If you don't read Philip Gulley's books because you think of him as the Quaker minister who writes those "nice" stories about Harmony, think again. Gulley's stories of his childhood, compiled in I Love You, Miss Huddleston: and Other Inappropriate Longings of My Indiana Childhood, is on a par with Bill Bryson's The Life and Times of The Thunderbolt Kid. If you want amusing stories of a boy growing up in the Midwest, pick Gulley's book. It's funnier than Bryson's.
Philip Gulley must have inherited his storytelling skills from his father, a man who told him he won their house in a poker game. Philip was the fourth of five children, with his only sister the oldest one. He may have been a sickly child, but he took full advantage of his Indiana boyhood, riding bikes with his best friends, Peanut and Bill, taking hilarious family vacations, and getting into numerous scrapes with his friends. I challenge readers to get through the chapter, "My Sporadic Uprisings" without laughing. Miss Huddleston refers to his sixth grade teacher, a woman Philip had a crush on. His grades improved in school that year, until he realized if he passed, he'd have to leave Miss Huddleston. This is a terrific story of remembered boyhood.
"Remembered boyhood" brings up an interesting point, particularly for those of us who listened to or read Laura Lippman's comments about memoirs. Gulley quotes Gordon Livingston as saying in his book, Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart, "Memory is not, as many of us think, an accurate transcription of past experience. Rather it is a story we tell ourselves about the past, full of distortions, wishful thinking, and unfulfilled dreams." Gulley says this book is "the story I have told myself about my adolescence."
Those of us who were lucky enough to grow up when we still played outside, and ran free during the summers with our friends, will appreciate the carefree days shared by Philip Gulley and his friends. We're lucky he shared them with us in I Love You, Miss Huddleston.
Philip Gulley's website is www.philipgulleybooks.com.
I Love You, Miss Huddleston by Philip Gulley. HarperOne, ©2009. ISBN 9780060736590 (hardcover), 208p.
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