Then again, some of the tragedy may have been invented. The Author’s Note that prefaces this “work of creative nonfiction” states that many names have been changed, many distortions and dramatizations included. It ends with these alarming words: “Any resemblance between reality and my imagination is purely coincidental and unintentional. This is not a book of fact. This is a story.”
Despite that off-putting note, a clever, revealing telling of a life so far.