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CITY LIMITS: MEMORIES OF A SMALL TOWN BOY Hardcover – October 15, 1991

3.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

From his home in New York City, the author, a former editor of Harper's magazine, looks back on his childhood in Sikeston, Mo., his student experiences at a Southern Baptist school and aimless years of drifting through jobs as a bank teller, bass player in a jazz combo, crisis-line volunteer for a mental health center in Illinois. Attributing his early lack of direction and initiative to a fear of experience engendered by growing up in a small town, he recounts how he eventually had to lift himself out of his comfortable and secure Midwestern life and move to Manhattan to pursue a writing career. While one can argue the premise that people raised in small towns have a limited sense of possibility, Teachout's reminiscences of the family gatherings, school plays and churchgoing Sundays that made up the fabric of his formative years exert a nostalgic charm nevertheless.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

Curiously unresolved musings about the path that led Teachout (ed., Beyond the Boom, 1990) from small-town America to New York City. Early on, Teachout promises to explore the larger paradox of willful displacement (``I am like a million other Americans...We cannot go back; we are not at home where we are'') in the course of tracing his journey from the ``narrow and kind and decent and good'' southeastern Missouri town of Sikeston. The problem is, he doesn't. Instead, he offers an unremarkable account of an unremarkable upbringing in an unremarkable town. Like many small- town (and country and city) boys, Teachout participates in local theatricals, goes to family gatherings, strives to conquer childhood awkwardness, forms a band with high-school friends. Potentially telling events--dropping out of and back into college; impulsively deciding to switch directions from psychology to big- city journalism--are treated as mere twists of fate (``Sooner or later, people like me usually end up in places like New York...''), with no larger analysis to transform the particular into the universal. The book springs briefly to life in three essaylike chapters paradoxically set in neither Sikeston nor New York--two profiles of jazz musicians (famed big-band leader Woody Herman and a brilliant, obscure Kansas City pianist) and a nicely formed meditation on the author's brief descent into racism during an unhappy stint as a Kansas City bank teller (``...as my misery grew...I needed somebody to hate'')--but it fails as autobiography. Teachout's loving evocation of the charms of small-town life should strike some chords among the many Americans wrestling with similar feelings of dislocation. He raises some interesting, heartfelt questions; it's a shame he doesn't answer any of them. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (October 15, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671683519
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671683511
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.9 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,271,209 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Richard Moore on February 14, 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is not, in any way, an average book. It is more than a "coming of age" book, and more than a memoir. Teachout's account of his childhood and early adult life has much to offer to anyone who is thoughtful about life in America. His experiences will be easy to relate to if the reader has any interest in the arts, and his style is fluid, funny, and without cliche. I've enjoyed his biographies and critical writing. It's impressive to see him so well in this genre. This is a very good book. Period. Get a copy and read it.
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Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed Terry Teachout's book of autobiographical essays "City Limits". There is nothing terribly important in the book, but its tone and pace are leisurely & enjoyable and his stories reveal interesting details about an important cultural critic whose influence is rising each year through his books and articles in "Commentary", "The Wall Street Journal" and other influential conservative journals of opinion. Teachout's writing reminds me of my favorite writer, Joseph Epstein (it is probably no coincidence that you often find their pieces in the same issues of publications). Both writers are extremely culturally fluent with a lot of interesting things to say. Their writing is also very accessable to the average, educated person who is looking to learn more about literature, music, theater, art, and the good life in general.
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Format: Paperback
Nostalgia run rampant, without connective tissue or narrative propulsion, this is perhaps something that the author's kin might find worth perusing at some later date, but hardly more than that. I'd recommend something by one of the Wolff brothers if you want to see how it's truly done.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is one that many of us can relate to. Many of us have removed ourselves far from our small town roots, and even though we have relocated our lives to bigger and better things, we are constantly reminded that we are, indeed, small town folk. You can take the boy out of the country, but you can never take the country out of the boy. Terry raises goosebumps in almost every chapter, recounting with great detail his experiences of becoming a successful writer in New York City, and more importantly his emotional trips back to his home town.

He does a wonderful tribute to Harry Jenks, an understated jazz legend in Kansas City, who, without Teachout's memories may have been overlooked by most Kansas City jazz historians.

If mashed potatoes and fried chicken are the "comfort foods", then City Limits by Terry Teachout is definitely one of the Great Comfort Books.
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