Novel Good, Memoir Good

Doree Shafrir’s ‘Startup’ and Patricia Lockwood’s ‘Priestdaddy’ are both books you should read.

Ready for something else to read? Here are TWO THINGS! I guess I need to tell you up top that I have huge conflicts on interest with both of them, so I am not going to be as effusive or descriptive as I would be normally, because how could you ever believe me — I have known one of these authors for more than a decade and consider her a good friend and read her book in draft and once got really drunk at a party of hers and left early without putting in for the bill which I think she is still a little irritated about, and the other one is responsible for a remarkably viral poem that was first published on one of my websites — but these are both books I enjoyed very much and think you might too, so I will just put them here and tell you why I liked them and why you might too. Your choices are a novel or a memoir, or, ideally, both.

Do you want to read a novel? Doree Shafrir’s Startup is a novel! Here’s the plot:

Mack McAllister has a $600 million dollar idea. His mindfulness app, TakeOff, is already the hottest thing in tech and he’s about to launch a new and improved version that promises to bring investors running and may turn his brainchild into a $1 billion dollar business — in startup parlance, an elusive unicorn.

Katya Pasternack is hungry for a scoop that will drive traffic. An ambitious young journalist at a gossipy tech blog, Katya knows that she needs more than another PR friendly puff piece to make her the go-to byline for industry news.

Sabrina Choe Blum just wants to stay afloat. The exhausted mother of two and failed creative writer is trying to escape from her credit card debt and an inattentive husband-who also happens to be Katya’s boss-as she rejoins a work force that has gotten younger, hipper, and much more computer literate since she’s been away.

Before the ink on Mack’s latest round of funding is dry, an errant text message hints that he may be working a bit too closely for comfort with a young social media manager in his office. When Mack’s bad behavior collides with Katya’s search for a salacious post, Sabrina gets caught in the middle as TakeOff goes viral for all the wrong reasons. As the fallout from Mack’s scandal engulfs the lower Manhattan office building where all three work, it’s up to Katya and Sabrina to write the story the men in their lives would prefer remain untold.


What can I tell you? I am not much of a novel fan, but Startup is compulsively readable. You will probably finish it in a day, because you will never find a reason to put it down. It is remarkably propulsive. There is fun to be had in trying to match characters to real life equivalents but this is fiction, so you are mostly reading for the story, and the story is how crazy this idiot world is now. The utter absurdity is pretty perfectly captured, in that everything that seems comical at first is, on reflection, perfectly plausible and may very well have been outpaced by reality by the time you read the book. Read the book!

How about a memoir? Patricia Lockwood’s Priestdaddy is a memoir! This is what it’s about:

Father Greg Lockwood is unlike any Catholic priest you have ever met — a man who lounges in boxer shorts, loves action movies, and whose constant jamming on the guitar reverberates “like a whole band dying in a plane crash in 1972.” His daughter is an irreverent poet who long ago left the Church’s country. When an unexpected crisis leads her and her husband to move back into her parents’ rectory, their two worlds collide.

In Priestdaddy, Lockwood interweaves emblematic moments from her childhood and adolescence — from an ill-fated family hunting trip and an abortion clinic sit-in where her father was arrested to her involvement in a cultlike Catholic youth group — with scenes that chronicle the eight-month adventure she and her husband had in her parents’ household after a decade of living on their own. Lockwood details her education of a seminarian who is also living at the rectory, tries to explain Catholicism to her husband, who is mystified by its bloodthirstiness and arcane laws, and encounters a mysterious substance on a hotel bed with her mother.

Lockwood pivots from the raunchy to the sublime, from the comic to the deeply serious, exploring issues of belief, belonging, and personhood. Priestdaddy is an entertaining, unforgettable portrait of a deeply odd religious upbringing, and how one balances a hard-won identity with the weight of family and tradition.

Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood |

What can I tell you? Patricia Lockwood is one of the great original voices of this new century and she is in total control of it here. I am wary of memoirs in general and “my wacky family” in particular, but every time this book feels like it is in danger of becoming a little too, uh, Sedarious, she pulls back and goes in a completely different direction. (She is also the first writer I have read in a long time who is able to talk about the urge to create without making me want to throw up or [MAKES “JERKING OFF” MOTION SO VIOLENTLY THAT MY ARM EJECTS FROM MY BODY AND INJURES THREE PEOPLE STANDING NEARBY].) Read the book!

Don’t take my word for it, read them both! I mean, take my word for it, but with a couple of grains of salt, because, you know, conflicts. But they’re good books! And I think I would say that even if I weren’t conflicted. I guess just buy them and we can talk about it later. Thanks.