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The World's Largest Man: A Memoir

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The riotous, tender story of a bookish Mississippi boy and his flawed, Bunyanesque father, told with the comic verve of David Sedaris and the deft satire of Mark Twain or Roy Blount, Jr.Harrison Scott Key was born in Memphis, but he grew up in Mississippi, among pious, Bible-reading women and men who either shot things or got women pregnant. At the center of his world was The riotous, tender story of a bookish Mississippi boy and his flawed, Bunyanesque father, told with the comic verve of David Sedaris and the deft satire of Mark Twain or Roy Blount, Jr.Harrison Scott Key was born in Memphis, but he grew up in Mississippi, among pious, Bible-reading women and men who either shot things or got women pregnant. At the center of his world was his larger-than-life father—a hunter, a fighter, a football coach, “a man better suited to living in a remote frontier wilderness of the nineteenth century than contemporary America, with all its progressive ideas, and paved roads, and lack of armed duels. He was a great man, and he taught me many things: How to fight, how to work, how to cheat, how to pray to Jesus about it, how to kill things with guns and knives and, if necessary, with hammers.”Harrison, with his love of books and excessive interest in hugging, couldn’t have been less like Pop, and when it became clear that he was not able to kill anything very well or otherwise make his father happy, he resolved to become everything his father was not: an actor, a Presbyterian, and a doctor of philosophy. But when it was time to settle down and start a family of his own, Harrison started to view his father in a new light, and realized—for better and for worse—how much of his old man he’d absorbed.Sly, heartfelt, and tirelessly hilarious, The World’s Largest Man is an unforgettable memoir—the story of a boy’s struggle to reconcile himself with an impossibly outsized role model, a grown man’s reckoning with the father it took him a lifetime to understand.


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The riotous, tender story of a bookish Mississippi boy and his flawed, Bunyanesque father, told with the comic verve of David Sedaris and the deft satire of Mark Twain or Roy Blount, Jr.Harrison Scott Key was born in Memphis, but he grew up in Mississippi, among pious, Bible-reading women and men who either shot things or got women pregnant. At the center of his world was The riotous, tender story of a bookish Mississippi boy and his flawed, Bunyanesque father, told with the comic verve of David Sedaris and the deft satire of Mark Twain or Roy Blount, Jr.Harrison Scott Key was born in Memphis, but he grew up in Mississippi, among pious, Bible-reading women and men who either shot things or got women pregnant. At the center of his world was his larger-than-life father—a hunter, a fighter, a football coach, “a man better suited to living in a remote frontier wilderness of the nineteenth century than contemporary America, with all its progressive ideas, and paved roads, and lack of armed duels. He was a great man, and he taught me many things: How to fight, how to work, how to cheat, how to pray to Jesus about it, how to kill things with guns and knives and, if necessary, with hammers.”Harrison, with his love of books and excessive interest in hugging, couldn’t have been less like Pop, and when it became clear that he was not able to kill anything very well or otherwise make his father happy, he resolved to become everything his father was not: an actor, a Presbyterian, and a doctor of philosophy. But when it was time to settle down and start a family of his own, Harrison started to view his father in a new light, and realized—for better and for worse—how much of his old man he’d absorbed.Sly, heartfelt, and tirelessly hilarious, The World’s Largest Man is an unforgettable memoir—the story of a boy’s struggle to reconcile himself with an impossibly outsized role model, a grown man’s reckoning with the father it took him a lifetime to understand.

30 review for The World's Largest Man: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Laura McNeal

    You should only read this book if you have ever: had a father, visited and/or lived in, and/or seen movies set in the South, felt that you were unlike the other members of your family, played a sport your father loved and were bad at it, feared that one of your parents was racist or in some other way socially horrifying, been expected to act bravely on a camping or hunting trip, felt like a disappointment to a parent, wished you were otherwise, and wished that all of the above experiences could som You should only read this book if you have ever: had a father, visited and/or lived in, and/or seen movies set in the South, felt that you were unlike the other members of your family, played a sport your father loved and were bad at it, feared that one of your parents was racist or in some other way socially horrifying, been expected to act bravely on a camping or hunting trip, felt like a disappointment to a parent, wished you were otherwise, and wished that all of the above experiences could somehow be made funny and redemptive and story-like instead of just baffling and shameful. This is an extraordinarily funny, eloquent, and humane memoir, one of the very best I have ever read, something to put on the shelf with Tobias Wolff, and that shelf is mostly just Tobias Wolff and scorched earth.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    I haven't even finished yet & I'm already confirming this is a 5 star book. Hilarious & tender in equal measure. I love it. Any book that attempts to make me laugh has to live up to the Dave Barry test: Does it make me laugh out loud against my will? This one passes with flying colors: I will admit to reading this while my four kids ran wild in a McDonald's Playplace (Don't judge me. It was our 5th snow day in 3 weeks) and laughing out loud to myself. If you, too, want to laugh to yourself about I haven't even finished yet & I'm already confirming this is a 5 star book. Hilarious & tender in equal measure. I love it. Any book that attempts to make me laugh has to live up to the Dave Barry test: Does it make me laugh out loud against my will? This one passes with flying colors: I will admit to reading this while my four kids ran wild in a McDonald's Playplace (Don't judge me. It was our 5th snow day in 3 weeks) and laughing out loud to myself. If you, too, want to laugh to yourself about a bookish boy growing up in the wilds of the rural south, here's your next read.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Joy Jackson

    I fell in love with this book. Just like in real life, first it made me laugh and then it made me cry. Having said that still doesn't come close to the emotions this book evokes. When I say laugh, I mean the kind of laughter that's more of a scream, like maybe you could hurt yourself or your furniture. Like you can't catch your breath laughter. So rare. And there's a lot of that in the book but dropped in at ever so clever intervals are searing pearls of humanity, heart breaking, common to us al I fell in love with this book. Just like in real life, first it made me laugh and then it made me cry. Having said that still doesn't come close to the emotions this book evokes. When I say laugh, I mean the kind of laughter that's more of a scream, like maybe you could hurt yourself or your furniture. Like you can't catch your breath laughter. So rare. And there's a lot of that in the book but dropped in at ever so clever intervals are searing pearls of humanity, heart breaking, common to us all. The heart of this book is a tribute to the author's larger than life father but his honesty and openness in every area of his life is stunningly courageous, I found this to be especially true in the chapter on his marriage. So brave. So vulnerable. A book such as this one takes lots of courage and lots of talent, because, oh, his use of similes, fabulously wicked!!!! Don't miss this book. I mean what else could you ask for?

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Hiskes

    Harrison Scott Key combines David Sedaris's manic 10-jokes-a-minute hilarity, Lewis Nordan's ear for the strange music of Mississippi, and the Drive-By Truckers' raucous Southern storytelling into an excellent memoir. The theme is his larger-than-life father, a man of outsize stature and appetites, who taught his sons to hunt, fish and fight. The theme is also fathers in general, and the way they shape us, whether or not we run from their influence. And the theme is also the ordinary contours of Harrison Scott Key combines David Sedaris's manic 10-jokes-a-minute hilarity, Lewis Nordan's ear for the strange music of Mississippi, and the Drive-By Truckers' raucous Southern storytelling into an excellent memoir. The theme is his larger-than-life father, a man of outsize stature and appetites, who taught his sons to hunt, fish and fight. The theme is also fathers in general, and the way they shape us, whether or not we run from their influence. And the theme is also the ordinary contours of family life, told with wit and grace. Wonderful book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    I wasn't sure I was going to like this book. When I first heard of it, I thought it was about a circus sideshow featuring the world's largest man. That was, of course, my silly, initial thought - long before I read the synopsis. Instead, "the world's largest man" refers to Harrison Scott Key's father, a person larger-than -life in many ways. In size, in temperament, in a young boy's eyes and in a grown man's memory. The story, however, isn't only about the author's father. He talks about his wif I wasn't sure I was going to like this book. When I first heard of it, I thought it was about a circus sideshow featuring the world's largest man. That was, of course, my silly, initial thought - long before I read the synopsis. Instead, "the world's largest man" refers to Harrison Scott Key's father, a person larger-than -life in many ways. In size, in temperament, in a young boy's eyes and in a grown man's memory. The story, however, isn't only about the author's father. He talks about his wife and children and many funny and sweet situations regarding them. For the most part, the setting is the author's boyhood in rural Mississippi. Let that conjure what it will for you; it will surely bring up stereotypes for some of us. Mr. Key does a good job describing these stereotypes in a funny, affectionate way. I really wasn't expecting the book to be so funny. It was hilarious. So funny, in fact, that I laughed out loud in several places, often scaring my dog with my loud bursts of laughter. At least, I did through the first few chapters. And then, even though it was still funny, it wasn't, not until I passed the middle of the book. Not to me, anyway. This is a book that had some hard sections for me to deal with. ***SPOILER ALERT*** There is much about guns and explicit detail of injuries to animals, as well as what some would consider child abuse (hard whippings with belts). The author treats these things with matter-of-factness, not acquiescence or agreement, and I think he does a good job of helping us see these things through his eyes as they happened and how they happened. Personally, I had a very hard time with some of these things, because of my own experience with them. I could laugh at many of Mr. Key's analogies and metaphors, but I also felt burning anger at some of the situations. The story does not swing totally from hilarity to depression. It is also sweet and touching and there is a recognition at the end that we can love our families deeply and still recognize the imperfections in us all, and thus forgive them. It's probably not fair to only give this book 4 stars. I'm holding back only because of my personal negative reactions to situations that I related to, which have nothing at all to do with the writing and is certainly no reflection on the author. It really was a wonderful book. I gave it 4 stars, but go ahead and consider it 5 stars. It's only fair.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Esther Bradley-detally

    I adored this book; plucked it off the "new" shelf at the Pasadena Central Library; went through a few other books first, but I have been reading The World's Largest Man steadily for the past few days. Reader I laugh out loud, small chuckles burst into huge ones; rough childhood, but his literary bon mots so acerbically inserted into his prose at just the write time makes his life one of effulgent pathos. I just adore his voice. At the end of the book, he deals with his life as a grown man, a wo I adored this book; plucked it off the "new" shelf at the Pasadena Central Library; went through a few other books first, but I have been reading The World's Largest Man steadily for the past few days. Reader I laugh out loud, small chuckles burst into huge ones; rough childhood, but his literary bon mots so acerbically inserted into his prose at just the write time makes his life one of effulgent pathos. I just adore his voice. At the end of the book, he deals with his life as a grown man, a wonderful spunky wife, 3 daughters and a host of hilarious episodes. He is humble and he is honest, and he's roaringly funny. Oh my Harrison Scott Key, I think I am a member of the Harrison Scott Key fan club. Be still my heart.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Catherine Blass

    The dedication page made me laugh out loud in public, and the rest of the book followed suit.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Christina

    Laughed til I cried multiple times. Brilliant writing and just a funny book.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Harrison Key

    Today, you can get famous for almost anything. You can do something amazing, such as save a baby from a well or run for president or be an astronaut, or you can do something evil, like make another Spider-Man movie. The thing I got a little famous for is writing a book called The World's Largest Man. It is about lots of things, family and the American South and loving your neighbors, even when they set fire to your house. Mostly, it is about my father and what he taught me about being a human. I Today, you can get famous for almost anything. You can do something amazing, such as save a baby from a well or run for president or be an astronaut, or you can do something evil, like make another Spider-Man movie. The thing I got a little famous for is writing a book called The World's Largest Man. It is about lots of things, family and the American South and loving your neighbors, even when they set fire to your house. Mostly, it is about my father and what he taught me about being a human. I tried to make it funny, and it turned out both funny and sad, according to these reviews, which is fine. Major newspapers said nice things about it. I became the first member of my family to have his name said aloud on National Public Radio, which felt sort of great, and would have felt even greater if anyone in my family listened to National Public Radio. When you're a famous writer like me, you get asked to do all kinds of important things, such as visit your daughter's first grade class and talk about what it's like to be a famous writer. This happened at a recent career day. "Who you be?" one child asked. "I be Harrison," I explained. "What you got?" he asked, wondering what sort of candy I would be distributing to the class. "I got pencils," I said. I distributed my pencils, a gift of my university, where I write, and where I teach others to write. They liked the pencils. Some of them ate the pencils. "So," they always ask. "How did you become a writer?" I get asked this a lot. When you become an important celebrity author, such as I have, you find yourself answering this question a lot. "How did you become a firefighter?" is a much easier question to answer, even if that profession is more heroic than my own. Google "How to Be a Firefighter" and you will get 14 million hits, each very specific and helpful. "First, be a volunteer firefighter!" one website says. "Become an EMT," suggests another. It might be difficult, but it's clear: Do this, do that, and you, too, can fight fires. Now Google "How to Become a Writer," and you will get 360 million hits, and none of them will be useful. I found one site that listed exactly 210 steps to becoming a writer, including helpful information, such as, "While writing, drink water to avoid fatigue." This is my advice to you. Hydrate. When people ask this question, I guess what they're really saying is, "Please tell us how one goes about disappointing one's parents while also achieving poverty." And the answer is, there are many less strenuous ways to disappoint your parents, such as getting arrested, or majoring in hospitality and tourism. "Did you read a lot, as a child?" they sometimes ask. Yes. I competed in many read-a-thons, and I very much enjoyed competitive reading, or really any sort of competition that one could do on a bed. All through elementary school I showed a keen interest in writing, which I did by hand, with a pencil and paper, which I then folded and handed to girls in my class, in hopes that they would bear my children. That taught me a valuable lesson for a young writer, which is that sometimes people who read your work will want to bear your children, so it's always good to carry protection, by which I mean a weapon. By junior high, I had begun writing letters to a Vietnamese pen pal named Debbie. Back in my day, before children were encouraged to send pictures of their genitalia to one another via small handheld computers, we actually took the time to get real paper and draw pictures of our genitalia by hand, which we then mailed to one another via a system of wagon trains. With these letters, I also included stories about my life, which Debbie enjoyed. "You are a good writer," she said. "But please stop sending pictures of your privates." I didn't really send her pictures of my privates. But I did send her stories, in exchange for pictures of her, which I showed to friends to make myself seem more interesting. By high school, my gift for writing was so advanced that I got paid handsomely to write research papers for classmates. It felt wrong, to be paid for doing something that came so easily, like being paid to eat cookies, the kind of cookies that gave you ulcers and took a month to eat. "This term paper is so good," my classmates said, handing me the eighty-five dollars we had discussed. "You're going to become famous." Actually, what they said was, "Where's the bibliography?" And I said, "Bibliographies cost fifteen dollars." Did it feel wrong, cheating? I was a follower of Jesus, and knew that Jesus, being the son of a famous author, would probably not like my plagiarizing, but I also knew that God had also hired at least three or four dozen Holy Ghost writers to do His book. Incidentally, I wrote my own paper on the writing of the King James Bible, which James also paid others to write for him. I made a B on that paper. So if you ever made anything higher than a B on a term paper, I am sorry, but you are probably not going to be a famous writer like me. That same year, they named me Most Likely to Succeed, likely because I had helped so many of them graduate by writing their papers. At the time, I thought success was about wealth and prestige, but now I know that it's really about whether you have a swimming pool. Some of my classmates now have swimming pools, and many have successful businesses, and most of them have quality landscaping. I have none of those things, because I am a writer. Growing up, I gave absolutely no thought to writing as a profession. It never occurred to me. I come from Mississippi, where we have so many good role models for writers, such as Willie Morris and Jimmy Buffett. Writing was too much fun to think about doing it for a living. Livings were supposed to be cruel things, made by sweat and fear. Writing was the opposite of all that. "You must have loved your English and writing courses, though." No. For some reason, at Belhaven College, they placed me in the remedial composition course, likely owing to some paperwork confusion that involved them being confused by the words I had put on paper. This course took place in a dark basement room and was taught by a humorless teacher who resembled Samuel Beckett, which was unfortunate, since she was a woman. I made a C in that course. So if you're college English professor considers you average, then congratulations, because you are probably going to be a famous writer just like me. That teacher was kind, and she had a gift for making all literature boring. Every time she talked about literature, the literature died. And so, in an effort to keep her from murdering more literature, I knew the safest thing to do was major in psychology, which includes almost no reading and thus would help make the world safer for literature. It was around this time that my roommate, Brian Perry, editor of the college newspaper, was kind enough to ask me to write for him, and I agreed to pen a weekly column, largely about music, which allowed me to get into concerts for free. Naturally, readers responded to my writing, mostly by hating it, and I learned that some people's expectations are very high, such as wanting every story to include facts. "So you wanted to be a journalist?" No, no. But I knew writing for the college newspaper would be a useful experience, because of all the free tickets to concerts, which would help me in my true career goal, which was to be a drummer like Led Zeppelin's John Bonham. I bought some drums and started a band and we had great success, if you count making the ears of innocent people bleed as a kind of success. We gigged at George Street Grocery and Martin's and Hal and Mal's and Field's Café and were only kicked out of some of those places. When the band dissolved, what I really wanted to be was an actor, because when I put on makeup and pretended to be someone else, everybody loved it—I assume because they hated the way I looked without makeup. But acting became too emotionally overwhelming, as I was overwhelmed by how many emotions the other actors had, and so I opted for a career in standup comedy, because comics have only one emotion, and it is rage. "You must have enjoyed writing jokes." Yes, it allowed me to opine on a range of subjects as vast as the firmament, and it also allowed me to be heckled by angry drunk women, which turned out to be great, since I enjoyed feeling terrible about myself. In fact, it made me feel so terrible that I stopped doing standup and enrolled in Reformed Theological Seminary, which is always a good idea when you hate yourself. I didn't really want to be a preacher, but I'd heard so many bad sermons over the years, and I wondered, Could I, too, write a bad sermon? But I withdrew before the first day, because, You either had a gift for it, or you didn't. Bad sermon writing just can't be taught. So I returned to the theater, working occasionally at New Stage Theater, but instead of acting, what I did was write plays, and approximately none of those plays were good, including a play I wrote about a North African Christian martyr who was put to death for getting baptized, which I conceived of as a comedy. I had some great playwriting teachers, who had a gift for lying about how good my plays were, which eventually led to depression and a decision to pursue a career in dentistry, because dentists make a lot of money while wearing what are essentially pajamas. Comfortable clothes have always been a priority for me, as has being wealthy. By this time, I was married, and my new wife was very supportive of my desire to be wealthy, although she worried that I might also be mentally ill. "You can do anything you set your mind to," my teachers had always said, and what they really meant was, "You can be mediocre at anything you set your mind to," and I was mediocre at so much, the possibilities were endless. I sought answers in the library, I sought refuge in the Psalms. I always came back to writing. In many ways, writing was our family business. Both of my parents could read, for example, and both of my grandfathers were widely known for writing checks at the grocery store. Writing was in my blood. It was something I had to do. "Was there a moment when you decided to be a writer?" That's like asking a jackass, "Was there a moment when you decided to be a jackass?" You make these small decisions that lead to more and more jackassery—such as, deciding not to pick up that trash, deciding not to say hello to a colleague in the produce aisle—until one day you look up and you're a jackass. Every day, you make the decision to be a jackass. And every morning, somewhere between 4:00 A.M. and 5:30 A.M., I make the decision to be a writer, and also a jackass. Sometimes, I write for two or three hours, and sometimes I write all day, and sometimes I just stare out the window with my hands in my pants because my hands are cold and my pants are warm. It's a very emotionally upsetting way to spend one's time, because you're doing this every morning for ten years, and hating yourself, and hating your work until such time as you hate it slightly less, until such time as your expectation level also increases, so that even as you hate it less, you actually hate it more. But you love it. But you hate it. But you love it. They say writing is like giving birth, and it is. It's just like giving birth, during the Middle Ages, when all the babies died. You get up every day and try to push out a baby, and when it finally comes out, it's dead, and if it's not dead, it should be, so you take it to the bathtub and drown it, and then you get upset and consider what fun it would be to sell life insurance, and then you get up the next day and decide to be a writer again and have another dead baby, and you look in the mirror, and you're like, "This is not fun." But every now and then, one of those babies comes out and it's the most beautiful baby you've ever seen. It has plot like a good, healthy baby. It's got exactly the right number of commas, and its paragraphs are perfectly bilateral. And you forget about all the dead babies for the last ten years and you hold that baby tight and spellcheck it like a good parent should. In reality, it's a very ugly baby, but you don't care. Its eyes are too far apart. One of its ears is shaped weird. It's got three arms. But you don't care. So you send this baby to a magazine, and they mail you back a little postcard that tells you your baby is, in fact, sort of ugly. "But no!" you say. "It's my baby! I made it! It's perfect!" So you look long and hard at your baby, and you realize: it is an ugly baby. So you do like Abraham, and you take it out back behind the woodshed, but God doesn't stop you, and you kill it, and you weep. And you wake up and make another baby, and more and more babies, a whole army of ugly, three-armed babies, and you send them out into the world. And you meet nice editors who see something special in one of your ugly babies and help you make it less ugly by giving it a haircut that keeps its brow from seeming so prominent, or by removing one of the arms in a non-invasive way. And before you know it, your ugly babies are colonizing small territories on the internet, and maybe an agent comes along and helps you sell some of these children to a publisher, which sounds like child slavery, and maybe it is. "Is that how you got your book deal?" Yes. I have a book. One book. Which is exactly the same number of books written by Hulk Hogan's wife. (NOTE: I now have two books! But only one, when I wrote this review!) We become who we become for reasons we cannot always know—because of what we saw our mothers love, or our fathers hate, and because of what we need deep down inside the parts of us that others don't know about, such as love, or security, or adoration. For me, what I needed was the freedom to drink before noon and work in my underwear. And I needed a human being who would allow me to work in my underwear, and that human is my wife. "Is there any writing advice you can leave us with?" they always ask. Yes, I say. The path to greatness is not straight. The path to mediocrity is also not straight. The path to almost anywhere is not straight, unless it is a sidewalk and you are on your way to school, to learn about careers. Enjoy the pencils, I always tell the children. Get a dream, make something beautiful. Get a job, make some money. Take that money, buy my book?

  10. 5 out of 5

    Samson

    Harrison Scott Key continues to produce some of the most underrated, best written memoir in the modern age. Gosh. If i'm being totally honest, I didn't enjoy this as much as "Congratulations, Who Are You Again?" BUT. Compared to that, (my current favorite memoir) literally everything is gonna pale a little bit in comparison. This is such an emotionally stunning, moving portrait of fatherhood and the south and masculinity itself, it's a wonder it even works at all. It is a little... slower? less Harrison Scott Key continues to produce some of the most underrated, best written memoir in the modern age. Gosh. If i'm being totally honest, I didn't enjoy this as much as "Congratulations, Who Are You Again?" BUT. Compared to that, (my current favorite memoir) literally everything is gonna pale a little bit in comparison. This is such an emotionally stunning, moving portrait of fatherhood and the south and masculinity itself, it's a wonder it even works at all. It is a little... slower? less linear? Then his other book, and that mixed with the tone (that got a little distracted and snarky at times) is why I bumped a star. I still enjoyed it so, so much though.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn

    Parts were utterly foreign and parts were terrifyingly familiar. Minus one star for the short section disparaging dachshunds.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kelly Ferguson

    I grew up as Key's X chromosome counterpart in Alabama. While boys were expected to play football and kill animals, girls were supposed to cheerlead and poof their hair. Anyway, I know how it got rough for those of us who didn't wake up with a rebel yell emanating from our throats. At same time, those of us from the South tire of the stereotypes and flat renderings. Key shows Mississippi in all its frustrating and glorious complications, brought to life through the characterization of his father I grew up as Key's X chromosome counterpart in Alabama. While boys were expected to play football and kill animals, girls were supposed to cheerlead and poof their hair. Anyway, I know how it got rough for those of us who didn't wake up with a rebel yell emanating from our throats. At same time, those of us from the South tire of the stereotypes and flat renderings. Key shows Mississippi in all its frustrating and glorious complications, brought to life through the characterization of his father. Nice job. Also, hilarious. Here's hoping I meet Key someday so we can drink a few bourbons and laugh about surviving as artsy types in rural Dixie.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Scott Diane

    This book had me laughing out loud during a recent plane trip and because of my uncontrollable laughter, the people on either side who I disturbed both wanted to know the name of the book so they could in turn order a copy. Note, the subject matter of this book, although funny, contains some content that is potentially not suitable for all readers. Overall, Mr. Key is able to tackle some weighty, heavy issues with honesty and humor, making this a read I would highly recommend.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Meg

    On the surface, this is a funny book. Look a little deeper and it is quite poignant. A great memoir. This review is based on an ARC provided to me by the publisher.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mississippi Library Commission

    Fathers. Families. Funny. Feels. Harrison Scott Key's book about his father is a beautiful, soul-searching, hilarious memoir that you need to read. Fathers. Families. Funny. Feels. Harrison Scott Key's book about his father is a beautiful, soul-searching, hilarious memoir that you need to read.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mart Martin

    First thing you read: "Note to the Reader. I have changed the names of many characters in this book, because most of these people own guns." Laugh out loud funny throughout, a maybe a tear or two. Reminded me of Bill Bryson's "The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid." I need to laugh right now, and this book delivered. First thing you read: "Note to the Reader. I have changed the names of many characters in this book, because most of these people own guns." Laugh out loud funny throughout, a maybe a tear or two. Reminded me of Bill Bryson's "The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid." I need to laugh right now, and this book delivered.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    While reading Congratulations, Who Are You Again? Key referenced writing this book, so I got it on audiobook. Highly recommend the audiobook because key reads it himself. It’s rare that I want to give a book more than five stars, but this is one of those books.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kaytee Cobb

    This book was not written for me. I know exactly who I'd give it to, and some stories made me laugh, but I had a hard time wrapping my head around the gun loving, other races hating culture that Key was raised in and pokes fun at in this memoir. This book was not written for me. I know exactly who I'd give it to, and some stories made me laugh, but I had a hard time wrapping my head around the gun loving, other races hating culture that Key was raised in and pokes fun at in this memoir.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Justin McGuire

    Beautiful, belly-laugh-inducing, and (at the very end) tear-jerking read. Laughed so hard at times I grew concerned for my health.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie

    I would have given this book 4 stars, but the first 100 pages, mostly about the author's horrors of hunting, just dragged. He made his point over and over. As it is, I give it 3 1/2 stars. Young Harrison is nothing like his big, brutal, Outdoorsy dad. He loves reading and cooking and sewing. He doesn't understand his dad and his dad doesn't understand him. As Harrison gets older, he finds he doesn't really understand his mother, or his brother or his beautiful wife. The exaggerated humor reminds m I would have given this book 4 stars, but the first 100 pages, mostly about the author's horrors of hunting, just dragged. He made his point over and over. As it is, I give it 3 1/2 stars. Young Harrison is nothing like his big, brutal, Outdoorsy dad. He loves reading and cooking and sewing. He doesn't understand his dad and his dad doesn't understand him. As Harrison gets older, he finds he doesn't really understand his mother, or his brother or his beautiful wife. The exaggerated humor reminds me so much of author Jean Shephard and I did enjoy it to a point. I would imagine men would find it more to their liking than women. The ending is touching as the author finally understands the love he has for his father, as his father is pronounced dead. "But now, I don't feel silly. I just feel a rush of something up through my heart, wide and deep as a river of light , and it rushes over the banks, and up through the throat and into the mouth and out my eyes, a great big surge of something that for so long had no name, a fugitive animal in a wood, and I know the nature of it now, and what it is, is love." That, my friends, is beautiful prose.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Will White

    If you like David Sedaris, then you will love this book. It's not just for guys. I immediately put it on my wife's stack of books to read. Key is hilarious throughout the book while also providing a view of life growing up as a boy in the South during the 70's and 80's. If you want to better understand your husband from the South, if you want to better understand why you hate and love the South, or if you want to better understand the people from the South then read this book. If you like David Sedaris, then you will love this book. It's not just for guys. I immediately put it on my wife's stack of books to read. Key is hilarious throughout the book while also providing a view of life growing up as a boy in the South during the 70's and 80's. If you want to better understand your husband from the South, if you want to better understand why you hate and love the South, or if you want to better understand the people from the South then read this book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kristine

    I have never laughed out loud so much reading a book in my life! Just download a sample and you will understand what I mean. I want all of my friends to read this. Harrison has a way of writing about both good and painful memories with humor, and yet doesn't suggest that they are trivial - every story has heart. I have never laughed out loud so much reading a book in my life! Just download a sample and you will understand what I mean. I want all of my friends to read this. Harrison has a way of writing about both good and painful memories with humor, and yet doesn't suggest that they are trivial - every story has heart.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Bob O'bannon

    “Every son, I guess, wants his father to know: I am not like you.” The problem, however, is that every son is more like his father than he would like to admit. The tricky thing is figuring out what fatherly traits are worthy of admiration, and which ones aren’t. Harrison Scott Key’s father was a badass, one who “excelled at the fine art of being a real sonofabitch,” and he wanted his son to be just as badass as him. Problem was, Harrison loved books and baking more than hunting and sports. That “Every son, I guess, wants his father to know: I am not like you.” The problem, however, is that every son is more like his father than he would like to admit. The tricky thing is figuring out what fatherly traits are worthy of admiration, and which ones aren’t. Harrison Scott Key’s father was a badass, one who “excelled at the fine art of being a real sonofabitch,” and he wanted his son to be just as badass as him. Problem was, Harrison loved books and baking more than hunting and sports. That sets up a story of two very different men trying to discover each other, burdened by mutual disappointment but tethered along by mutual respect and love. Fathers want the respect of their sons, and sons want the love of their fathers. And both wonder if they’ve been a disappointment. The topic is serious, but this book is more hilarious than anything. “Guns in the house? It just doesn’t make sense,” said my wife. “It’s weird.” “That’s how we always felt about cats,” I said. “Renters. Not the good kind who grow their own flowers and poison their weeds, but the kind who poison their flowers and grow their own weed.” “I was born in Memphis, Tennessee, but Pop did not like it there. It was too progressive.” “My grandfather and my father looked at her, and then looked at me, while I looked into the mashed potatoes, to see if Jesus was in there.” Accounts of his father’s hyper-machismo attitude and blunt, unfiltered, non-PC way of talking will probably offend some readers who wouldn’t appreciate a man who did not hesitate to point out a woman’s weight gain, but I appreciated Harrison’s desire to respect his father in spite of his many flaws. Pop was committed, after all to the “thankless work of imparting life’s most painful and necessary lessons.” (172). Fathers get a bad rap, as if they are the source of all our insecurities and hangups. And while fathers aren’t blameless, they of course can be deeply affected by their sons. “What a riddling abyss I must have seemed to him, when I announced that when I grew up, I desired very much to be a ventriloquist? . . . . The only real trick I learned was to create a sense of shame and dread in my father.” (323). This memoir will appeal to anyone who found his father a mystery, a fortress he could not get inside of, to anyone who spent a life leaving his father only to eventually find he wanted him back.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Alison Hardtmann

    "You ever speak to old Lamar Bibbs?" Pop would say. "Not since him and Gola Mae went down yonder after the thing up at the place," Monk would say. The younger me would perk up, eager to hear some gothic fable drawn from the mists of Mississippi Hill Country lore. Perhaps a story about a mule trampling a baby, or the time when everyone got the yellow fever and died. But all was quiet. Monk would be leaning over and staring at his folded hands, as though he had be bludgeoned with a skillet, while Pop "You ever speak to old Lamar Bibbs?" Pop would say. "Not since him and Gola Mae went down yonder after the thing up at the place," Monk would say. The younger me would perk up, eager to hear some gothic fable drawn from the mists of Mississippi Hill Country lore. Perhaps a story about a mule trampling a baby, or the time when everyone got the yellow fever and died. But all was quiet. Monk would be leaning over and staring at his folded hands, as though he had be bludgeoned with a skillet, while Pop would be studying his dentures, which he held in his palm like a small, wounded vole. Then he would put them back into his mouth, having divested them of any lingering corn. Harrison Scott Key tells the story of his own boyhood, where he lived with his family in rural Mississippi. His father was a force of nature, a man who was going to mold his son into his own image; a sports-playing, animal-hunting man's man. This worked well enough with his older brother, but Harrison mainly wanted to read books and go grocery shopping with his mother. Even as he did his best to thwart his father's ambitions, he still lived under the shadow of his father. I was always coy about my books, afraid Pop would find them effeminate. In our family, the only books men read were in the Bible and you weren't supposed to do it for fun. You did it because Jesus would hurt you if you didn't. This is a very funny book. It's fatal flaw is that it often reaches for humor when it should reach for something more honest and heart-felt. Key occasionally moves in that direction; a later chapter about his marriage approaches real depth, but for the most part, this remains just a funny book about being bad at hunting and about a boy trying to become a man, when the example of manhood in front of him is far from who he wants to be. Pop didn't have friends, which he believed were things meant for women and children, as were holidays and happiness. A real man didn't need all that. All a man needed was a gun and a wood stove and maybe, if things got bad, a towel for the blood.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Molly

    I absolutely loved this book. I love a book by a Southern author (I'm from Mississippi too!) and he is hilarious! It took me a while to plod through it because I literallly had to put the book down and laugh out loud after most every sentence. What a storyteller! I was surprised by the tenderness of the last couple of chapters--had me in tears. My favorite memoirs are those that tell a story of an imperfect family (aren't they all?) that nonetheless loves and accepts its members with all their i I absolutely loved this book. I love a book by a Southern author (I'm from Mississippi too!) and he is hilarious! It took me a while to plod through it because I literallly had to put the book down and laugh out loud after most every sentence. What a storyteller! I was surprised by the tenderness of the last couple of chapters--had me in tears. My favorite memoirs are those that tell a story of an imperfect family (aren't they all?) that nonetheless loves and accepts its members with all their idiosyncrasies. This is a great read if you need something fun yet moving.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Rob

    This was the hardest I've laughed at a book in a really long time. Key writes so beautifully and hilariously about growing up in the south, loving people who aren't like you (but are your people), marriage and fatherhood. He has an incredible agility with sarcasm and self-deprication. Highly recommended! "In the city, I had been my best self. I had done many things well. I sent and received many love notes, for example, asking girls to “go with me,” and they agreed, and we went. Where? Technicall This was the hardest I've laughed at a book in a really long time. Key writes so beautifully and hilariously about growing up in the south, loving people who aren't like you (but are your people), marriage and fatherhood. He has an incredible agility with sarcasm and self-deprication. Highly recommended! "In the city, I had been my best self. I had done many things well. I sent and received many love notes, for example, asking girls to “go with me,” and they agreed, and we went. Where? Technically, nowhere. What was important was that we had agreed to go nowhere together, which was a testament to the strength of our love."

  27. 5 out of 5

    Blair

    At times I laughed so hard I was crying. Keys wit kept me turning the pages giggling along the way. While parts were hard to read (the abuse and skinning of the animals), I appreciated his humor and comedic timing. I really enjoyed reading this memoir. {And even his notes on why he struggled writing something called a memoir!}

  28. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I found this moving..the struggle of an artistic, shy boy raised by a tough, gun toting Mississippi father. How do they connect, how do they each find his own way while still loving the other. Key is a humorist, a writer of literary exaggeration which made me laugh often but sometimes cringe especially when he talks about his pregnant wife.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Justin Lonas

    Crass, juvenile, and silly, while simultaneously meaningful and moving. It's a neat trick if you can do it. Crass, juvenile, and silly, while simultaneously meaningful and moving. It's a neat trick if you can do it.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Emma Skinner

    My only sadness is not reading this book earlier. Holy cow. It is wonderful, and funny, and so deeply powerful as it brings questions of family and love and connection while lightening the blow through amazing storytelling. I listened to a few chapters on audiobook, and I recommend that so you can hear his inflection...it’s almost like listening to a comedy special. I can’t wait to read the second book.

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