CITY LIMITS: MEMORIES
OF A SMALL TOWN BOY.
204 pages. $29. Terry Teachout is a respected music critic, journalist and spare-time jazz musician. As a child, he was a misfit -- awkward, isolated from his niche. Then in early adolescence, he discovered what would become his passion.
Placing his dad's 78-rpm record onto the phonograph, he was unprepared for "the loud, piercing, joyous strains of the big band in full cry." Rhythm entered his life and changed everything, Mr. Teachout explains in "City Limits," his evocative and beautifully written memoir. "I stepped through an unmarked door . . . fell headlong into another universe and never looked back."
Much of this book is set in the Midwest town of Sikeston, Mo. But this isn't a reminiscence of growing up during the '60s and '70s in America's hometowns, as the dust jacket suggests. Rather, it's a story describing a particular kind of love that enters, then takes hold of a person's life. While cloaked in the homespun cloth of traditional family values, the Reagan Revolution actually was one of this nation's most radical political movements to date. Rather than conserving the familiar, it invited strangers into our country home and gave ,, them the run of the place. "Going for Broke" is the story of how Robert Campeau, a real-estate developer from Quebec with only $200 million in capital, was allowed to borrow nearly $11 billion of American money -- of what may end up being taxpayers' money -- to acquire companies that six months earlier he'd never heard of.
With two wives, two sets of children and nervous breakdowns nearly as frequent as his sheep-brain injections for longevity, Mr. Campeau was one of the strangest men who could possibly ride into town. But to his credit, John Rothchild doesn't demonize the man. Painting him instead as but another victim of the "mystical accounting" of the 1980s, he adopts an absurdist, Swiftian tone entirely appropriate for the era when "Chapter 11" became as familiar a part of the American lexicon as "Catch 22" or "Route 66."
@ Gary Paulsen has done it again. He has written a wonderful book that nonetheless is entirely different from his other wonderful books.
First, we meet a "caramel-colored" orphan girl whose left leg "didn't grow right" because her mother "did drugs or something." It's a combination that does not seem destined to attract prospective parents, but Emma and Fred Hemesvedt, from the small town of Bolton, Kan., decide to adopt Rachel Ellen Turner -- Rocky.
Second, Python appears, a big scruffy dog with curly tight hair. Rocky adopts Python, and they are never apart after that.
Third, sculptor Mick Strum comes to town, commissioned by Tru Langdon to design and build a monument for the 18 Bolton men who died in the Vietnam War. Rocky follows Mick around, incidentally and consequentially learning how to be an artist, as he draws and paints and plans the design for the town's monument.
Mr. Paulsen manages to create a wonderful young character, tell a fascinating story and express his own ideas about monument-building in this simple yet complete story about art, bravery and remembering. He dedicates this book to his father, who served 20 years in the Army, and the author declares, "should have had a monument." Now he does.