Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood

I like to think I sprang from a head; I like to think the head was mine.
— Patricia Lockwood, Priestdaddy

I knew nothing about this book beyond its title, and this is what drew me to it. Priestdaddy. It is easy to imagine this reading as one of those horror stories of growing up in a home with an oppressive, holier-than-thou man of the cloth. Instead, this book takes you deep into the literary mind of a girl who grew up with a priest for a father, who ran from it early in her 20s, and, for financial reasons, returned to this world as it was a decade later with her husband when he nearly lost his sight. It is the typical story of a child forced to return home to her parents - that is, if your mother is a dutiful wife to a priest, who was never meant to have a wife in the first place but somehow convinced the Catholic church that it could be so.

And this is not a priest as you would think him to be. When he is not wearing his cloth and collar, he is wearing little (boxers) to nothing at all. He is playing riffs on his guitar. He is cleaning his many guns. He is leaving dirty boxers throughout the home as if making a scavenger hunt leading to eternal salvation for his five grown children and his wife.

And the wife is not what you would think her to be. She is quick-libbed. She has encyclopedic knowledge of freak accidents and deaths. She is an obsessive compulsive DIVA (OCD) with a grasp of language that draws the author, Patricia Lockwood, and her husband to the breakfast table with a pad and pencil each day to take notes.

He [the seminarian] is devoted to three things and three things only: God, Buicks, and Italy. He believes the ideal woman lives somewhere on the Boot, rolling down hillsides in a red-checkered skirt with a bottle of wine in each fist, her boobs like perfectly twirled forkfuls of pasta.
— Patricia Lockwood, Priestdaddy

And the author is not what you would immediately expect. She is a spritely shut-in whose playtime includes flirting lewdly with seminarians. She is a short-haired, cute girl whose pornographic tweets provided for her husband's $10,000 eye surgery when donations were sought. She is a writer because she was never a singer. And, surely enough, she is one of the most unique writers of her time.

‘I just found out what a furry was. My friend told me and I was very surprised.’
A wave of pleasure washes over me as I imagine this encounter: two young men, tall with theological purpose, discussing people who dress up as stuffed animals and scritch each other’s bellies at conventions. ‘Why on earth do you need to know about furries?’
’Because people will confess to me about them. Someone will confess to me ‘I am a furry’, and I need to know what that is.’
It almost makes me want to turn Catholic again, just so I could go to confession sometime and lay a big, eloquent paw up against the screen right as he asked me what my sins were.
— Patricia Lockwood, Priestdaddy

This book captures a year of her life, documented as if it were fieldwork - an ethnography of her home. And in choosing such a subject, we come to know Priestdaddy and the family he fathered, at home and at church. We also come to know the voices of those in the household with many rooms. Most of all, the voice of his second oldest daughter, who could write about anything and it would enchant.

I sometimes wish my childhood had been less obsessed with the question of why we are here. But that must be the question of any childhood. To write about your mother and father is to tell the story of your own close call, to count all the ways you never should have existed. To write about home is to write about how you dropped from space, dragging ellipses behind you like a comet, and how you entered your country and state and city, and finally your four-cornered house, and finally your mother’s body and finally your own. From the galaxy to the grain and back again. From the fingerprint to the grand design. Despite all the conspiracies of the universe, we are here; every moment we are here we arrive.
— Patricia Lockwood, Priestdaddy