Saturday, December 3, 2011

Review: Where's My Wand? by Eric Poole

Where's My Wand? by Eric Poole is the author's memoir about growing up in the 70's as a young boy who knows he feels different from his peers but hasn't yet realized he is gay - the content of the memoir is nicely summed up in the subtitle "One Boy's Magical Triumph Over Alienation and Shag Carpeting". He (and the rest of the family) live in fear of their neurotic mother who requires that carpet be raked after walking on it to remove any evidence of footprints and who Eric refers to as "General Patton in pedal pushers".  The scenes with his mother are laugh out loud funny and they nicely balance the more poignant moments as Eric faces bullying in school, fear about why he is so different from his peers and anxiety about his parents' constant fighting.

As a young boy, Eric is obsessed with the TV show "Bewitched" (I can relate - I named my baby doll Tabitha after the baby on the show) and especially likes the grandmother Endora; he fashions a cape out of an old bedspread and seeks comfort in the cape whenever things are going awry.  He begins to believe the cape imbues him with magic powers after a few experiences where he makes a wish while in the cape which comes true.  The cape is really a security blanket for Eric and he runs to the basement to secretly wrap himself in it whenever things get tough.  And things do get tough . . .

The entire household is on pins and needles around Eric's mother who has an obsessive need for order and cleanliness (see raking of carpet above) and demands that the family comply with her demands.   Here Eric describes his and his sister's trepidation as they awaited their mother's arrival home from work:
Val and I prepared for the theatrics that often accompanied Mother's nightly return.  Our afternoon attempts to render the house unlived in, free of all traces of human habitation, usually failed on a scale that could not be measured by existing devices, as her screams of frustration, -"GOD IN HEAVENNNN!!" - pierced the evening sky. "WHY, GOD, WHY IS THERE WATER IN THIS SINK?"
These tense scenes send Eric to the basement to wrap himself in the bedspread and try to conjure up the lovely family on "Bewitched" who, although they share his family's fascination with shag carpeting, are free of screaming and fighting.

School offers little refuge  - Eric is an outsider and bullied by the other children and even the teacher doesn't provide much protection.  After a particularly bad day, Eric heads to the basement:

Back in the basement, I visualized that moment, contemplating as much of the humiliation as I could bear. Then - with a dramatic wave of my bedspread-laden arms, I disappeared  . . . to return  to the beginning of the school year.

Transported to the beginning of the year, Eric envisions a teacher who is kind and attentive to him and the absence of Tim, his school bully.  The scenes are described with the author's trademark wit but there is something very sad about a young boy who feels so ostracized at school.

Eric was a boy with a lot on his little shoulders but like every child finding their way to young adulthood he triumphs over so many of his burdens.  And despite his parents' constant fighting and "General Patton's" crazy obsession with cleanliness, Eric is clearly loved and supported by his family.  This memoir is thoroughly enjoyable and perfectly mixes witty humor with poignancy that is so much a part of coming of age.  And it has, perhaps, one of the best titles ever - I think my new mantra may be "Where's My Wand"!

I received a copy of this book to review from Anna at FSB Associates


  1. I like that this mixes humor along side the more tough parts of the author's life. They really raked the shag carpeting? Yikes! I will keep an eye our for this book. It sounds like a well balanced memoir!

  2. This sounds fun! I, too, like that it has humor alongside some more difficult topics. Sounds like a great read.

  3. This is just the kind of memoir I adore! Eric sounds like someone I could hang out with.

  4. I was curious about this one, and yours is the first review I've read. Glad to see you enjoyed it.

  5. This is exactly the kind of memoir I like reading. Thanks for letting me know about it. I know I would NEVER rake a carpet!!!

  6. This sounds like a great read. To me what makes or breaks a memoir is often the writing, and judging by those excerpts I think I'd enjoy this one.