John Price’s hilarious, poignant, and lively new memoir, Daddy Long Legs: The Natural Education of a Father, cannot be summed up in thirteen bullet points—but leave it to John to make literature out of bullet points. Below, the author gives us an abbreviated tour of his new book on fatherhood, joy, and coming to our senses, reviewed in the July/August 2013 issue of Orion.
I was very pleased to see the review of my recent memoir in an issue of Orion. I hope it will encourage people to read the book, which would mean a lot to me, but I’ve been informed by those “in the business” (aka, my students) that people don’t actually read books any more. Books, unlike blogs, take too long to get to the point, especially when you only have an hour for lunch before you’re due at the gym. I can see their point, minus the gym part. So I’ve decided to follow their advice and boil the book down to a few golden nuggets of hard-earned wisdom and advice, suitable for lunchtime consumption:
1. There comes a time in a man’s life when he doesn’t want to open his car door and find a pile of mouse turds in the driver’s seat.
2. Promising not to kill any living thing may score points with your spouse and children, and will be easy to enforce with the dew-eyed fawns and woodchuck babies. Not so easy with the above mentioned mice, or with carpenter ants, wasps, and bag worms.
3. Speaking of, if you discover a venomous brown recluse spider in your bathtub, and your kids guilt you into keeping it as a pet, do not think you can keep that fact a secret from neighborhood children and their parents.
4. When you inevitably notice that the triops—those tiny, prehistoric crustaceans you got your kids for Christmas—are cannibalizing each other in their bowl, do not attempt to separate them using chopsticks.
5. Stuffed toy penguins are not to be trusted with the care of woolly bear caterpillars.
6. The term “providerection”—coined by my wife—is a useful, if degrading, description for what a man experiences whenever he fixes something, solves something, protects something (human or wild), or otherwise provides for his family. The experience becomes less frequent with age.
7. Fishing sucks. Sort of.
8. The window of a Chinese buffet is not ideal praying mantis habitat. You may be loudly called upon by those occupying the children’s car seats to orchestrate a Wild Kingdom-style rescue operation.
9. Pap smears do not make appropriate subjects for wedding toasts.
10. A little something for the great grandparents out there: if you are in your nineties and have decided to go off your medicine, and thus shorten your life, I would not recommend announcing that decision at an otherwise happy family picnic.
11. Chihuahuas may be the mother of all pet therapies, but hummingbirds are the mother of all beauty and memory.
12. This learned from my three-year-old son: it’s okay to be depressed about the destruction of the natural environment where you live, but don’t let that stop you from doing something, like getting naked and running around in whatever remains.
13. Love is an ecosystem. Period.
John Price’s work has appeared in The Iowa Review, Hawk & Handsaw, Best Spiritual Writing, and elsewhere. His “7 Animals That Should Never Be Allowed to Go Feral” was published in the January/February 2013 issue of Orion.
Love is an ecosystem. Right on, John. Right on.