Book review: The Roy Stories by Barry Gifford

For 40 years, Gifford has been writing playful sketches which chronicle life spent while growing up across the United States.

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<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5


By Barry Gifford. Seven Stories Press, $17.

For the past 40 years, Barry Gifford has been writing about a boy named Roy—an inquisitive, mischievous Gifford doppelgänger—in a series of autobiographical tales that consider what it’s like to grow up in locations around the U.S. Comprised of three previously published collections, plus new stories and vignettes, this wandering omnibus serves as Roy’s coming-of-age saga; the son of an aging gangster is the perennial new kid on the block.

The new tales in The Roy Stories are full of grit and goofiness. A few pages after the account of Roy chopping the head off a poached alligator comes the story about two of the boy’s friends meeting Elvis Presley by stealing and subsequently returning his birdbath. With precision and playfulness, the Wild at Heart author combines small moments and seemingly innocuous conversation to define Roy and his changing take on his country. Complete with road trips, baseball lore and local yarns, The Roy Stories is as American as apple pie and the punks that nabbed it from your windowsill.

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