Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Little Gift and a Review of Chris Crutcher's Autobiography

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First of all, I have a little gift for the writers out there. I ran across this article quite a while ago, but forgot to include it until today. If you struggle with revision, as I do, and don’t have as much patience as you might, like me, you will get a lot from this wonderful article from an issue of The Writer magazine:

Secondly, I love to read and also love to share what I read by way of reviews. I read a book yesterday that blew me away, and I want to share it with you.

I made friends with Chris Crutcher on Facebook recently. Okay. “Made Friends” might be an overstatement, but I like the way it sounds. If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you know I am a HUGE fan of his writing. Check some earlier writings HERE and HERE. I’ve read many of his books, some more than once. Anyway, I took a chance and asked if he would be willing to do an email interview for my blog. He said yes. YAY! Keep an eye open for that upcoming interview. It should be here in a couple of weeks. Anyway, in preparing my questions, I took a look at his page on Amazon and discovered there are a few books of his I haven’t read, one of which is an autobiography. I figured I’d better read that before I wrote my questions, so spent yesterday with the book. It is called King of the Mild Frontier: An Ill-Advised Autobiography. I knew Crutcher had a great sense of humor. You can’t read his books without realizing that, but I had no idea just how flat-out funny he is. Clearly, he could do stand-up comedy, and, if he ever wants a career change, I’d recommend it.

I am just the same age as Crutcher, and we graduated high school the same year. Maybe that’s why I just couldn’t put this fabulous book down. I really related to it. In July, I reviewed a book here called Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt that I LOVED! It was set in the sixties, the most seminal time of my formative years. It was funny and smart and heartbreakingly real. This book had much the same effect on me for the same reasons. Crutcher grew up with an All-American kind of childhood – in a small town with an older brother, a younger sister, a dad who was around and had lots of rules, and a mother who quietly drank herself into a stupor every night. Okay, it wasn’t Leave it to Beaver, or maybe it was and we never got to hang around long enough to watch Mrs. Cleaver fall off her 3-inch heels and sob into her useless, frilly, little apron. But honestly, Crutcher wasn’t much more than a degree off norm, if that. And his memory of his childhood seemed selective only to the point of finding the absolutely most drop-dead humor in every bit of it.

Many, many times, I found myself laughing so hard I had to stop reading for several minutes to calm myself down enough to wipe away the tears and get my eyes to focus enough to go on. I read several passages to my husband, but couldn’t get through them without breaking down again. When I finally did get through them, he was laughing has hard as I was. (Seriously. NOT kidding or exaggerating.) I have so many Post-It arrows in the book, I nearly ran out.

“There are plenty of wanna-do-something-neat? stories, each more embarrassing than the last, but my brother’s real coup had to be the time he shot me in the head with a BB gun and didn’t spend one second behind bars for it.”

Crutcher’s brother, John, could always convince little brother of the most outrageous things with that wonderful opening – “Wanna do something neat?” Everyone who has older siblings can relate to that. (In thinking back on the book, Crutcher’s younger sister was nearly non-existent in the book. I suspect he had to pay her off long ago so she wouldn’t write her own book. Hmmm. Maybe that’s where the real story lies.)

“Let it never be said that Chris Crutcher does not listen. My coach’s last words before I stepped onto the court were ‘Don’t embarrass yourself.’ That isn’t always easy.”

Well, you KNOW this isn’t going to end well. AND, you can probably relate to it. I know I could. I could probably put thirty or forty such openings in here, but you get the idea. Crutcher knows how to set up, load up, and knock it out of the park, even though his childhood stories belie any athletic skills. He sure has the understanding of sport, which you will know if you read his books. And if you read this book, as I hope you will, you will find out there is great humor, but there is also great humility and heartbreak in this fine piece of writing.

I hope you will A) get hold of this fabulous book and enjoy it as much as I did, and B) keep an eye on the blog for his interview. I’d bet my lunch money it won’t be boring.