Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sh*t My Dad Says

A book came out, and last month it hit No 1 on the New York Times bestseller list, edging out Laura Bush's memoir. When Halpern told his father this, the reaction was phlegmatic. 'Trust me,' Halpern Snr said of Bush. 'She doesn't give a fuck. She could have you killed."

I like to think that I have a pretty good sense of humour. I enjoy quick wit and sarcasm, and appreciate when people say it how it is and get to the point. After last weeks book, Beyond Belfast, I was on a bit of a humour kick. This weeks book, Sh*t My Dad Says, written by Justin Halpern, had been catching my eye for the last couple of weeks, and I figured now was as good a time as any other to sit back and enjoy a few laughs. Sh*t My Dad Says is a chaotic, hilarious, true portrait of a father-son relationship from a major new comic voice.

'At 28 years old, I found myself living at home, with my 73-year-old father. As a child, my father never minced words, and when I screwed up, he had a way of cutting right through the bullshit and pointing out exactly why I was being an idiot. When I moved back in I was still, for the most part, an idiot. But this time, I was smart enough to write down all the things he said to me…'

After being dumped by his longtime girlfriend, twenty-eight-year-old Justin Halpern found himself living at home with his seventy-three-year-old dad. As Justin says at one point, his dad is ‘like Socrates, but angrier, and with worse hair’; and has never minced words. Sh*t My Dad Says is an all-American story that unfolds on the Little League field, in Denny's, during excruciating family road trips, and, most frequently, in the Halperns' kitchen over bowls of Grape-Nuts. When Justin moved back home, he began to record all the ridiculous things his dad said to him. Now, almost one million people follow Mr Halpern’s philosophical musings every day on Twitter, and in this book, his son weaves a brilliantly funny, touching coming-of-age memoir around the best of his sayings. What emerges is a chaotic, hilarious, true portrait of a father and son relationship from a major new comic voice.

"Happy Birthday, I didn’t get you a present… Oh, mom got you one? Well, that’s from me then, too – unless it’s shitty."

"Pick your furniture like you pick a wife; it should make you feel comfortable and look nice, but not so nice that if someone walks past it they want to steal it."

"Your brother brought his baby over this morning. He told me it could stand. It couldn’t stand for shit. Just sat there. Big let down."

As Justin grows up the book captures the awkward formative moments between father and son, the hangovers, the first break-up and the "sex education" that consisted of Halpern Snr presenting his son with a pile of condoms. Despite this tough love, a sense of deep fondness runs all the way through and ultimately it's the story of a father trying to teach his son right from wrong and bring him up the best way he can. In many ways Halpern Snr is the voice of reason in a world where we spend too long pussy-footing around, fearful of creating offence.

"Why the f*ck would I want to live to 100? I’m 73 and shit’s starting to get boring. By the way, there’s no money left when I go, just fyi."

"All I ask is that you pick up your shit so you don't leave your bedroom looking like it was used for a gang bang."

"You seen my cell phone? What's it look like? Like two horses f*ucking. It's a phone, son. It looks like a phone."

Bigoted, rude, filthy - and currently conquering America... Shit My Dad Says encompasses far more, however, than the 118 tweets Halpern has so far put up on his site. A mix of personal reminiscence and self-deprecating humour, the book takes in his childhood, 1980s America, his relationships with his brothers, his failings in Hollywood, giant steaks, drunk college blondes, and, of course, countless scatological jokes: a funny, silly, well-observed tribute to American male-hood. The book is straight up hilarious, dry and wry and full of vim, thanks, mostly, to the brilliant character of Halpern Snr.'

"That woman was sexy. . . . Out of your league? Son, let women figure out why they won't screw you. Don't do it for them."

"Do people your age know how to comb their hair? It looks like two squirrels crawled on their heads and started f*cking."

"The worst thing you can be is a liar. . . . Okay, fine, yes, the worst thing you can be is a Nazi, but then number two is liar. Nazi one, liar two."

I picked up Sh*t My Dad Says from the store, and went immediately to a very crowed cafe, where I ordered my drink and sat back in the big velvety armchairs to devour this book. A public place is probably not the best setting to read this book, especially if you are alone. I found myself on the other end of many uncomfortable looks, as I tried and failed to stifle my hysterical laughter. This is a book that you can open to any page and discover yourself in a fit of laughter before you have read more than three lines. It's perfect to read in an afternoon, or keep by your bed to read a few lines to start and finish off your days. Anyone that appreciates blunt wit and sarcasm, as well as a few profanities, needs to have this book in their possession.

"Put the rake down. I don't wanna sit around watching you 'give it your best.' Either stop sucking or get the fuck out of the way."

"You came out of your mom looking like shit. She thought you were beautiful. Don't know what scared me most, your looks or her judgment."

"Nervous? In 5 billion years the sun will burn out and nothing you did will matter. Feel better?"

Here are a couple links to follow Justin and Harper Sr, as they continue to share their stories and wisdom.

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