From one of the most ferociously brilliant and distinctive young voices in literary nonfiction: a debut shot through with violence, comedy, and feverish intensity that takes us on an odyssey into an American netherworld, exposing a raw personal journey along the way.
Locked in battle with both his adult appetites and his most private childhood demons, Kent Russell hungers for immersive experience and revelation, and his essays take us to society’s ragged edges, the junctures between savagery and civilization. He pitches a tent at an annual four-day music festival in Illinois, among the misunderstood, thick-as-thieves fans who self-identify as Juggalos. He treks to the end of the continent to visit a legendary hockey enforcer, the granddaddy of all tough guys, to see how he’s preparing for his last foe: obsolescence. He spends a long weekend getting drunk with a self-immunizer who is willing to prove he has conditioned his body to withstand the bites of the most venomous snakes. He insinuates himself with a modern-day Robinson Crusoe on a tiny atoll off the coast of Australia. He explores the Amish obsession with baseball, and his own obsession with horror, blood, and guts. And in the piercing interstitial meditations between these essays, Russell introduces us to his own raging and inimitable forebears.
I Am Sorry to Think I Have Raised a Timid Son, blistering and deeply personal, records Russell’s quest to understand, through his journalistic subjects, his own appetites and urges, his persistent alienation, and, above all, his knotty, volatile, vital relationship with his father. In a narrative that can be read as both a magnificent act of literary mythmaking and a howl of filial despair, Russell gives us a haunting and unforgettable portrait of an America—and a paradigm of American malehood—we have never before seen.
“A surprising, beautiful book, at once tough and tender, hilarious and dark, and above all, deeply original.”—NPR
“A ludicrously smart, tragicomic man-on-the-edge memoir in essays.”—Vanity Fair
“He throws himself at their mercy, he fights for them, he admires their power, he jabs at their soft spots, he flees, he circles back. Russell’s compassion for his subjects is not blind, and he doesn’t tread lightly, but he sees them as part of his crew, and he protects them with a ferocity and camaraderie that would make anyone want Russell in their corner.”—Catherine Carberry, The Rumpus
“Kent Russell is one of the most excitingly gifted young non-fiction writers to have appeared in recent memory.”—John Jeremiah Sullivan, author of Pulphead