Joe Queenan has had enough of the way America romanticizes the working class, said Heather Salernis in the Westchester, N.Y., Journal News. Queenan’s childhood memoir, Closing Time, might appear to be the story of how an Irish Catholic kid from the Philadelphia housing projects willed his way to a career as a grenade-throwing satirist and critic. “What I do for a living is to ridicule other people,” says the 58-year-old author of nine previous books. But though young Joe is arguably the new volume’s central character, Closing Time is really Queenan’s attempt to present his alcoholic and abusive father as a case study in the working poor’s grim reality. Working-class dads, he says, aren’t all the “salt-of-the-earth guys” that they are on TV.
A typical memoir about a hard-drinking father who beats his children and can’t hold a job would end with a reconciliation, said Bob Minzesheimer in USA Today. Queenan’s isn’t typical. “There was never going to be a reconciliation,” he says. “I’m not in the forgiveness business.” Queenan’s father, who died in 1997 at age 72, had ample opportunity to quit his drinking, treat his children better, and learn to revel in their successes. Instead, “nothing sickened him more,” says his son, “than the thought that his children might get the life that he wanted.” For the kids, education made the difference. “If you’re born poor,” Queenan says, “you’d better start reading.”