Sh*t My Dad Says Richard Luck Book Lovers

book Sh*t My Dad Says

reviewed by Richard Luck

Published in Issue No. 159 ~ August, 2010

For fans of Justin Halpern’s popular Twitter stream @ShitMyDadSays, you already know everything I could possibly say about this, the author’s eponymous book. So feel free to go read something else. Like John Lee Clark’s poetry. Or Derek’s latest post. It’s OK. I don’t mind. Really. We’ll see you later. Bye-bye now….

Now that the hardcore Twits … er … Tweeters have left the room we can get down to business.

The backstory goes something like this: after presumptively moving to San Diego to be with his long-time (though long-distance) girlfriend, Justin Halpern is summarily dumped by said girlfriend and—seeing no other options available to his freshly single, freshly homeless self—he decides to move back into his parents’ house where he spends the bulk of his days hanging out with his recently retired 73 year-old father. When Halpern isn’t busy being berated by his father for not having a real job (in all fairness he is writing for at the time) he begins to post random quips his father says to Twitter.

What followed is nothing short of publishing history, as Halpern went from zero Twitter followers to a book deal with HarperCollins in less than two months. But that’s a topic for another story.

On the Author’s First Day of Kindergarten

“You thought it was hard? If kindergarten is busting your ass, I got some bad news for you about the rest of life.”

Sh*t My Dad Says is not a book that simply rehashes the best (and worst) of Halpern’s tweets in printed form. Sure, many of his dad’s off-the-cuff quips are reprinted here. But the book is, at it’s core, an homage to the author’s father, a curmudgeonly blunt man whom Halpern never understood as a child and is only barely beginning to understand through the course of writing this tome.

On the Author Getting a Job as a Cook at Hooters

“You, my good man, are not as dumb as I first fucking suspected.”

The organization of Sh*t My Dad Says is loose and … well … disorganized. There is, after having read the book, an obvious chronology to the stories Halpern relates, but they appear haphazardly scattered during the course of reading. It’s as if Halpern and family sat down and brainstormed a top-ten list of “My Favorite Memories of Dad” which the author then used as an outline, randomly crafting a chapter around each one, filling in the backstory, adding dialogue, and basically trying like hell to divine a moral from whatever crazy, quasi-dysfunctional situation the author and his father found themselves in at that moment. Halpern misses the mark occasionally. But don’t let that dissuade you from reading this book. When Halpern hits, it’s with an unerring and blinding accuracy.

Literally hundreds of books abound that attempt to nail down that enigmatic relationship that exists between many a father and son. Most of them fall flat as the author seems unwilling (or incapable) of coming to terms with the complexity of the relationship. They haven’t learned anything—so they have nothing to say.

“Don’t get me wrong, you’ve got a big fucking mouth, and you ain’t the prettiest to looks at, but I love you, and I want people to know that when it comes down to it, I’d do things for my family that I wouldn’t do for nobody else.”

Sh*t My Dad Says is that rare homage in which there is no ambiguity. The author and his father know exactly where they stand with each other. All of the typical niceties of familial relationships have been stripped away. Their conversations with each other are at times raw and crude—but they’re honest. And if this doesn’t illustrate their love for each other, I don’t what could.

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Richard Luck is the Founder and Technical Director of Pif Magazine. He lives north of Seattle, WA, with his wife and 3 kids. When he's not writing for Pif he can be found blogging at A Guy With An Idea.