Tuesday March 30th, 2010

Baseball Tips from a Memoirist

mulgrewIn a case of there being a first for everything, I recently purchased a book in exchange for fantasy baseball tips. The offer came from Jason Mulgrew, author of Everything Is Wrong with Me, a memoir that grew out of his blog. Mulgrew was raised in a rough Irish section of Philadelphia, and much of the book details the exploits of his father, Dennis, a blue-collar, hard-drinking guy with a penchant for living out tall tales. After relating one of them, Mulgrew writes, “Stories like this one are the kind of stories I grew up with. Many of them started with ‘I remember one time when we found this box of horse tranquilizers . . .’ and ended with ‘And that’s when I learned that it’s good to know Spanish in jail.’ ”

Mulgrew’s mother first saw Dennis at the famous Mummers Parade in Philly, where he was continuing to march and laugh and drink with friends despite having been stabbed in a fight and bleeding from the shoulder. She didn’t realize she married the same man until a few years later. Here I will yield to a blurb, this one from John Hodgman: “Jason Mulgrew’s wild, boozy, joyfully reckless, working-class Philadelphia of the 1980s and ’90s doesn’t just come to life; it is the sort of autobiographical landscape that would get up and walk across the country just to punch Lake Wobegon in the face.”

Mulgrew revels in the scatological and sexual (well, sex-fantastical; he’s self-excoriating about the details of his real-life experiences), but he mostly avoids a juvenile tone in relating his family’s shenanigans. (The book is not The Paris Review, but it’s not exactly Maxim either. At its best, something like Esquire, I guess. And OK, sometimes Maxim-ish.) The book is conspicuously built from a blog, padded with comparatively soulless chapters on Mulgrew’s favorites songs or the rituals of the Catholic Church, and it has an abrupt, pretty creepy epilogue. But Dennis is an unforgettable character, and Mulgrew manages to convey warmth and affection for people who left him with not a few psychological hiccups. The book is decorated with hilarious photos, many of which will bring back strong memories for anyone raised in a 1980s suburb. Examples of them can be found here and here, and Mulgrew is holding a contest to find similar gems from readers.

Oh, the fantasy baseball. Mulgrew is also a baseball nut, and he creates annual rankings for fantasy players. After his “Fantasy Baseball Super Sheet” was popular at $5 last year, he decided to sell it for $10 this year. Or, he’ll send it to you for free if you can prove you bought the book.