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Priestdaddy: A Memoir

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The childhood of Patricia Lockwood, the poet dubbed "The Smutty-Metaphor Queen of Lawrence, Kansas" by The New York Times, was unusual in many respects. There was the location: an impoverished, nuclear waste-riddled area of the American Midwest. There was her mother, a woman who speaks almost entirely in strange koans and warnings of impending danger. Above all, there was The childhood of Patricia Lockwood, the poet dubbed "The Smutty-Metaphor Queen of Lawrence, Kansas" by The New York Times, was unusual in many respects. There was the location: an impoverished, nuclear waste-riddled area of the American Midwest. There was her mother, a woman who speaks almost entirely in strange koans and warnings of impending danger. Above all, there was her gun-toting, guitar-riffing, frequently semi-naked father, who underwent a religious conversion on a submarine and discovered a loophole which saw him approved for the Catholic priesthood by the future Pope Benedict XVI - despite already having a wife and children. When the expense of a medical procedure forces the 30-year-old Patricia to move back in with her parents, husband in tow, she must learn to live again with her family's simmering madness, and to reckon with the dark side of a childhood spent in the bosom of the Catholic Church. Told with the comic sensibility of a brasher, bluer Waugh or Wodehouse, this is at the same time a lyrical and affecting story of how, having ventured into the underworld, we can emerge with our levity and our sense of justice intact.


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The childhood of Patricia Lockwood, the poet dubbed "The Smutty-Metaphor Queen of Lawrence, Kansas" by The New York Times, was unusual in many respects. There was the location: an impoverished, nuclear waste-riddled area of the American Midwest. There was her mother, a woman who speaks almost entirely in strange koans and warnings of impending danger. Above all, there was The childhood of Patricia Lockwood, the poet dubbed "The Smutty-Metaphor Queen of Lawrence, Kansas" by The New York Times, was unusual in many respects. There was the location: an impoverished, nuclear waste-riddled area of the American Midwest. There was her mother, a woman who speaks almost entirely in strange koans and warnings of impending danger. Above all, there was her gun-toting, guitar-riffing, frequently semi-naked father, who underwent a religious conversion on a submarine and discovered a loophole which saw him approved for the Catholic priesthood by the future Pope Benedict XVI - despite already having a wife and children. When the expense of a medical procedure forces the 30-year-old Patricia to move back in with her parents, husband in tow, she must learn to live again with her family's simmering madness, and to reckon with the dark side of a childhood spent in the bosom of the Catholic Church. Told with the comic sensibility of a brasher, bluer Waugh or Wodehouse, this is at the same time a lyrical and affecting story of how, having ventured into the underworld, we can emerge with our levity and our sense of justice intact.

30 review for Priestdaddy: A Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Patricia

    *kool-aid man voice* OHHHH YEAHHHHHH

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kendall

    I would give this 2.5 stars and I didn't finish this book because I didn't care to. Everything felt too shiny and funny and ironic and clever and weirdly watered down. Every page felt like it had a pun or a punchline. the book also jumped around a lot and felt disjointed, more like individual essays that didn't quite fit together. I don't like memoirs to be tied up with bows. At the start this book had so much promise but now I'm not sure I could recommend to anyone.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Diane Barnes

    Oh, this book! I was not prepared to be so blown away. The author and her husband leave their home in Savannah after a medical setback that took every cent they owned, and then some. She goes home to stay with her parents until they can get back on their feet again. This happens all the time, right? But suppose your father is a Catholic priest, with a wife and five children? Suppose your father was an atheist who found religion in a submarine, became a Lutheran minister who converted to Catholici Oh, this book! I was not prepared to be so blown away. The author and her husband leave their home in Savannah after a medical setback that took every cent they owned, and then some. She goes home to stay with her parents until they can get back on their feet again. This happens all the time, right? But suppose your father is a Catholic priest, with a wife and five children? Suppose your father was an atheist who found religion in a submarine, became a Lutheran minister who converted to Catholicism, then got a special dispensation from the Pope to become a priest, and keep his wife and family? That would make things a bit more interesting, wouldn't it? And further suppose that you had renounced religion and you and your husband considered yourself atheists, and you decided to write a memoir of your father and mother and childhood, in particularly the nine months you spent under their roof. This is what Patricia Lockwood pulls off brilliantly in this book. She has a way of stringing words together that form unexpected pictures in your brain. She is a published poet with two books to her credit, and this one is prose that is as close to poetry as it can get. Add to that the fact that she is also screamingly funny. I chuckled at some turn of phrase on almost every page, and several times dissolved into pure belly laughs. As you might expect, her father is one of a kind. Her mother is, I think, my favorite literary mother, and she's real. Her brothers and sisters are strange creatures portrayed lovingly. I loved her younger sister Mary for her comment "We are not a normal family." Having praised this memoir so highly, I must place some restrictions on recommending this to everyone. In particular: 1. If you are a devout Catholic who believes that the church and priests can do no wrong. 2. If you do not have a well developed sense of humor and a sense of the absurd. 3. If you are not tolerant of different viewpoints. If you recognize yourself in the above comments, chances are you will not like this book. More's the pity. I want to add two quotes from the book. This first one is from her father when they are finally able to get their own place and leave the rectory. "I never thought it would be so much fun to have you home. It's so nice when your kids grow up and you don't have to kill them anymore". The second one is actually the last paragraph of the book. " This is about the moment when I walked into the house, and they were there, as they had always been there, as they would not always be. This is about how happy they were when they saw me, how the sun rose in their faces,how it was another day" One of my all time favorite memoirs.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Andie

    DNF. This book started off with a laugh, but by page 70 I was over it. Every sentence was so grossly exaggerated and the characters were so cartoonish that the actual story got lost and it was difficult to follow or care about what was going on.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Nicole Hibbard

    There were times during this book that I was actually laughing out loud, I loved the authors sense of humor. Overall though I was really bored, the chapters ran on and there were some stories that just seemed random and didn't seems to fit. Honestly I'm the kind of person who has to finish a book once I start it, but towards the end I just wanted it to be over.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    Most of this memoir reads like episodes of a sitcom with the central situation being Patricia growing up with a Catholic priest as a father. Seminarians, moving around a lot, some of the strangeness of being super conservative in the 80s and 90s, it's all in there. A lot of the book could be dipped in and out of without feeling lost, because it isn't really told chronologically (this might bother some people though.) Many of the stories are just that - self-contained stories, often funny. (Peopl Most of this memoir reads like episodes of a sitcom with the central situation being Patricia growing up with a Catholic priest as a father. Seminarians, moving around a lot, some of the strangeness of being super conservative in the 80s and 90s, it's all in there. A lot of the book could be dipped in and out of without feeling lost, because it isn't really told chronologically (this might bother some people though.) Many of the stories are just that - self-contained stories, often funny. (People who are easily offended or who don't want to see Catholics being anything less than perfect should probably not bother, but man oh man is there some funny stuff in the book.) But there is deeper stuff here too. The author really takes some steps back to reflect on her experience of the church and that feeling of the self-contained we, and how it might have effected others: "All my life I have overheard, all my life I have listened to what people will let slip when they think you are part of their we. A we is so powerful. It is the most corrupt and formidable institution on earth. Its hands are full of the crispest and most persuasive currency. Its mouth is full of received, repeating language. The we closes its ranks to protect the space inside it, where the air is different. It does not protect people. It protects its own shape. The question for someone who was raised in a closed circle and then leaves it, is what is the us, and what is the them, and how do you ever move from one to the other?" I'd love to see this turned into a television show because the dichotomy between Patricia's priest father (and his see-through briefs and his guitar licks) and the seminarians piously rotating through their house, it's just golden. I would say the audiobook gains a star because it is read by the author, and is hilarious. I know Lockwood is also a published poet, and I need to read those poems!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Em

    Patricia Lockwood is some kind of word-witch, and I cannot emphasize enough how lucky we all are to live in this era with her.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Book of the Month

    Papa Don't Preach By Judge Nina Sankovitch Patricia Lockwood is the daughter of a Catholic priest—and that is actually the blandest fact about her. She is one in a million, a fresh and honest and hilarious observer of life. And Father Lockwood is one in a million as well—a priest who takes the Lord seriously, even though he’s most comfortable when half nude and jamming on his electric guitar in the living room. In her memoir Priestdaddy, Lockwood explains not only how her father entered the priesth Papa Don't Preach By Judge Nina Sankovitch Patricia Lockwood is the daughter of a Catholic priest—and that is actually the blandest fact about her. She is one in a million, a fresh and honest and hilarious observer of life. And Father Lockwood is one in a million as well—a priest who takes the Lord seriously, even though he’s most comfortable when half nude and jamming on his electric guitar in the living room. In her memoir Priestdaddy, Lockwood explains not only how her father entered the priesthood despite the existence of her and her four siblings but so much more, including how to fall in love and marry over the internet, how to behave at an anti-abortion rally when you are four years old, which cream liqueurs are the most alcoholic, what to do when your father trades your college education for a guitar previously owned by a Beatle, and how to road trip with a mother who fears sexually-tainted motel comforters. The big answer to all of these questions, at least as far as Lockwood goes, is to apply an acerbic and brilliant sense of humor plus a strong sense of compassion and a total lack of sanctimony, to whatever—and I mean, whatever—life serves up. The book begins with Lockwood and her husband moving back into her family home in Kansas City, a move forced upon them by illness and poverty. The couple have endured some terrible months and yet I was laughing by page two, and I continued laughing for the next three hundred pages. Sometimes my laughter was mixed with tears, either from laughing too hard (“My father despises cats. He believes them to be Democrats. He considers them to be little mean hillary clintons covered all over with feminist legfur”) or due to the inescapable pathos of the moment, frankly related: “If the church teaches anything, it’s that sometimes we have to answer for what other people have done. Let me do it by standing up and walking out of the countinghouse, and saving my number for the smaller side.” Lockwood uses the nine months she and her husband remain uncomfortably living with her parents as the springboard for examining her extraordinary upbringing by two very eccentric individuals, and the impact such a childhood has had on her adult life. She explores her contentious relationship with religion, her self-questioning over faith and duty and family, and her eventual parting with the church. And yet it became clear to me that while Lockwood ultimately rejects the practices of modern-day Catholicism, she appears to have taken away the very best of its tenets: she approaches life open to every feeling and nuance, every vision and insight, and she expresses herself freely and beautifully. Her poetry has been heralded for its ingenuity, honesty, humor, and grit, and the same qualities come through in this, her first, and hopefully not her last, book of prose. Read more at https://www.bookofthemonth.com/priest...

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kristin

    I kind of suffered through this book. It was too...smug? At times, I felt like I was watching a stand up comic stumble through a bit and it made me want to turn away. Other times, it was genuinely funny and charming. I think it was just too much of one person for me.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    [2.4] The parts of this memoir are greater than the whole. Lockwood uses her poetic sensibility to write about her offbeat life - including growing up with a "Priestdaddy." (Her father is a Catholic priest, allowed to stay in the priesthood after converting from Lutheranism). She writes spectacular, carefully polished sentences and paragraphs - then scatters them and lets them fall where they may. There is no flow to this choppy memoir. It is a hodgepodge of anecdotes and memories and painstakin [2.4] The parts of this memoir are greater than the whole. Lockwood uses her poetic sensibility to write about her offbeat life - including growing up with a "Priestdaddy." (Her father is a Catholic priest, allowed to stay in the priesthood after converting from Lutheranism). She writes spectacular, carefully polished sentences and paragraphs - then scatters them and lets them fall where they may. There is no flow to this choppy memoir. It is a hodgepodge of anecdotes and memories and painstakingly crafted thoughts that the author sticks in just because they sound dandy. She views her father with a detached, amused eye and I found this puzzling and irritating. I didn't find anything funny about him. He comes off as an obnoxious, self-centered, narrow-minded oaf. I finished it dutifully because it is for book club, but it was a chore.

  11. 4 out of 5

    MARB

    One reads Lockwood's memoir and can't help but think, "oh man, the Catholics are going to have a field day with this." I mean that is the most literal sense - they will race through it, they will kick it about, they will pick teams, some will over analyze, some will out right reject it, some will feel they have triumphed and some will be bitter with defeat. And they will all go home weary, not knowing precisely why anyone does field days anymore. Except that perhaps they will look back on Priest One reads Lockwood's memoir and can't help but think, "oh man, the Catholics are going to have a field day with this." I mean that is the most literal sense - they will race through it, they will kick it about, they will pick teams, some will over analyze, some will out right reject it, some will feel they have triumphed and some will be bitter with defeat. And they will all go home weary, not knowing precisely why anyone does field days anymore. Except that perhaps they will look back on Priestdaddy and realize how much fun they had, and how much humor Lockwood brought to some big questions surrounding faith, religion, beliefs, family, and belonging. Perhaps some readers will realize just how healthy this type of literary exercise is. Maybe they were never traumatized enough to truly question their faith. How unfortunately lucky for them. For as oppressive patriarchy and sexual abuse and power hold a tight grip in the Catholic Church, these issues must not have ever been as personal to these readers as they are in the way Lockwood writes. In the aftermath of her rape, regarding her pro-life entirely non-sympathetic gynecologist Lockwood writes, "It must have been then I began to suspect that something is not right with the way these people have arranged their world, no matter what their intentions." When remembering a priest who would later be jailed for sexual abuse, and the seminarian who could have been another one of his victims, Lockwood struggles against the hypocrisy of those in her life that feel sympathy for the aggressor. Lockwood holds a mirror up to those who might think of themselves as religious and forces upon them an examination of conscience. Some (most?) readers may not be Catholic or particularly religious in any way. They may have stumbled on this book not knowing anything about the author, but one hopes that Lockwood's spirit of questioning and challenging (and what some might call blasphemy) and truth seeking within her own lived experience will call to them as well. Maybe they will not be able relate to growing up with a Catholic priest as a father, but Lockwood’s exploration of family should resonate. If nothing else, her unique comedic sense will compel them to read every last word she puts down, and they will laugh at the humanity she has managed to capture. And maybe, just maybe, for a few, this will be enough to rearrange their world. Because as with any treatise that burrows deep into the questions of identity, Lockwood questions her own upbringing and mental state in such a way that can usher introspection for the reader. The laugh out loud humor of the book in less capable hands would distract the reader from thinking of the Lockwood family as real-life, breathing human beings, but her known sly subtlety with language maintains a real connection through the page. Lockwood reveals how adult children are allowed this beautiful understanding of just how flawed our parents are as human beings, and yet, how happy these parents are to see us return home. Her priest father Greg remains elusive and unknowable through the gaze of his adult daughter even after over 300 pages devoted to trying to better understand him. Her mother Karen jumps off the pages as the ever-present, active capable matriarchal presence that keeps the ship afloat even if she herself may be a bit loopy. Karen's love is palpable and kinetic. Reading Lockwood's descriptions of her mother made me wish more (all) priests had wives. She is just so quoatable! In her discussion of her siblings, Lockwood's temerity mirrors that of David Sedaris whenever he writes about his siblings. She is honest in both her love for them and her struggles to understand how they all manage to coexist in the same family unit. Like many of us with siblings, she looks around the dinner (or in her case the bishop’s) table of her family and wonders aloud (via her writing) how is it that their shared upbringing yielded such varying results. One cannot help but think that if these siblings were allowed to write the interchapters of Lockwood’s memoir akin to Mary McCarthy’s Memories of a Catholic Girlhood, we would come to the understanding that she invented little of her narrative, and in fact, their lives were perhaps even stranger than she depicted. In Lockwood's husband (who she met on the Internet before Internet dating was a thing), the reader feels a connection to this outsider who like Alice has just wandered into the strangest of tea parties and is doing his best to figure out the rules. Her glimpses at his unwavering support of her work as a writer and his devotion to their marriage mirrors the mutual dependence and tenderness of other literary couples such as Leonard and Virginia Woolf. One sometimes gets the feeling that it is really only by looking at her family through the lens of her husband that Lockwood truly gains any clarity. Before their return to the rectory, perhaps she knew something was off, but having a sympathizer at her side to share in the joke made it all more terrible and somehow beautiful and rich. In the essay “Voice” the real and personal struggle Lockwood went through to find her voice as a poet and writer is mirrored in her doubts surrounding her actual singing voice. The depression and suicide attempt that she writes about are as if she is revealing one photograph of herself after another, each one with a slightly more nuanced and painful view. Fading in and out of the narrative, Lockwood tries to understand herself against what she sees as one of her chief flaws. Her imperfect voice is all the more unbearable because of her deep desire to lose herself within the power of a Christmas hymn. Had she perceived herself to be a better singer, perhaps she never would have become the writer that she is. Had she not been raised in rectories, perhaps she never would have experienced the exaltation of a midnight carol. Her struggle is of someone who can no longer believe like she was taught, but still feels elements of spirituality deeply despite her lack of belief. As the Catholics might say, many passages in this memoir reveal Lockwood’s dedication to the mysteries of faith. Near the end of the memoir when discussing her time in the “Gang of God,” Lockwood places her own narrative within the larger national discussions of race, privilege, environmental degradation, expansionism, and public health. It is at this point one realizes Lockwood has not simply written a personal memoir. She has attempted to capture and examine "the tightest, most self-involved knot" that is our national identity. Amid the guitar riffs and the ceremonial chalices and deer hunting, there are late night visits of comfort and trips to Key West and unexplainable near blindness. And somehow, there is absurdity and love and laughter. I only wish there had been more submarines. Casting Call Patricia Lockwood - Christina Ricci Jason - Billy Zane Greg Lockwood - Vincent D'Onofrio Karen Lockwood - Helena Bonham Carter

  12. 5 out of 5

    Peter Boyle

    I identified with quite a lot of this dazzling memoir, much more than I had expected. Sure it addresses universal themes like family and identity, but it is Patricia Lockwood's memories of her Catholic upbringing that really struck a chord with me. Like her, the major milestones of my formative years often revolved around the Church, First Communion and Confirmation being the big ones. I rose blearily on Sunday mornings to carry out altar boy duties at First Mass, and because I could kind of pla I identified with quite a lot of this dazzling memoir, much more than I had expected. Sure it addresses universal themes like family and identity, but it is Patricia Lockwood's memories of her Catholic upbringing that really struck a chord with me. Like her, the major milestones of my formative years often revolved around the Church, First Communion and Confirmation being the big ones. I rose blearily on Sunday mornings to carry out altar boy duties at First Mass, and because I could kind of play the tin whistle, I was frequently plucked from class to perform sad songs at funerals. It was refreshing to read about the life of someone who had gone through a similar experience, though as I soon learned, hers was a whole other level of religious exposure. The book revolves around a period when Lockwood and her husband Jason moved in with her parents, while he recovered from major eye surgery. It was a chaotic arrangement to say the least and she delights in recounting the craziness that ensued. Her father is not what you would call a typical priest. He spends most days dressed solely in boxer shorts, watching violent action movies or cranking out guitar solos from his music room. Meanwhile her mother yells out things she has learned from the internet, about alligators that eat dogs and how "rats in big cities are getting aggressive from eating too many cigarette butts." Lockwood revels in this lively atmosphere and reminisces about growing up in an unconventional household. Lockwood herself is absolutely hilarious and her family are equally funny - intentionally or unintentionally, it is hard to say. Her mother is a worrier, a "human Lassie" who is always alert to disaster: "The only magazine she ever subscribed to was called Prevention and it exclusively carried articles about which fruits could prevent cancer. The cover always featured a picture of a jogging young grandma in a sports bra pumping her fist in the air as she overcame any number of invisible diseases." Her younger brother Paul has always had a "startling baritone", even as a baby, and she claims that "back then, women regularly screamed when my mother brought him into the ladies’ room, believing a fully grown businessman had burst through the door and was requesting a diaper change." But her relationship with her father is the real heart of the book. He's not an easy person to love and a difficult character to pin down. He is boorish, outspoken and even childish - Homer Simpson often came to mind. Lockwood remembers a time when he declined her request to go to college, saying that the money just wasn't there. A few days later he took delivery of another expensive guitar for his collection, one that had originally been made for Paul McCartney. Of course there is unconditional love between them, but he remains somewhat of an enigma that even she can't explain. Lockwood's sparkling sense of humour is one thing, but wow, she can write. Her years as a poet have undoubtedly honed her abilities - she has a talent for conjuring the most striking imagery and constructing sumptuous, lyrical sentences. She captures the nervous excitement upon meeting Jason in real life for the first time: "When we kissed, perhaps because we had so many teeth, it was exactly like two birdcages touching together." She talks about missing Savannah, where she and Jason spent a happy time together: "the sherbet-bright azaleas and the ghost tours outside my window just at dusk... the ocean so close, and the sun buttering the blankness of my mind, and my hands unknotting knots in the warm, uncomplicating water." She remembers her father "teaching" her how to swim as a child by forcing her to jump off the high board: "The high dive meant leaping off the edge of a moment and trusting the next one would catch you. The plunge down, like all plunges down, was a short segment of infinity. Your heart flew up out of the top of your head and the red silk of it caught and billowed out and you hung from it for a second in the middle of the sky." I didn't want this book to end. I wanted to spend a little longer in the company of Patricia Lockwood's wacky family and bask in the warm glow of her sensuous prose. I think fans of David Sedaris would particularly enjoy this magical memoir, but I would recommend it to just about anybody. A wondrous, intoxicating read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Hank Stuever

    I really liked Patricia Lockwood's second book of poetry ("Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals), but this memoir was a big disappointment -- sloppily and perhaps hastily written (a 1990s computer monitor is described as "capacious" on page 18; five pages later, a living room in a rectory is also "capacious"). The book is disorganized and immature in an off-putting way that made me wonder if the author is 15 or 35. You say your dad's a Catholic priest? Do tell. (My mother became a Catholic nun I really liked Patricia Lockwood's second book of poetry ("Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals), but this memoir was a big disappointment -- sloppily and perhaps hastily written (a 1990s computer monitor is described as "capacious" on page 18; five pages later, a living room in a rectory is also "capacious"). The book is disorganized and immature in an off-putting way that made me wonder if the author is 15 or 35. You say your dad's a Catholic priest? Do tell. (My mother became a Catholic nun late in life, years after her divorce from my father, so I'm all ears.) Turns out Lockwood isn't going to tell, not for more than 150 pages. I learned more about her father's priesthood, his conversion to Catholicism, and his religious views from Googling him than I did from reading this book. Okay, so it's not about him, it's about her -- and whatever boring stories about herself she thinks she can spin into funny yarns (as in "please-welcome-to-The-Moth-stage" funny yarns) about her family and growing up. I was hoping for a whole lot more here about Father Lockwood's (and his wife's) brand of Catholicism -- because it sounds like they're pretty right of center -- and a lot less of Patricia's lapsed disregard for it all. (Hey, I get it, I'm lapsed too.) Overall, I just got the sense that she had no clue what sort of book she wanted to write, except that she sold the book proposal on the "my dad's a priest" hook and then just decided to let it meander from there.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    My review from the Chicago Tribune: http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifesty... Last summer, the Pew Research Center released a study showing that for the first time, more 18- to 34-year-olds live at home with their parents than in any other arrangement. So Patricia Lockwood's decision to move with her husband, in the face of medical and financial hardship, back in with her parents in Kansas City "after twelve long years away" is hardly exceptional unto itself. No, what makes it exceptional is that t My review from the Chicago Tribune: http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifesty... Last summer, the Pew Research Center released a study showing that for the first time, more 18- to 34-year-olds live at home with their parents than in any other arrangement. So Patricia Lockwood's decision to move with her husband, in the face of medical and financial hardship, back in with her parents in Kansas City "after twelve long years away" is hardly exceptional unto itself. No, what makes it exceptional is that they are throwing themselves "on the mercy of the church," which Lockwood explains in her delightful and debauched prose debut, the memoir "Priestdaddy," "exists for me on this earth in unusually patriarchal form." This is because her father, Greg Lockwood, is one of a small and little-known number of married Catholic priests. As Lockwood explains, if a married minister of another faith "converts to Catholicism, he can apply to Rome for a dispensation," which, if granted, means, "He is allowed, yes, to keep his wife. He is even allowed to keep his children, no matter how bad they might be." Because her dad became a Catholic after having been a Lutheran minister, his paperwork was approved by Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI), permitting him the right to work as a priest free of the requirement of clerical celibacy. Author of the acclaimed poetry collection "Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals," Lockwood has been hailed by The New Yorker as "the poet laureate of Twitter," where she has more than 64,000 followers. The New York Times has dubbed her the "smutty-metaphor queen," and she is deservingly renowned for her boundary-pushing wit and smutty apercus. Here, using the same offbeat intelligence, comic timing, gimlet skill for observation and verbal dexterity that she uses in both her poetry and her tweets, she delivers an unsparing yet ultimately affectionate portrait of faith and family. And her metaphors really are deserving of royalty status, as when she tries to capture her beloved sister, Mary, saying, "I have, on different occasions … described her as 'a tricked-out club Chewbacca,' a 'highly literate female Tarzan,' and 'a jaguar who went through a human puberty.' " Describing the Lutherans of her father's first flock with characteristic irreverent incisiveness, she writes, "If Jesus himself appeared in their midst and said, 'Eat my body,' they would first slather mayonnaise all over him." The frequency of her jokes and the grotesqueness of her hilarity lead to a high density of pleasure; virtually every page is packed with the potential to make the reader laugh out loud. Yet even as "Priestdaddy" is a book of leisure, capable of entertaining the heck out of you and letting you escape from your own life, so too is it a book that has something to teach you — with real pathos. Some comedians get nervous if too many minutes go by without a laugh, cracking jokes neurotically whether the gags are necessary or not. Lockwood's jokes, though, seem neither defensive nor compulsive. Rather, they deliver something essential to the voice, character and content of her story. Moreover, she can get deadly serious when the subject merits gravity, as when she writes about the child sex abuse scandals that began to rock the Catholic church in the early 2000s. After a raucous recounting of a celebratory dinner that she and her family attended that was presided over by Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn, who would later be forced to resign by Pope Francis for his role in shielding pedophile priests, she writes: "All my life I have overheard, all my life I have listened to what people will let slip when they think you are part of their we. A we is so powerful. It is the most corrupt and formidable institution on earth. … The we closes its ranks to protect the space inside it, where the air is different. It does not protect people. It protects its own shape." Impressive in its amplitude — ranging from Lockwood's own coming of age as a poet and feminist to her exchanging sexual information with the seminarian also living in her family's rectory, from her husband's eye surgery to her father's getting arrested at an abortion clinic sit-in — "Priestdaddy" gives both believers and nonbelievers a great deal to contemplate. "The air of a subculture is a different air," she notes. "It is harder to breathe, but it gives purpose to every part of you, to every cell." Frequently at odds though she is with the strict and restrictive worldview in which she was raised, Lockwood nevertheless concludes that "faith and my father taught me the same lesson: to live in the mystery, even to love it." In this memoir, she practically dares the reader not to do the same.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Maxwell

    Funny, melancholy, moving. This was a treat from start to finish.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    I'm kicking off 2018 by reading some of the best of 2017. Here are the maybes; here's Digg's aggregate top ten list. "I emerged from my own mother in the form of a tiny psychic covered with tits," says Patricia Lockwood, so you know it's going to be that kind of a memoir. Lockwood comes off as some unholy bastard child of bloggers and poets; she carries the Wonder Woman bracelets of sarcasm and the invisible jet of metaphor. She describes her cat's inexplicable love for her father's horrendous gu I'm kicking off 2018 by reading some of the best of 2017. Here are the maybes; here's Digg's aggregate top ten list. "I emerged from my own mother in the form of a tiny psychic covered with tits," says Patricia Lockwood, so you know it's going to be that kind of a memoir. Lockwood comes off as some unholy bastard child of bloggers and poets; she carries the Wonder Woman bracelets of sarcasm and the invisible jet of metaphor. She describes her cat's inexplicable love for her father's horrendous guitar playing: Alice answers him, writhing on the hood of his Corvette, purring in every cell of her, her whiskers vibrating as if they were recently strummed. Her body is a leotard, her fur is a perm. Of some habitually pregnant women she writes, "They were happy the way crabgrass is happy, doing what they were designed to do." When she gets around to namechecking Renata Adler, you just nod: of course. So obviously this is the kind of book about which people crow, "I kept cracking up in bed and disturbing my wife," which they think is a cute thing to say but let me tell you, your wife doesn't think it's cute. She already knows what book you're reading. No, she does not want you to read that passage out loud. Lockwood is better known as a poet. And she is surprisingly well-known, for a poet - so well known that even I've heard of her, and I think poetry is essentially stupid. In 2013 her poem Rape Joke went massively viral - on the level of the recent New Yorker story Cat Person. It's a devastating poem, entirely fresh and furious, and it made her career. And two things had to happen there, right? The second thing was writing a poem about the first thing. The first thing - "This was the price?" she asks. "This was the purchase of entry, into that closed and impregnable world?" Her husband reminds her that it's a happy ending: "'You did it,' he says, bursting into tears. 'This is just like when an animal succeeds in a movie.'" The book loosely chronicles the period during which Lockwood's career is taking off, with a lot of flashes back. Broke, she and her husband have moved back in with her parents in Missouri: her doomful mother, from whom she got her sense of humor, and the priestdaddy of the title, a towering figure dressed in terrifyingly loose boxer shorts, carrying a guitar in one hand and a bible in the other. Meanwhile, "Rape Joke" is published. She writes this book, almost a la minute, sitting at the table and writing down what her family says, which, as you can imagine, makes everyone feel self-conscious. There's nothing that requires being called a plot, so by the second half I found my attention wandering a little; I'd gotten accustomed to her voice, as unique and hilarious as it is, and nothing new was happening. She's mostly interested in writing about writing. Lockwood's family couldn't afford to send her to college; she began her career with no connections, no mentors. It gave her a complex that she still seems a little raw about. She hasn't been seen as a Wonder-Woman-bracelet kind of person; she's small and from Missouri and easily overlooked. But "On the page I am strong," she says, "Because that is where I put my strength...I am no longer whispering through the small skirted shape of a keyhole: the door is knocked down and the roof is blown off and I am aimed once more at the entire wide night." I think she's speaking to other young people who are sitting in the backs of classrooms, writing their ways through life. I hope they find her! Look for, I guess, the tiny psychic covered with tits.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Richard Noggle

    Lockwood's examination of her family is exceptionally funny (no surprise) but its final third works toward a really nuanced and powerful look at the power of writing and the effects of her religious upbringing (and the way these two things are surprisingly intertwined). A good book, Lockwood writes at one point, leaves you with the "conviction" that "life can be holdable in the hand, examined down to the dog hairs, eaten with the eyes and understood." This is a good book.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sara Klem

    "My dad despises cats. He believes them to be Democrats. He considers them to be little mean hillary clintons covered all over with feminist legfur. Cats would have abortions, if given half a chance. Cats would have abortions for fun." This book was fucking ridiculous, in the best way. I've never read anything like it. It would have been a wild ride of a (true!) story had it not been told by Patricia Lockwood -- I mean, it's about having a priest for a dad who plays sick guitar riffs, and growing "My dad despises cats. He believes them to be Democrats. He considers them to be little mean hillary clintons covered all over with feminist legfur. Cats would have abortions, if given half a chance. Cats would have abortions for fun." This book was fucking ridiculous, in the best way. I've never read anything like it. It would have been a wild ride of a (true!) story had it not been told by Patricia Lockwood -- I mean, it's about having a priest for a dad who plays sick guitar riffs, and growing up in a rectory -- but because she is a poet, the prose is extra fun to read and had me laughing out loud constantly.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Charles Finch

    Abandoned; I love her poetry, but this had no narrative momentum. Wouldn't grade if I hadn't made it fairly far in.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Warning: this book will blow your mind. (It did mine, anyway.) When you’re not snorting, sniggering or guffawing, you’ll be marveling at how Patricia Lockwood is incapable of producing a dull sentence. Every paragraph, if not every line, of Priestdaddy contains a turn of phrase so fresh and surprising that wouldn’t have occurred to the average reader in years of pondering. Yet it reads as utterly natural, even effortless. This is evidence of a poet’s mind sparking at high voltage and taking an i Warning: this book will blow your mind. (It did mine, anyway.) When you’re not snorting, sniggering or guffawing, you’ll be marveling at how Patricia Lockwood is incapable of producing a dull sentence. Every paragraph, if not every line, of Priestdaddy contains a turn of phrase so fresh and surprising that wouldn’t have occurred to the average reader in years of pondering. Yet it reads as utterly natural, even effortless. This is evidence of a poet’s mind sparking at high voltage and taking an ironically innocent delight in dirty and iconoclastic talk. It’s a memoir of growing up in a highly conservative religious setting, but this is not Evangelical Christianity as you or I have known it. For one thing, her father converted to Catholicism after he was already married, and a special dispensation was required for him to become a priest. Not only is he a married Father (of five children), but he wanders around in his underpants, watches violent movies and make horrific noises with guitars. Lockwood glories in her father’s quirks* but never reduces him to a caricature; the same goes for the rest of her family, including her husband Jason, whom she met online in the days before that was commonplace. The immediate inspiration for this book was moving back in with her parents in Missouri as a married woman, sharing the rectory with them and a very serious seminarian while her poetry career suddenly and finally took off (to the extent that a poetry career actually can), but the narrative ranges widely around her past and present. Though she highlights the absurdities of fundamentalism, she is still strangely fond of it as her home and source (“even now I could not tell you which curves of that circle were harm and which were haven”). So while some might find the book’s language heretical, I found it to be the perfect blend of reverent and irreverent, the mark of someone who has considered faith deeply but now holds it lightly. (“People do sometimes accuse me of blasphemy, which is understandable and which is their right. But to me, it is not blasphemy, it is my idiom. It’s my way of still participating in the language I was raised inside, which despite all renunciation will always be mine.”) It’s so hard to look back at a life of extremes without bitterness, so I’m impressed at what the author has achieved here. Many will pick the book up for laughs (it won the Thurber Prize for American Humor, after all), and it certainly is uproariously funny, but it also tugs at the heartstrings. It’s the sort of book I wish I had written about my religious upbringing. *Meet Greg Lockwood (you’ll never forget him): “‘Disintegration of the family unit!’ my father shouted, apropos of nothing—I suspected he hadn’t really been listening—and then disappeared upstairs to fondle his guns and drink cream liqueurs in secret, which was his way of dealing with grief.” “My father despises cats. He believes them to be Democrats. He considers them to be little mean hillary clintons covered all over with feminist legfur. Cats would have abortions, if given half a chance.” “my father has always held that the female sex’s primary mode of transportation is gallivanting”

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ross Blocher

    Priestdaddy is fantastic, and I recommend it to everyone. Patricia Lockwood writes beautiful, poetic descriptions of the world around her: lush, detailed images and brilliant metaphors that effectively match unexpected sensations. It usually takes me a while to warm up to such flowery language, but Lockwood earns it. At the same time, she is mordantly funny. Her storytelling and descriptions of her family are riotous. Her dad, the eponymous priest, managed to beat the system by transitioning fro Priestdaddy is fantastic, and I recommend it to everyone. Patricia Lockwood writes beautiful, poetic descriptions of the world around her: lush, detailed images and brilliant metaphors that effectively match unexpected sensations. It usually takes me a while to warm up to such flowery language, but Lockwood earns it. At the same time, she is mordantly funny. Her storytelling and descriptions of her family are riotous. Her dad, the eponymous priest, managed to beat the system by transitioning from a protestant priest to a Catholic one, after he'd already procured a wife and five children. If he's not in his priestly robes, he's waltzing about in see-through underwear, spouting right-wing proclamations and playing rock anthems cranked to 11. Lockwood's mother is inventively paranoid, a busybody, a horrible driver, and politically conservative in her own special way. Lockwood moves fluidly through time as she tells stories of her Catholic upbringing, flirting with seminarians, early marriage to a man she meets on the internet, sexual assault, medical emergencies, moving back in with her family, and budding career as a writer. Through it all, she laces the humor and storytelling with profound observations on life, belief and why religion can't live up to all its promises. It's a delightful slice of life, and beautifully read by the author if you listen to the audio book version.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jody

    Lockwood's writing just seems to be too tangential to the story at hand (wait...what EXACTLY is the story?). I don't really care enough for Lockwood's story, neither do I care for her writing style to warrant a recommendation. Lockwood seems to be another one of those early 21st century writers who, through the onslaught of social media, believes themself the handler of a captive audience. In the end, I don't think any reader is going to love Lockwood's writing as much as she loves it.

  23. 5 out of 5

    David Yoon

    Father Lockwood has snuck into the Catholic priesthood despite being married and having kids. His road to Damascus moment was leagues under the sea in a nuclear submarine after watching The Exorcist which turned a once staunch atheist into a man of the cloth. He’s still staunchly Republican, prone to farting, loves pork rinds, and lounging around in his underwear when he’s not shredding on his collection of electric guitars he’s decided to purchase instead of funding college for his kids. He’s k Father Lockwood has snuck into the Catholic priesthood despite being married and having kids. His road to Damascus moment was leagues under the sea in a nuclear submarine after watching The Exorcist which turned a once staunch atheist into a man of the cloth. He’s still staunchly Republican, prone to farting, loves pork rinds, and lounging around in his underwear when he’s not shredding on his collection of electric guitars he’s decided to purchase instead of funding college for his kids. He’s known to yell Hooo-eee, Jiminy Christmas and OHHH YEAHHHH while listening to Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly at peak volume, at the same time. The titular Priestdaddy is quite the character and Lockwood is at her best when she’s riffing about him, for example his guitar playing: “It sounds like a whole band dying in a plane crash in the year 1972. He plays the guitar like he’s trying to take off women’s jeans, or like he’s standing nude in the middle of a thunderstorm and calling down lightning to strike his pecs …Some people are, through whatever mystifying means, able to make the guitar talk. My father can’t do that, but he can do the following: 1. Make the guitar squeal 2. Make the guitar say no 3. Make the guitar falsely confess to murder 4. Make the guitar stage a filibuster where it reads The Hunt for Red October out loud” Lockwood can turn a phrase. She’s hilarious and quirky on the page and selfishly I just want her to keep on riffing. Like explaining milfs to the seminarian haunted by the concept, or discovering semen on the hotel bedsheets in the room she’s sharing with her mother. Shifting gears to obliquely talk about the abuses of priests in church, her rape and attempted suicide, living near radioactive waste which rendered her incapable of having children and wrestling with anger — it’s jarring. Still beautifully written but less sure. My attention starts to wane and I’m finding myself missing words, trained in her prior voice and familiar with the language of the profane and funny I’m adrift in the more serious and poetic. Still, like her mother, Patricia Lockwood loves language and it shows on the page.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jerrie (redwritinghood)

    This book proclaims to be about her father, but it's really about how growing up in a religious family affected her life. She has a way with words - I enjoyed the beautiful writing.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    There were definitely parts that I laughed out loud. But it was just so slow and it bounced around a lot. Each page was begging to be a funny/punny metaphor and it made everything so watered down. I think the best part was the description and history of the rap van. Wasted potential, some funny parts, just not for me.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jillian

    I honestly can't decide how I feel about this book. On the one hand there is no doubt that the writing is extremely unique, beautiful at times, in a voice that uses language that is quite unlike anyone else. It's a unique premise, (her father is a Catholic priest) although we never find out exactly how that was permitted, only that there was some kind of cross-denominational loophole. It definitely has some very funny moments, but I feel that many avenues and levels were left totally unexplored. I honestly can't decide how I feel about this book. On the one hand there is no doubt that the writing is extremely unique, beautiful at times, in a voice that uses language that is quite unlike anyone else. It's a unique premise, (her father is a Catholic priest) although we never find out exactly how that was permitted, only that there was some kind of cross-denominational loophole. It definitely has some very funny moments, but I feel that many avenues and levels were left totally unexplored. The author alludes to some traumatic events in her life that are not fully explored (a rape, a suicide attempt) and she doesn't really talk about why she left Catholicism other than a general disdain that turned into a dark and potentially blasphemous sense of humor. The book is much more about her mother than the father she can't seem to pin down. I feel like I thought this memoir was going to increase in sincerity and depth over time, but it never really did. The poetic use of language was at times beautiful and totally fresh and at other times self-indulgent and confusing. I really don't know. I couldn't stop reading, I wanted to know more, but I was utterly frustrated and left feeling let down.

  27. 4 out of 5

    LauraBeth

    This is a story about a poet (whose father is a priest), who as an adult, walked away from the Catholic Church. Her family doesn't disown her and she doesn't disown them. And this story isn't really about church, prodigals, priests or family dysfunction - but instead is about a poet trying to figure out where she fits into her family and where she fits into the world at large (although the church, prodigals, priests and family dysfunction are the combined elements that have displaced her). It's This is a story about a poet (whose father is a priest), who as an adult, walked away from the Catholic Church. Her family doesn't disown her and she doesn't disown them. And this story isn't really about church, prodigals, priests or family dysfunction - but instead is about a poet trying to figure out where she fits into her family and where she fits into the world at large (although the church, prodigals, priests and family dysfunction are the combined elements that have displaced her). It's one of the most thoughtful and mature memoirs I've ever read and is threaded with the subtext of embracing differences (our own as well as others'). It's nothing what I expected. Lockwood loves her family, warts and all, and they love her. Beautifully, beautifully written. And it's funny AF. Not malicious funny - she's not laughing AT her family. She seems in awe of their genuine and authentic hilariousness. She also seems equally grateful to have her family as her muse and to also have her readers whom she can bring along to share in the laughter (and yes, the hurt as well). There's a reason this book made many "Best Of" lists in 2017. I'd hate for people to miss out on Lockwood's beautiful language because they may be put off by the title or that there is religion in it (I let this languish on my TBR for almost 2 years for these reasons). If you can see beyond that you'll be in for a treat. Language lovers, writers and other misfits who can't be labeled will particularly enjoy this.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Haley

    I am in the middle of a cross-country move and this book was perfect for the down time between stuffing all my worldly belongings into boxes and calling those various companies that are always a chore to deal with. A line at the DMV that stretches to Saturn and back? No problem, because I had Lockwood with me to make it infinitely more tolerable. I think the Goodreads summary of this book is really good - you can probably accurately gauge your interest in this book on it alone. I will add that I I am in the middle of a cross-country move and this book was perfect for the down time between stuffing all my worldly belongings into boxes and calling those various companies that are always a chore to deal with. A line at the DMV that stretches to Saturn and back? No problem, because I had Lockwood with me to make it infinitely more tolerable. I think the Goodreads summary of this book is really good - you can probably accurately gauge your interest in this book on it alone. I will add that I found this book genuinely, laugh-out-loud funny. Even though it is titled after her father (the 'priest daddy'), I more enjoyed the parts of the book featuring Lockwood's tireless, long-suffering, hypochondriac mother. Lockwood's writing style is very unique (brimming with unusual imagery that is half lyrical and half smut/Jesus jokes) and I think it's what makes this memoir stand out. The organization straddles the border between traditional, narrative memoir and a book of essays - each chapter is pretty self-contained. There's a shift in tone near the end of the book (from the chapters "I am a Priest Forever" to "Power and Light") where the book veers more towards criticism than memoir. I found these chapters to be interesting and thoughtful meditations (on topics covering the tribulations of the Midwest to the Catholic church's teaching on abortion), but I'm not sure how I would have judged them in a book that was billed as criticism. To get a taste of her style before committing to reading this, I would recommend her Grub Street Diet column (with the caveat that the writing/jokes in her memoir are more refined), or her popular poem "Rape Joke".

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I am generally a big fan of memoirs anyway, but this one I absolutely devoured. Patricia Lockwood's style of writing may not be for everyone - it is quite poetic, full of imagery - but I loved it. She is also really funny, one of those authors who can make any story really engaging purely based on her writing and the humour used. Like laugh out loud, snorting every other page kind of funny. Just a little side note, I did notice that the book took a change in tone - mainly that there was a lot les I am generally a big fan of memoirs anyway, but this one I absolutely devoured. Patricia Lockwood's style of writing may not be for everyone - it is quite poetic, full of imagery - but I loved it. She is also really funny, one of those authors who can make any story really engaging purely based on her writing and the humour used. Like laugh out loud, snorting every other page kind of funny. Just a little side note, I did notice that the book took a change in tone - mainly that there was a lot less humour - about two thirds of the way through, which threw me a little bit at first. I think this was down to a change in topic, as the last third of the book focused on slightly heavier topics. As you'd probably guess from the title, a lot of this memoir focuses on Patricia's father, but there's also a lot about her relationship with her mother and husband too, along with chapters about her life growing up with her four siblings. Probably one of the best memoirs I've read this year, definitely worth a try!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Woodbury

    I spent a few weeks watching people fawn over this book, but most of what they were saying made me think it wasn't for me. I tend to be really specific in my tastes with memoir and hearing this one was by a poet but it was funny and about her crazy family just seemed not quite my cup of tea. But eventually I caved when I saw it on the shelf and it turns out I liked it very much. Lockwood has a singular voice and even though it doesn't always work for me, getting to know that voice and see how she I spent a few weeks watching people fawn over this book, but most of what they were saying made me think it wasn't for me. I tend to be really specific in my tastes with memoir and hearing this one was by a poet but it was funny and about her crazy family just seemed not quite my cup of tea. But eventually I caved when I saw it on the shelf and it turns out I liked it very much. Lockwood has a singular voice and even though it doesn't always work for me, getting to know that voice and see how she wields it is a real pleasure. Ultimately the wacky family element was, for me, the thing I didn't love as much. After a few stories that are shocking and hilarious, it's hard to sustain. But then again, it's the way she writes things that I liked, not as much the stories themselves. I think it would probably hit sharper if it was a little shorter. I've also had many people tell me it's excellent on audio, and having read it in print I can see the appeal.

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