Review: Randall Lobb tells it like it was, maybe
Jennifer Cox is a communications graduate from the University of Windsor who is now a computer trainer for the Avon Maitland District School Board. She lives in Clinton with her husband and two children. She writes when she can find the time.
“Some people are born storytellers. Some lives are worth telling. The best memoirs happen when these two conditions converge…” (New York Newsday, on The Glass Castle)
I have a confession to make, or maybe it’s a claim to fame. I kind of know the author in question. You see, I married into the Lobb family when I married into the Cox family. The Lobb/Cox parents are friends and so the kids (my husband included) have been friends since they can remember. I’ve heard Randall Lobb’s stories when he was MC at weddings and during gatherings when he just talks about strange things. And this is how I know that he tells a great story. It may not make sense right away but eventually I get it. Anyway, I can now say that he also writes a great story. And in my opinion the first several years of his life told in his new book are worth telling about in the way that he tells it. Photogenic Memory, a memoir, takes us back to Lobb’s innocent and charming preschool days right through to rough and tumble, puberty-ridden Grade 5. It is a mystery to me how he remembers all of the events in such detail from such a young age, and even his Mom, as quoted on the back of the book, wonders if it all really happened. Still, it makes for a great read.
While reading about Lobb’s childhood, I was sent back to a time where kids took off outside in the morning and only returned for lunch and supper; a time when kids had much more freedom, but knew what was expected of them; and fights out in the school yard were just how things got settled. It was also a slightly more cruel time for kids I would imagine…helicopter parents did not exist yet so things like getting beat up on the way home from or even to school tended to happen more often. It was a time when you could safely get a drink of water out of the town fountain, and it tasted amazing.
The book takes the reader from the time of being safe at home with Mom eating cereal in cardboard boxes, through starting school, and then to that in-between a kid and a teenager time. I enjoyed the writer’s perspective of looking back at his life but using some kid language. It reminded me of Daniel Stern’s narration on The Wonder Years. For example, he describes his first day of Kindergarten and talks about the blocks, and, “They really did have a million!” Or when he talks about an addition to his family: “My Mom and Dad made a mistake and my Mom was going to have another baby.” We hear about everything from the obviously significant impact of his Mom and of the teachers on his life, a hilarious ruler incident, touching childhood crushes and mean old bullies, to the Elm Haven, the truth about Santa, and neighbourhood kids getting stolen at Halloween.
Early in the book, Lobb recounts the moment in his very young life where he realized that he was himself. You might be thinking, huh? But think about way back, to when you were struck by the fact that you were your own person and had thoughts and opinions. I know, I don’t remember that moment either. That’s what makes this story so unique – who remembers that stuff? Lobb does and he does like it was yesterday. You may be skeptical but I think it will make sense if you can just suspend the disbelief and go with it.
I might be crazy but I think there is a great message in this…I think we all need to remember that even very young children have opinions and beliefs and they should be given a chance to voice them at times.
Lobb had a lot to say as a child but it appears he mostly had to keep these thoughts to himself, as frustrating as that was for him. Never getting a chance to convince anyone of his genius or his beliefs to the world. I think that most kids at some point in their early years believe that they are the smartest kid ever and have the best ideas ever. Then as they get a little older and enter the world of school and authority figures it becomes apparent that they might not be as smart as they thought, or they are not given a chance…someone is always there to tell them what they did wrong…and there is always someone smarter. It’s a little sad really. I think we all need to hold on to that youthful confidence a little more!
As Spring finally reveals itself, take some time off gardening to read the light hearted and humorous Photogenic Memory and you won’t be disappointed and you might recall what it was like to be a kid in the big bad world. I look forward to the sequel!