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Editorial Reviews

With sophisticated language and eloquent observations, the author remembers his family's poverty and his alcoholic father's cruelty. Juxtaposing his perceptions as both a child of the 1950s and as an adult long afterwards creates a listening experience both tender and compelling. Johnny Heller's raspy yet soft voice so aptly grasps the clever language and rhythm that no listener will feel, even for a moment, that Heller isn't Joe Queenan. His pace seems rapid at first as he pushes past the writerly phrases and metaphors. However, as the richly told story moves forward, Heller's tempo soon has the effect of facilitating the pleasure that audio listeners search for in literature. More than just childhood memories, This novel captures the attitudes and morés of a time gone by.

Publisher's Summary

Joe Queenan's acerbic riffs on movies, sports, books, politics, and many of the least forgivable phenomena of pop culture have made him one of the most popular humorists and commentators of our time. In Closing Time, Queenan turns his sights on a more serious and personal topic: his childhood in a Philadelphia housing project in the early 1960s.

By turns hilarious and heartbreaking, Closing Time recounts Queenan's Irish Catholic upbringing in a family dominated by his erratic father, a violent yet oddly charming emotional terrorist whose alcoholism fuels a limitless torrent of self-pity, railing, destruction, and late-night chats with the Lord Himself. With the help of a series of mentors and surrogate fathers, and armed with his own furious love of books and music, Joe begins the long flight away from the dismal confines of his neighborhood---with a brief misbegotten stop at a seminary---and into the wider world.

Queenan's unforgettable account of the damage done to children by parents without futures and of the grace children find to move beyond these experiences will appeal to fans of Augusten Burroughs and Mary Karr, and will take its place as an autobiography in the classic American tradition.

©2009 Joe Queenan; (P)2009 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"Somber and funny.... Unsentimental and brutally honest, Queenan's memoir captures the pathos of growing up in a difficult family and somehow getting beyond it." (Publishers Weekly, Starred Review)

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  • Overall
  • Sandra
  • Boise' Idaho United States
  • 12-07-09

I don't understand

This book only had one rating and it was just 2 stars. This is an amazing book. It is sharp, funny, sad and so acute in its description of growing up poor. The author and his sibs were abused by a drunk father and an indifferent mother. He doesn't whine, he tells about his way of surviving.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Raleigh
  • greensboro, NC, United States
  • 11-29-10

some thoughts on a good book

bright witty "only son" of an ignorant alcoholic father and detached mother //
at an early age has to learn to see and navigate the world on his own terms //
tells his angry story in a charming and eager to please style //


in time he comes to forgive himself that he could not "make it right" in his family //
his most enduring achievement is the life and wife and career he is able to put together //
his father remains a distant monster however until shortly before his cancer death //


? do you have a difficult relationship with your father ? //
? do you now live a life "miles and miles" away from your childhood ? //
? do you enjoy the intersection of insight and anger and humor ? //


if so this book would be a good choice //
quibbles about syntax and adjectives seem trite //
this is a good audio book and i'm glad i picked it //

  • Overall

Meh...

There are aspects of this book that are compelling, mostly the beginning where, as another reviewer points out, we are taken into the grimier corners of Philadelphia and the home of a kid with a loathsome drunk of a father.

There was a sense, to me, of the author standing back at some distant, safe remove, telling us what happened instead of showing us, unlike the Glass Castle (a much more moving memoir), which carried the reader right there along with the author every step of the way.

To be honest, I fell asleep before the end, and I couldn't be bothered to go back for the last hour to hear how it all finally turns out, in part because once our hero is an adult, his story loses interest for me. In much larger part, though, I could not stand the narrator for another minute. His voice is good, but I had the definite feeling that he had not taken the time to read the book once through before going live, so to speak, and I find that irritating. Also, he mispronounces a lot of words, which is a constant refrain of mine. WHY are the publishers so unconcerned about this?!

  • Overall

Mediocre writing, great autobiography

Joe Queenan's lifelong struggle with the demons of his father's alcoholism makes for fascinating listening. I really love this writer. Unfortunately, this book needs heavy editing. There are hundreds if not thousands of trite phrases. Things stink to high heaven. People are mad as hatters. Queenan's attempt here to exercise his powers as a writer results in an overwriting that is undermined by his curious reluctance to strike out cliches.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • PT
  • PA
  • 07-14-17

"Lush" isn't the right word...

... but it's the first word that comes to mind. Maybe the writing should best be described as "Arch." That blend of hyperbole, exaggeration, and wryness that one finds in most memoirs. Entertaining, but the style made me trot a bit to keep up. Includes many invented words, very clever, useful, very funny. As a retired technical writer myself, I wish I could find better ways to describe this. I suppose all you need to know is that it is entertaining. And fun to read.

P.S., I was born in Philadelphia but moved to the suburbs and stayed there from age 2. There is much here that I do not personally recognize, aside from Ortlieb's, Schmidt's, and Proctor & Schwartz. But that is enough.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful