Started reading: 25th February 2011
Finished reading: 11th March 2011
I love stories of family. Of course, these include those of perfect families with delightful children and mild mannered pets. But my tastes also encompass the yarns of dysfunctional tribes that find happiness in their eccentricities. I’m a sucker for touching family sagas, a collector of family traumas, and a connoisseur of the emotional angst inflicted by parents on their offspring. What can I say, there’s just something about family?
For this reason, ,I thoroughly enjoyed “Sh*t My Dad Says”, by Justin Halpern. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that it is best book I’ve read about family in a long time. Even better, it’s also one of the most real with descriptions of insane dynamics, petty frustrations, and the absurd antics which make any family work.
Oh, and did I mention that it’s utterly hilarious? As in the gut wrenching and milk spewing variety? Or that it started in the way of many great family drama, as a somewhat secret conspiracy? Here’s the backstory.
When Justin Halpern was 28 years old he found himself dumped by a girlfriend and in need of a place to stay. This is when he made the decision to move back in with his mother and his retired father, Sam.
Working from his new “home” as a writer for Maxim Magazine gave him the time (apparently a lot of time) to see his father through new, adult eyes. The terror that he had felt in his youth due to his father’s blunt and rough spoken ways began to be replaced by admiration for a person who spoke his mind without self-censorship. He also realized that his father was unintentionally hilarious.
After a particularly choice quip, Justin began to collect and post the sayings on a Twitter page. At first, they were shared with friends and family. But, of course, the proverbial shit was simply too funny to keep contained. The Twitter page soon had more than a million followers, with book deals and TV contracts soon following. That was when Sam found himself needing to confess everything and come clean to his dad that he made him a celebrity. And like any good father, there was only one tack that Sam could tack he could take: he was ridiculously proud of his son for finding success in the world. Though a bit self-conscious in the way he’d arrived at it.
The story of how the book came about is wonderful and interesting, and Sam Halpern is utterly hilarious. But the focus on the explosive, expletive filled one-liners, isn’t what makes the book interesting or worthwhile. Or at least not completely, I would argue that “Sh*t My Dad Says” is profound (yes, I just called it profound) for another reason. This is a story about a boy who comes to appreciate and understand his father. It’s at times touching, sad, disgusting, and hilarious. But always, the adoration of a son for his father rings true. Which is why it works.
If you have delicate sensibilities, this book may not be for you. Sam Halpern calls things as he sees them, and swears with exquisite artistry. But if you, like me, value frank and brutal honesty this book will delight and entertain. It’s hard to recommend it enough.