All the Wild Children, by Josh Stallings

I was mostly being polite. No, that’s too bitchy-sounding. I’m not bitchy. I was being friendly. I was being reciprocal.

Polite has never paid so good.

I met Josh Stallings a few weeks ago and for me to say that he struck me as a singularly lovely person feels like damning him with All_the-wild-childrenfaint praise. I spoke with him for maybe fifteen minutes over the conference weekend, but he left an impression on me, both of his own and of a kindness towards other writers. He’s cool. His personality edges out past his aura, maybe protecting that aura a little bit; a Russian nesting doll of warmth, enthusiasm, probably some hurt, and definitely some wisdom.

He said he liked my book. So I bought his most recent book.

I just finished it.

All the Wild Children might be the best memoir I’ve ever read.

I hope this recommendation gets somebody to go straightway to get the book, but let’s get something out of the way, so that it doesn’t come back on me later: In places, it’s bawdy. In lots of places, really. Josh Stallings has very little trouble typing the sentences just the way they come to him. There’s cussing. There’s sex. There’s drug use. There’s violence. But you won’t catch me calling any of it profane, because it’s beautiful and it’s also beautifully honest. I loved this book.

Where you can identify with Stallings – all that he has done and all that he’s seen (so far) and all that he’s felt about those things – you will be either delighted or devastated. Where you can’t identify, where his adventure and heartbreak has taken him but not you, Josh Stallings’ way with words and candor will make you think that you almost can. It’s not a wallow. It’s everything but.

What I value very most in reading is a scratch to my greedy itch. I want more life. Josh Stallings really gets that, and he makes a gift of his own experience. I’m a little bit wrecked this morning over it, but so, so grateful.

I am utterly lucky to have crossed his path with a little money in my pocket and room for one more book in my suitcase. This book is brilliant and I can’t recommend it enough.
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