From Publishers Weekly
Over the last few years, Wilkinson (Mr. Apology and Other Essays
) has been spending quite a bit of time in the company of "Poppa Neutrino," a homeless man who's performed as a street musician in New Orleans and New York and traveled across the Atlantic in a homemade raft. So "lavish and prodigal" is Neutrino's history that his barroom encounters with Kerouac and Ginsberg at the height of the beat era are dispensed with in a few sentences—after all, by that time, he'd already been crisscrossing the country for several years himself. In Wilkinson's company, Neutrino spends time in Arizona trying to persuade football coaches to use a passing play he's developed that could conceivably revolutionize the offensive game, winding up on a Navajo reservation where he volunteers with a high school team. Then it's off to Mexico, where he puts the finishing touches on one more raft, which he hopes to sail down the coast to South America and then across the Pacific. For the most part, Wilkinson simply observes, acting as our conduit to this abrasively compelling personality. But that's like saying Boswell was simply observing Johnson: the portrait of Neutrino that emerges from these encounters and anecdotes is a truly captivating story. (Mar. 13)
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*Starred Review* Carrying forward the New Yorker
tradition of close observation channeled into pristine and nimble prose, Wilkinson specializes in portraiture, whether he's profiling his mentor, William Maxwell, or the assorted eccentrics in Mr. Apology
(2003). Here he reports on a man who has lived by his wits and convictions, combining the vow of poverty and the spiritual quest of a wandering mendicant with the devil-may-care venturesomeness of Kerouac's on-the-road seekers, a busker's resiliency, a cardsharp's nerve, a prospector's dreams, an explorer's curiosity, and an athlete's rigor. Now in his seventies, westerner David Pearlman, aka Poppa Neutrino, has for decades roamed the country, gathering followers, forming a band (The Flying Neutrinos), and emulating his hero, Thor Heyerdahl. Yes, this dog-loving, vagabond apostle for freedom has built out of scraps "the largest and most complicated rafts and taken them to more places and on more arduous voyages than anyone else in the world." Neutrino lives a strangely heroic and deeply provocative life of deprivation, daring, and faith, and Wilkinson, taking his cues from the great Joseph Mitchell, tells Neutrino's enthralling story with wonder, respect, and marvelous literary finesse. Donna SeamanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved