For anyone who loves David Sedaris’s tales of his deranged family (I do), and Miranda July’s skewed deadpan suburban surrealism (I do), Patricia Lockwood will be right up your street. Some reviewers have said it’s a hotch-potch, too uneven – others that it’s too neat and polished. Go figure. Memoirs are always going to be episodic, as is life, in case you hadn’t noticed. Patricia Lockwood is appealingly unhinged, with a wildly random and delightfully grotesque imagination, a chaotic life story thus far, and a totally bonkers family. I’d say the narrative is surprisingly controlled and coherent under the circumstances. There is also more than a touch of Sylvia Plath in her language and imagery (she started her writing career as a poet) and an echo of Shirley Jackson in the domestic noir narrative. What’s not to love?
If you like your memoirs packaged into a timelined narrative, this will annoy you. If you just want humour, you will be disappointed. It’s dark and angry – it centres on the Catholic church after all – but lols as well, literally. She oscillates seamlessly between these modes – highbrow and trash, hilarious and poignant, love for her demented family and exasperation, wanting acceptance and wanting distance. Disparate, complex, non-linear, hilarious, horrific – that seems like the right way to do a memoir to me.
The gun-loving, guitar-collecting, nudity addict married-father-of-five Catholic priest super-patriarch of the title isn’t quite the star of the show that the title implies. It’s her ambivalent relationship with her mother that lingers, in a memoir full of ambivalence. Yes it is a hotch-potch, but what else could it be?