Ten homespun personal essays—most published elsewhere—from the author of last year’s acclaimed novel Jim the Boy.
Earley grew up in a small-town, kudzu-covered corner of North Carolina more recognizable as the terrain of Thomas Wolfe than that of Dorothy Allison. Seven of these pieces explore his early years there, as a 1960s television acolyte, a squirrel-hunting dilettante, and, through it all, an astute, heartbreaking observer of the idiosyncratic people around him. The title story, which appeared in Harper’s, serves as an introduction to this American boyhood, wholly transformed by a color, Zenith television set, replete with rooftop antenna. As the cornerstone entry here, a masterful exercise in metaphor, it’s hard to imagine what more the author could have to articulate about his young life. But Earley thankfully only has more trenchant memories to spin. With “Hallway,” in an equally unadorned language, but with more deeply felt remembrances, Earley recalls, with a child’s perception, his extended family’s peculiarities and his own fearful awe of his grandfather. A look at the odd Scots-derived Appalachian dialect of his youth (“The Quare Gene”) leads to a reflection on the “shared history” that the author is losing with his highland ancestors. A similar wistfulness pervades “Granny’s Bridge,” a tribute to a time when crossing a bridge—and certainly not one to the 21st century—could enhance a person’s outlook. In “Ghost Stories,” Earley takes his wife to New Orleans to investigate the haunted city: “We are looking for ghosts, but, I think, a good story will do.” And the final piece (“Tour de Fax”), another gem from Harper’s, follows him on a record-setting circumnavigational flight, recorded stop by stop in under 32 hours. Earley’s skewering of the trip’s corporate sponsors is good fun, and his capstone epiphany—that where he ended up, at home, is the only place he’d fly around the world to get to—rings true.
Poetic, inspiring proof that you can go home again.
Somehow Form a Family: Stories That Are Mostly True3.78 · Rating details · 247 Ratings · 33 Reviews
This is the book that in hardcover won unanimous praise from reviewers, who called it "beautiful and transcendent" (The Boston Globe), a book that "measures the arc of a culture's mortality in small, personal increments" (Star Tribune, Minneapolis), is written "in a poker-faced style that always seems on the verge of exploding into manic laughter or howls of pain" (The AtlThis is the book that in hardcover won unanimous praise from reviewers, who called it "beautiful and transcendent" (The Boston Globe), a book that "measures the arc of a culture's mortality in small, personal increments" (Star Tribune, Minneapolis), is written "in a poker-faced style that always seems on the verge of exploding into manic laughter or howls of pain" (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution). They're right. Tony Earley is a writer so good at his craft that you don't read his words so much as inhale them. His first book of nonfiction is one of those unexpected classics, like Ann Lamott's Traveling Mercies, in which a great writer rips open his/her heart and takes the reader inside for a no-holds-barred tour.
In a prose style that is deceptively simple, Earley confronts the big things-God, death, civilization, family, his own clinical depression-with wit and grace, without looking away or smirking....more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published May 17th 2002 by Algonquin Books (first published May 1st 2001)