2023 Reading Challenge

2023 Reading Challenge
Jill Elizabeth has read 5 books toward her goal of 265 books.

Book Review: A Thinking Man’s Bully

Today’s book review book is written in a style similar to one that I have been considering for my own writing – so I will be extra-curious to hear your thoughts on said style (whether you have read this particular book or not!).  The book, A Thinking Man’s Bully, was provided courtesy of LuxuryReading.com, which also hosted the original (shorter) post of this book review on March 19 (available here).


A Thinking Man’s Bully

So, those of you who follow me and my LuxuryReading reviews know that I usually cover non-fiction for that site.  This is one of those rare times when I diverge from that tradition.  And I cannot tell you why.  Seriously.  I have no idea why I requested this book, or what drew me to it – I really can’t remember.  (Teehee, silly girl moment – in my defense, I request a lot of books and review a lot of book lists.  I suppose it was inevitable that eventually something odd would sneak in…)

It’s not the subject matter (an aging bully telling tales of his misspent youth).  The writing was enjoyable, but I wouldn’t have known that from a catalog picture/title.  It may have been the catalog picture/title, come to think of it.  It’s a very cool cover – an old-fashioned segmented brain.  And the title is clever and witty and urbane.  Even the explanation of the title, in the context of a self-description from a rather unpleasant character, is clever and witty and urbane.  You gotta love it when even the characters you don’t particularly like have characteristics you do!

But I digress – wildly, as I am all too wont to do.

Back to the book.  It is basically a collection of tales told by the protagonist, Matt “McDuff” Duffy, to his therapist in the wake of his son’s attempted suicide.  Actually, “told” is something of a misnomer.  They are actually written stories submitted to his shrink in the course of therapy, because he – like oh-so-many men – can’t talk about feelings, emotions, or self-reflection.  It’s a clever strategy, and fits the burgeoning writer inside of McDuff fine.  It’s also clever story organization, and fits the burgeoning writer inside of me fine as well.

I don’t particularly care for McDuff’s brand of man: a bit of a follower, a little too focused on being a tough guy, a little carefree and lackadaisical about the emotions and emotional needs of the people around him.  He was a troublemaker and a bully, and basically raised his son to be the same – and then when his son attempted to take his own life (as did McDuff’s “best friend” in high school), well, everything sort of crumpled apart.

Shocker, eh?

The tales of high school hijinks and machismo were well-written and easy to read, if not particularly easy for me to stomach.  Adelberg’s writing style is as easy-going as his protagonist.  I didn’t like many of the main characters all that much – but I didn’t have to.  The stories were not my usual fare, but were well-presented and very real.  There isn’t a huge “a-ha!” moment; McDuff doesn’t go from a Beavis-and-Butthead-as-parenting-guide dad to Mister Rogers overnight – or even over the course of the entire book.  That’s fine.  I wouldn’t have bought it if he had.  He did make a few (painful) self-realizations along the way though, and that was enough to keep the story believable and to redeem him at least a little in my eyes.





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