#20booksofsummer, book 4

Priestdaddy is an acclaimed memoir by US writer Patricia Lockwood, who is currently on the Women’s Prize shortlist for her first novel, No-one Is Talking About This, and whose tweets come imbued with the aura of legend. This, her first book, was published in 2017, and has a particularly random cover in my edition (see end of post), published by Penguin.

The book itself is a rollicking memoir of superlative writing, full of snortingly funny moments, which was apparently “chosen 15 times as a book of the year” (by whom? dunno.). The narrative is based around her family, headed by a macho patriarch – her comic, laconic father, a Kentucky priest, who asserts his masculinity by assembling and reassembling guns in disconcertingly transparent underpants.

After leaving home to marry her boyfriend Jason, they return to live with Lockwood’s family for financial reasons, linked to Jason’s expensive health problems:

“The first glimpse I get of my father he’s spread out on a leather couch in a pair of tighty-whities, which reassures me that nothing significant in the Lockwood household has changed since my departure twelve years ago. “I know so much about him,” Jason whispers over my shoulder. “Every time I’m in a room with your father, I fell like I’m supposed to be sketching his thighs.” It’s true. My childhood was one long life-drawing class where Santa posed for us, stripped naked and loudly challenging us to add more detail to his jelly. … His default position was a kind of explicit lounge, with one leg up and the other extended, like the worse kind of Jazzercise stretch you could possibly imagine.”

As a pre-teen, Lockwood’s father sits his children down to watch The Exorcist:

“As the glow of tween possession began to warm my father’s face, he said, with every appearance of perfect happiness, “Now here’s what you need to know. This story is absolutely true, it happened right here, right in St Louis, and it will one day happen again. Maybe to one of you, or to one of your friends”. … My father chuckled with narrative satisfaction and rammed a handful of potato chips into his mouth. “Now get a load of this,” he said. “She’s about to pee on the carpet.”

There are quotable lines on every page. However, a schoolfriend once devastatingly told me that I was ok “in small doses”, and the relentless pace of anecdote and colourful metaphor in this memoir means that I can finally relate to that 14-year-old bitchbag as this, too, I found best consumed in bite-size chunks before I became overwhelmed with exhaustion. It’s bouncy, like a toddler whacked out on gummy bears.

My 16-year-old came and plonked herself down next to me as I was reading a chapter entitled “The Cum Queens of Hyatt Place“, which actually details a hotel trip with Lockwood’s mother, during which she complained at length about the suspicious stains on the bedding. My foul-mouthed daughter, believing I was reading some kind of Penguin version of Pornhub, was driven to screech “What the actual fuck are you reading??” and scurry away in horror.

Lockwood’s writing has drawn parallels with legendary comic essayist David Sedaris, and I can’t not recommend this book, as Lockwood is undoubtedly hugely talented. The comedy is interjected with unexpected moments of emotional clarity and rawness, as well as enormous warmth. I did feel for Lockwood’s family though, as every inch of excruciating personal history seems to have been mined for Lockwood’s personal use. I hope it was worth it.

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