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Books

Who's your daddy? Like it or not, it's this guy

WITH his third book, American blogger Drew Magary, an impatient, childish, vulgar, competitive, day-dreaming writer, offers a brief sequence of vignettes about being an impatient, childish, vulgar, competitive, day-dreaming dad. It is all at once hysterical, gripping and deeply moving.

Petulantly nearing 40, Magary began his D.C.-based writing career as a fiercely sardonic "commenter" on Deadspin.com. This self-styled, self-important, self-ordained sports blog flippantly hides behind its motto: "Sports without access or discretion."

Deadspin has been splashing in recent weeks as it helped lead the charge on the Rob Ford crack-video imbroglio. This gives you an idea of how Deadspin interprets "sports."

Magary turned commenting on fame into a satirical book about sports, Men with Balls (2008). He then dabbled impressively here and there (GQ, Rolling Stone, The Huffington Post, Slate -- it's a long list). At last, he landed among the adults with 2011's The Postmortal. In that novel, he imaginatively and cleverly explores the apocalyptic horrors of immortality made possible by a wonder drug. It is frightening and frighteningly funny.

In other words, he was born, he played, and then he grew up and started worrying about dying.

Someone Could Get Hurt is a series of bus-reading-sized tales about Magary and his wife raising their young girl and boys. These anecdotes are now sweet, now horrifying, now hilarious.

But this book is different for the same reason comedian Louis C.K.'s standup and television show are different: Magary marches to a beat of strident, ruthless honesty mixed thoroughly with paralyzing humility.

Honesty that makes you cringe. Honesty that makes you shake your head in familiarity. Honesty that frees you to pat yourself on the back because at least you weren't quite that bad.

There are stories of tantrums, of baths, of amusement parks, of head lice, of bad language intended and unintended. You simply will not believe what Drew's son did with his brand-spanking-new electric toothbrush, for example.

These are all anchored by a wrenching frame story about the Magarys' preemie third child and a jaw-dropping confession at the precise centre of the book.

The latter is, to be too-reverent, a moment of recognition and reversal -- not for the author, but for the reader.

One suddenly realizes this is a flawed husband and a floundering dad using his maturing writing chops not merely to entertain but to bellow out his maddening, aching, wondrous love for his wife and three little ones.

There is no moral; there is no preaching; there is no cure; and there certainly is no redemption. The memoir ends with Magary looking forward, knowing, with wisdom, that he will lose his temper again, he will curse again, he will hate other parents again and his son will probably do that with his toothbrush again. But Big Daddy Drew can't wait.

Dads never wear the tie. They never finish the all-star "book." Yet dads should and will guzzle this book; it is parenthood without discretion.

And they will laugh out loud. And they will have to take a walk afterwards.

University of Winnipeg religion prof Laurence Broadhurst will trick his three children into giving him this book for Father's Day and then coax his wife into reading it.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 15, 2013 A1

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