Lovers of the personal essay should be rejoicing in the streets at word of this collection. For readers and acquaintances of Jimmy Patterson, it is long overdue, but the author was born in Washington, D.C., where the machinery of progress is congenitally slow. So this book, in many important ways – is what all satisfying collections of autobiographical essays should be – a mirror of place.
And what a feast of places: a secluded island in Canada where the author spent his summers growing up and would return to for enlightenment as an adult, on a lake — not making this up — called Lovesick; then there are the bars, theaters, campus Laundromats, and highways that constitute the landscape of his musical touring days; also the neighborhoods of Washington and its suburbs, where great cultural inventions, conspiracies, and attacks upon the norm were hatched by Patterson, in the lead of merry bands of hand-picked comrades and cultural co-conspirators. New readers to Jimmy Patterson, those who do not know him as a writer and editor, magazine founder, dramatist, political satirist, comedian, singer song-writer, web and blog pioneer – or who did not experience his performances with the politically-fueled folk band, the Pheromones, (not having been born yet, he insists, is no excuse) will get hooked on Jimmy’s writing because it contains an endangered resource, the common thread that permeates all of his life long endeavors; the magnificent, apparently inexhaustible fund of sheer whimsical energy that springs from his work.
In another era there lived and worked (inverted syntax intentional) a poet named Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, a poet/adventurer who married Lord Byron’s granddaughter. Blunt was quoted as having said, “No life has been lived well that has not been lived with youth in feeling, manhood in battle, and old age in meditation.”
Thinking about the author of these essays, I discover that he is the most unusual, inspiring, and romantic kind of artist, in that he has lived all three of those parts simultaneously his entire life, and put them in his work.
Now, there are anecdotes aplenty to support this characterization – some will surface in these pages, some may be coaxed out of the author for his next collection, to be found in a bookstore near you when he bloody well feels like putting it together. But for now, do not miss a sentence in this book, because this is a writer who loves a good sentence. Let me repeat that, because it bears repeating. Somewhere, many writers of both essays and fiction apparently forgot that the best and most precise demonstration of the beauty of written language is found in the construction of the sentence.
I have been a newspaper editor for thirty years starting at one of the tiniest, the Mountain Times in Killington, Vermont, and winding up along the way at one of the biggest, the Los Angeles Times. I’ve read thousands of stories, some pretty good, some pretty bad. But nothing ever made my day like the joy that came from reading a really thoughtful, well-crafted sentence. In this collection, you will read an author who has immense respect for the craftsmanship and art of sentence writing.
You will, of course, enjoy the shenanigans that Jimmy Patterson has created and encountered along the course of his exuberant life. You will love the characters he has recalled and you will be taken inside yourself to bring forth old feelings of your own through the transformative power of his pure narratives. This is a tour de force performance by an immensely talented, engaging and brilliant writer.
And he took his sweet time, putting it together.