Little Boy Blues
By Malcolm Jones
(Pantheon, Hardcover, 9780307377722, 240pp.)
Publication Date: January 12, 2010
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From one of our most astute cultural observers, a piercing memoir about a family’s breakup and the need simultaneously to embrace and distance ourselves from the people and events that shape us.
North Carolina in the 1950s and 1960s: A child surrounded mostly by grandparents, aunts, and uncles born in the previous century, Malcolm Jones finds himself underfoot in a disintegrating marriage. His father is charming but careless about steady work, often gone from home and often drunk. His mother, a schoolteacher and faded Southern belle, clings to the past while hungering for respectability and stability. Jones vividly describes their faltering marriage as it plays out against larger cracks in society: the convulsions of desegregation and a popular culture that threatens the church-centered life of his family. He also recalls idyllic times and the ordinary, easy moments of an otherwise fraught childhood: discovering an old Victrola, attending a marionette show—experiences that offer a portal to other worlds.
Richly evoking a time and place with rare depth of feeling and a penetrating, often bittersweet candor, Malcolm Jones gives us the fundamental stories of a life—where he comes from, who he was, who he has become.
Malcolm Jones has written features, reviews, and essays for Newsweek’s culture section since 1989. Prior to that he was a newspaper reporter in North Carolina and Florida. He lives with his family in the Hudson River Valley.