I Love You, Miss Huddleston : And Other Inappropriate Longings of My Indiana Childhood
With his ear for the small town and his knack for finding the needle of humor in life's haystack, Philip Gulley might well be Indiana's answer to Missouri's Mark Twain. In I Love You, Miss Huddleston we are transported to 1970's Danville, Indiana, the everyone-knows-your-business town where Gulley still lives today, to witness the uproarious story of Gulley's young life, including his infatuation with his comely sixth-grade teacher, his dalliance with sin--eating meat on Friday and inappropriate activities with a mannequin named Ginger--and his checkered start with organized religion.
Sister Mary John had shown us a flannelgraph of the apostles receiving the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. They looked quite happy, except that their hair was on fire. . . . I was suspicious of a religion whose highpoint was the igniting of one's head, and my enthusiasm for church, which had never been great, began to fade.
Even as Kennedy was facing down Khrushchev, Danny Millardo and his band of youthful thugs conducted a reign of terror still unmatched in the annals of Indiana history. With Gulley's sharp wit and keen observation, I Love You, Miss Huddleston captures these dramas and more, revisiting a childhood of unrelieved and happy chaos.
From beginning to end, Gulley recalls the hilarity (and heightened dangers) of those wonder years and the easy charm of midwestern life.
Some kids were evidently not unhappy growing up, but they can still get pretty good childhood memoirs, especially if they are honest about exaggerating. Quaker pastor-author Gulley (the Harmony series) writes a low-key Hoosier who's who in this memoir set in Danville, Ind., where youthful acting out takes the form of hurling tomatoes and detonating cans of bug spray. Danville includes Quaker widows aplenty, pals named Peanut and Suds, an arthritic and deaf police dog and a mousery that provisions Indiana's homegrown pharmaceutical manufacturer, Eli Lilly. Gulley has no shortage of material, and the teenage years naturally bring an attack of hormones that prompts pathetic, doomed crushes. We even manage to learn a few facts about the humorist, such as that Gulley grew up Catholic. His chief object of fun is his youthful self, which takes the edge off his views of other characters from his youth, many of whom are relatives. Humor beats nostalgia and drama; this stuff is a laugh-out-loud tweaking of a not terribly misspent youth. (Apr.)
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April 13, 2009
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