Week 7 King of the Mild Frontier: An Ill-Advised Autobiography

Title & Author:  King of the mild frontier: An ill-advised autobiography by Chris Crutcher

Summary:  Chronicling 50+ years, this autobiography of Idaho native Chris Crutcher is laugh-outloud funny, poignant, and thought-provoking. From his pranks pulled on “purty” girls to his knack for getting into trouble while doing “something neat,” Crutcher holds back nothing in describing not only how his own anger issues influenced that of his most famous characters, but also how his work in alternative teaching and counseling/therapy helped him to come full circle.

Reference: Crutcher, C. (2003). King of the mild frontier: An ill-advised autobiography. New York, NY: Greenwillow Books.

My Impressions: Chris Crutcher is one of my all-time favorite authors, and was even before I knew that my mom grew up with him and hated him because he was a jerk (just as he states in the book), or that my grandma delivered him at that small hospital in Cascade, Idaho (and was most certainly the nurse who also tended to all of his bawl-baby wounds he got as a young teen).  I’ve heard Crutcher speak twice at library conferences, and I never tire of his ability to turn the funniest teen story (either about himself or a fictional character) into a poignant learning experience for adults.  His autobiography has the same effect.

Professional Review: /* Starred Review */ “In this funny, bittersweet and brutally honest autobiography, Crutcher recounts his journey from a boyhood misspent in remote Cascade, Idaho ("The information highway was a single-lane logging road winding through steep mountains, dead ending at some nameless 'crick' ") to his present life as a writer. The author displays the same impeccable comedic timing that characterizes his young adult novels. Among the many laugh-out-loud episodes he recalls are his older brother's knack for always gaining the upper hand (he talks young Chris into peeing down the heat-register in the living room and convinces him that Jesus had an "older, smarter brother" named "Esus"), plus the author's penchant for "perty girls," which lost him his front teeth when he tried to impress a girl while playing softball. Nothing tops his misadventures in small-town sports ("If you didn't show up for football practice on the first day of your freshman year, they simply came and got you"), including his days as a terrified 123-pound freshman ("with all the muscle definition of a chalk outline") and his initiation as a letterman (involving oysters, an olive and a large dose of humiliation). It is precisely this sense of humility that allows readers to laugh with young Chris, rather than at him. Crutcher can also turn from hilarity to heartache, as when he discusses his mother's alcoholism or his own legendary temper (which plagued hm in his childhood but which he attributes to the compassion he brings to his work as a family therapist). Readers will clasp this hard-to-put-down book to their hearts even as they laugh sympathetically. Ages 13-up.”

Reference: King of the mild frontier: An ill-advised autobiography. (2003, Mar. 3). [Review of the book JKing of the mild frontier: An ill-advised autobiography by Chris Crutcher]. Publisher’s Weekly, 250 (9), 77. Retrieved from http://publishersweekly.com

Library Uses: This book would be a good addition to a young writer’s group in writing autobiographical pieces or memoirs.    

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