The art of the American essay is not dead. As a matter of fact, it has come roaring back to life in Kent Russell’s, “I Am Sorry To Think I Have Raised A Timid Son.”
Russell paints a cultural picture of America, and more specifically, the American male, that we might not recognize at first. Amish baseball players, horror movie special-effects wannabes, and Juggalos, an underclass of mostly mid-western followers of the heavy-metal band Insane Clown Posse, populate this underbelly America. It is a picture of the American male that includes Self-Immunizers, men who intentionally subject themselves to the bites of poisonous snakes. And it leaves us both puzzled by the inanity of our trivial pursuits as well as overwhelmed by the extent of choice that 21st century American life affords. And we have to wonder, at what cost?
Punctuating these essays like a savage flurry of sucker punches is an account of Russell’s trip to the East Bay to convince his surly ex-Marine father to take a road trip back to the family’s original stomping grounds in Ohio. Russell's father takes every opportunity to challenge his son's choices. Between side trips down the memory lane of his own childhood and an exploration into the fringes of American masculinity, Russell has written a searing and insightful collection of essays. His writing, like David Sedaris on steroids, shocks, dismays and enlightens us. They describe an American man, fragile yet stubborn and resilient, who is still in the process of finding himself. And maybe it's a process we can all learn from.
You can reserve Kent Russell’s “I Am Sorry To Think I Have Raised A Timid Son” here.