I Am Sorry to Think I Have Raised a Timid Son
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With a chirp, a smirk, and a nod, Kent Russell crisscrosses the country, seeking immersive experiences and revelations on society’s ragged edge. He pitches a tent among the Insane Clown Posse’s fans, known as Juggalos, treks to the end of the continent to find out how a legendary hockey enforcer is preparing for his own death, and explores the Amish obsession with baseball as well as his own obsession with horror, blood, and guts. Between these reports from the world at large, Russell introduces us to his raging and inimitable forebears—above all, his large-living, volatile, hard-as-nails dad.
I Am Sorry to Think I Have Raised a Timid Son is a haunting and howling portrait of America—and American manhood—and the introduction of a ferociously brilliant new voice navigating the junctures between savagery and civilization within himself.
Thursday For some time now, I have been trying to convince Dad to go with me on a trip to Martins Ferry, Ohio. I want him to show off the block he grew up on, the places that formed him. The closest I’ve managed was a brief tour via Google Maps’ street view. In the still frames, I saw a lot of boarded-up buildings on Main Street, and what looked to be the smoldering ruins of an idealized past. It was so bleak there that Wheeling, West Virginia, was directly across the river. I suppose we could
better than a coal mine. My sisters and I stayed in the drafty empty nest of my great aunt, a fierce nonna recently widowed of her long-haul-driving husband. She was the cook at the bar-and-grill our cousins collectively owned and operated. They all pitied us for having fallen to them from a higher station. They went out of their way to treat us as they thought we were accustomed—they bought me a Game Boy, a New York Yankees hat, and Michael Jackson tapes. September in Pennsylvania got too cold
of your own songs, you cock,” to “I’m proud of the way your attitude has improved.” Juggalos challenged artists to chugging competitions, and beat them. Glass pipes of innumerable colors and fungal shapes were passed from the audience to the stage. Someone fired Roman candles into the tent’s folds, an exceptionally bad idea. In front of me among the crowd at the back of the tent, two men explained to a third how they had just hitchhiked their way back from the Hardin County jail. A range-finding
too?” he asked. Corey excused himself, saying that, after all, he’s got three kids and a Packers game tomorrow. Megan threw a blanket over Tim, who looked to me. The swelling was creeping still further, and the blue in his wet eyes seemed unnaturally bright. I slipped into my coat. You can love a snake, but the snake’s got no way of showing it loves you back. Selective pressures have made it so; the creature lacks the faculties. It probably never had them to begin with. Lucky thing, its
used to twine to the toes of the newly interred. “I should’ve been back home, with him,” Dad said. “I should’ve been there. Instead, he passed out alone with a lit cigarette between his lips.” Do we always have to succumb to the malign intelligence of male hurt? Do I always have to destroy the things I love through the very acts that reveal my love for them? “Kent!” Dad exclaimed. “Look!” Above us were a dozen birds banking against a faultless sky. They were flying clockwise and at speed, as