In the title story, Beard and her best friend, now 38, still spend forever on the phone, an activity they perfected in junior high and that is now possible thanks to an office WATS line. Hindsight easily renders their seventh-grade ex nihilo obsession with a "ninth grader extraordinaire" foolish, along with most encounters with the boys of their youth. But their current relations with men are really no less absurd, as they realize while listening to Beard's latest possibility leave an answering-machine message: "I don't know whether to faint or kill myself. Elizabeth laughs unbecomingly. I put both hands around my own neck. We are no longer bored."
The Boys of My Youth is filled with family picnics, small celebrations, and fragility. Beard knows that her teenage efforts to "have a better personality" were as futile as her later attempt at "practicing being snotty, in anticipation of being dumped by my husband," but that doesn't make her any less fond of her younger self. And she has the same affection, and irritation, for her family, who slowly emerge in story after story. In "Waiting," she and her older sister try to keep calm as their mother is dying: "I hold two fingers up to remind her of how much longer she needs to keep this up, to pay attention. She holds up one finger, guess which one, to remind me of who's the oldest, who's the boss. I would love more than anything to slap her."
There isn't a weak piece in this collection, which includes the world's most perfect description of the agonies of having your hair washed--at age 3--and the ecstasies of one encounter near the Mexican border. "The car is a boiling cauldron. The coyote stands scruffy and skittish, like a wild dingo dog I met once, who bit everything in sight, wagging his tail like a maniac. Eric slides the camera to me and puts a hand on my arm. He whispers in my ear. I nod. I love dogs better than anything else on earth, next to cigarettes and a couple of people."
Beard often edges from serious laughter to high seriousness and back again. "The Fourth State of Matter" is perhaps the book's standout, a narrative about space physicists; invading squirrels; a beautiful, dying dog; a "vanished husband"; and, alas, a seminar turned 12-minute massacre. On November 1, 1991, she leaves work early and passes by the disappointed graduate student who will later that day gun down eight members of the University of Iowa physics depart. Her piece is complex and heartbreaking, a master conduit of emotion and information. As always, Beard knows the rich value of the minor ritual. Earlier, she had recalled playing "Maserati" with her collie: "I'd grab her nose like a gearshift and put her through all the gears, firstsecondthirdfourth, until we were going a hundred miles an hour through town. She thought it was funny." After "the newslady" finally confirms her colleagues' deaths, "Maserati" again figures: "We sit by the tub. She lifts her long nose to my face and I take her muzzle and we move through the gears slowly; first second third fourth, all the way through town, until what has happened has happened and we know it has happened." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Jo Ann Beard's book shows that every experience, no matter how small or large, can have an immense impact on the rest of your life.
This book, a collection of autobiographical short stories, weave together and create a beautiful and poetic novel about a woman that I could fully relate to.
I laughed my head off, had to keep stopping to read sections to whomever was closest at the time, and felt hugely melancholy when the book ended.
The story is a loose and vague bio of Jo Ann Beard. It jumps around from one period of her life to another and is difficult to follow. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Donna J. Huffman
These stories perfectly capture past eras and relationships between sisters, cousins, friends, and romantic partners at various ages. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Deb Oestreicher
Jo Ann's style of writing is so descriptive that it puts you right into the emotions as well as the psyche of the characters. Read morePublished 4 months ago by jamminjan
This book is written so eloquently that it makes simple and mundane things seem fascinating. I thouroughly enjoyed ever page of it! Read morePublished 4 months ago by Krystina Martinez
For a book that I approached with the intention on learning how to write a little bit better (mostly on the description of emotion) I was pleasantly surprised. Read morePublished 5 months ago by FicktionPhotography
The Boys of My Youth is a look back at the authors youth and is broken down in 12 short stories taking you from her youth all the way through marriage and the passing of her... Read morePublished 5 months ago by James Killen
One of the great books. "The Fourth State of Matter" is worth the price of the collection. Every aspiring writer should read this book. What she does with language!~Published 6 months ago by Cynthia Miller
I read a lot and lot of the books I read are good, but this one is something extraordinary. It's a book of essays, not chronological, that describe the life of an ordinary family. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Mary Barone
This memoir is beautifully written. Her descriptions of the moon in a desert sky amazed me...beautiful language and generous story about her family...Published 8 months ago by Catherine W Munsee