Remembrances and revelations from childhood in the rural American heartland told with wit and charm
In 1970 Esquire named the rural West Tennessee college town of Martin as one of the nine happy towns left in the United States. Bob Cowser, Jr., offers a dissenting opinion on this assessment of the bucolic environs of his youth in his collection of forthright reflections on boyhood in Martin and episodes in the other locations that have thus far constituted "home." Ranging in tone from confessional and contemplative to candid and comic, the pieces in Scorekeeping: Essays from Home form an exceptional mosaic of small-town life as witnessed by an introduced specimen—the son of English professors among insular townies—with an unflinching eye and creative wit.
As Cowser leads us through his formative experiences in Martin and later New Orleans and Lincoln, Nebraska, he offers a balanced and inviting combination of episodes—of the regret inherent in his father's longrunning quest for a good BBQ sandwich and of too loosely interpreting Redbook's advice on attending high school reunions, of the abduction and murder of a classmate and of the revelation of a favorite uncle's AIDS-related death. Siblings, parents, schoolmates, and mentors form a richly realized constellation of figures around Cowser as he recalls the loves, losses, developments, and divergences that constitute coming of age in the rural American heartland of the late twentieth century.
The geographic location of home shifts, but Cowser's ties to family, community, and upbringing remain constants in the face of growth and change. The resulting essays map the rough-hewn formation of an adult identity and the development of the accepting hindsight required to reflect and keep score.
Bob Cowser, Jr., is the author of Dream Season: A Professor Joins America's Oldest Semi-Pro Football Team—selected as a New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice. His essays and reviews have appeared in American Literary Review, Prairie Schooner, Missouri Review, Brevity, and elsewhere. Cowser holds a Ph.D. in creative writing from the University of Nebraska and is an associate professor of English at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York.
"Bob Cowser, with muscle and grace, takes a hard look at his ties to family and place in his magnificent new book. Whether writing about his small Tennessee town or the other landscapes he calls 'home' throughout the years…he bravely tallies the things in the world that matter, that can save us, in fact, even if we don't know how close we are to ruin until far, far down the road.."—Lee Martin, author of The Bright Forever
"Trust me—you will love this immediately engaging book. Bob Cowser has such a large gift for precise remembering. His gracious balance of detail with narrative drive creates a deeply generous world."—Naomi Shihab Nye, author of Never in a Hurry
"Scorekeeping describes growing up in Martin, Tennessee, in the 1970s and 1980s, both in the mind and in a real neighborhood where boys play and don't play baseball, where whistles from the Illinois Central slip blue through the night, where children stumble through adolescence, some bruised, others hardy, maybe too hardy. Through this book, though, words flow so sweet and glittering that readers will pause and, traveling back to pasts shadowy beneath the shade of years, will remember and marvel at their own growings. What a pleasure it is to keep score with Bob Cowser!"—Sam Pickering, author of The Best of Pickering
"Bob Cowser's voice in this gathering of essays is warm, sincere, humorous, at times nostalgic, and above all, good-hearted. And if that isn't enough, any reader who has grown up in a small city or town in the center of the country will surely recognize his or her own growing up place in Cowser's depiction of Martin, Tennessee. Scorekeeping is a journey home."—Lisa Knopp, author of The Nature of Home
"Whether in baseball or in life, scorekeeping means more than just marking down the plays. It involves knowing the score and, from time to time, settling scores. Bob Cowser does all of this in his fine memoir—a happy revelation that a graduate of the high school class of 1988 can write with the sensitivity of a Kurt Vonnegut, a Wille Morris, a William Kittredge, and the other authors he admires."—Jerome Klinkowitz, author of Owning a Piece of the Minors