Priestdaddy: A Memoir by Patricia Lockwood

Priestdaddy: A Memoir

From Patricia Lockwood—a memoir about having a married Catholic priest for a father.Father Greg Lockwood is unlike any Catholic priest you have ever met—a man who lounges in boxer shorts, loves action movies, and whose constant jamming on the guitar reverberates "like a whole band dying in a plane crash in 1972." His daughter is an irreverent poet who long ago left the Chu...

Title:Priestdaddy: A Memoir
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:1594633738
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Hardcover
Number of Pages:336 pages

Priestdaddy: A Memoir Reviews

  • Maryann
    Sep 25, 2016

    One reads Lockwood's memoir and can't help but think, "oh man, the Catholics are going to have a field day with this." I mean that is the most literal sense - they will race through it, they will kick it about, they will pick teams, some will over analyze, some will out right reject it, some will feel they have triumphed and some will be bitter with defeat. And they will all go home weary, not knowing precisely why anyone does field days anymore. Except that perhaps they will look back on

    One reads Lockwood's memoir and can't help but think, "oh man, the Catholics are going to have a field day with this." I mean that is the most literal sense - they will race through it, they will kick it about, they will pick teams, some will over analyze, some will out right reject it, some will feel they have triumphed and some will be bitter with defeat. And they will all go home weary, not knowing precisely why anyone does field days anymore. Except that perhaps they will look back on

    and realize how much fun they had, and how much humor Lockwood brought to some big questions surrounding faith, religion, beliefs, family, and belonging.

    Perhaps some readers will realize just how healthy this type of literary exercise is. Maybe they were never traumatized enough to truly question their faith. How unfortunately lucky for them. For as oppressive patriarchy and sexual abuse and power hold a tight grip in the Catholic Church, these issues must not have ever been as personal to these readers as they are in the way Lockwood writes. In the aftermath of her rape, regarding her pro-life entirely non-sympathetic gynecologist Lockwood writes, "It must have been then I began to suspect that something is not right with the way these people have arranged their world, no matter what their intentions." When remembering a priest who would later be jailed for sexual abuse, and the seminarian who could have been another one of his victims, Lockwood struggles against the hypocrisy of those in her life that feel sympathy for the aggressor. Lockwood holds a mirror up to those who might think of themselves as religious and forces upon them an examination of conscience.

    Some (most?) readers may not be Catholic or particularly religious in any way. They may have stumbled on this book not knowing anything about the author, but one hopes that Lockwood's spirit of questioning and challenging (and what some might call blasphemy) and truth seeking within her own lived experience will call to them as well. Maybe they will not be able relate to growing up with a Catholic priest as a father, but Lockwood’s exploration of family should resonate. If nothing else, her unique comedic sense will compel them to read every last word she puts down, and they will laugh at the humanity she has managed to capture.

    And maybe, just maybe, for a few, this will be enough to rearrange their world. Because as with any treatise that burrows deep into the questions of identity, Lockwood questions her own upbringing and mental state in such a way that can usher introspection for the reader. The laugh out loud humor of the book in less capable hands would distract the reader from thinking of the Lockwood family as real-life, breathing human beings, but her known sly subtlety with language maintains a real connection through the page. Lockwood reveals how adult children are allowed this beautiful understanding of just how flawed our parents are as human beings, and yet, how happy these parents are to see us return home. Her priest father Greg remains elusive and unknowable through the gaze of his adult daughter even after over 300 pages devoted to trying to better understand him. Her mother Karen jumps off the pages as the ever-present, active capable matriarchal presence that keeps the ship afloat even if she herself may be a bit loopy. Karen's love is palpable and kinetic. Reading Lockwood's descriptions of her mother made me wish more (all) priests had wives. She is just so quoatable! In her discussion of her siblings, Lockwood's temerity mirrors that of David Sedaris whenever he writes about his siblings. She is honest in both her love for them and her struggles to understand how they all manage to coexist in the same family unit. Like many of us with siblings, she looks around the dinner (or in her case the bishop’s) table of her family and wonders aloud (via her writing) how is it that their shared upbringing yielded such varying results. One cannot help but think that if these siblings were allowed to write the interchapters of Lockwood’s memoir akin to Mary McCarthy’s

    we would come to the understanding that she invented little of her narrative, and in fact, their lives were perhaps even stranger than she depicted.

    In Lockwood's husband (who she met on the Internet before Internet dating was a thing), the reader feels a connection to this outsider who like Alice has just wandered into the strangest of tea parties and is doing his best to figure out the rules. Her glimpses at his unwavering support of her work as a writer and his devotion to their marriage mirrors the mutual dependence and tenderness of other literary couples such as Leonard and Virginia Woolf. One sometimes gets the feeling that it is really only by looking at her family through the lens of her husband that Lockwood truly gains any clarity. Before their return to the rectory, perhaps she knew something was off, but having a sympathizer at her side to share in the joke made it all more terrible and somehow beautiful and rich.

    In the essay “Voice” the real and personal struggle Lockwood went through to find her voice as a poet and writer is mirrored in her doubts surrounding her actual singing voice. The depression and suicide attempt that she writes about are as if she is revealing one photograph of herself after another, each one with a slightly more nuanced and painful view. Fading in and out of the narrative, Lockwood tries to understand herself against what she sees as one of her chief flaws. Her imperfect voice is all the more unbearable because of her deep desire to lose herself within the power of a Christmas hymn. Had she perceived herself to be a better singer, perhaps she never would have become the writer that she is. Had she not been raised in rectories, perhaps she never would have experienced the exaltation of a midnight carol. Her struggle is of someone who can no longer believe like she was taught, but still feels elements of spirituality deeply despite her lack of belief. As the Catholics might say, many passages in this memoir reveal Lockwood’s dedication to the mysteries of faith.

    Near the end of the memoir when discussing her time in the “Gang of God,” Lockwood places her own narrative within the larger national discussions of race, privilege, environmental degradation, expansionism, and public health. It is at this point one realizes Lockwood has not simply written a personal memoir. She has attempted to capture and examine "the tightest, most self-involved knot" that is our national identity. Amid the guitar riffs and the ceremonial chalices and deer hunting, there are late night visits of comfort and trips to Key West and unexplainable near blindness. And somehow, there is absurdity and love and laughter.

    I only wish there had been more submarines.

    Patricia Lockwood - Christina Ricci

    Jason - Billy Zane

    Greg Lockwood - Vincent D'Onofrio

    Karen Lockwood - Helena Bonham Carter

  • Emily
    Dec 20, 2016

    Patricia Lockwood is some kind of word-witch, and I cannot emphasize enough how lucky we all are to live in this era with her.

  • Richard Noggle
    Mar 22, 2017

    Lockwood's examination of her family is exceptionally funny (no surprise) but its final third works toward a really nuanced and powerful look at the power of writing and the effects of her religious upbringing (and the way these two things are surprisingly intertwined). A good book, Lockwood writes at one point, leaves you with the "conviction" that "life can be holdable in the hand, examined down to the dog hairs, eaten with the eyes and understood." This is a good book.

  • Patricia
    Jan 15, 2017

    *kool-aid man voice* OHHHH YEAHHHHHH

  • Kathleen
    Mar 01, 2017

    My review from the Chicago Tribune:

    Last summer, the Pew Research Center released a study showing that for the first time, more 18- to 34-year-olds live at home with their parents than in any other arrangement.

    So Patricia Lockwood's decision to move with her husband, in the face of medical and financial hardship, back in with her parents in Kansas City "after twelve long years away" is hardly exceptional unto itself. No, what makes it exceptional is that t

    My review from the Chicago Tribune:

    Last summer, the Pew Research Center released a study showing that for the first time, more 18- to 34-year-olds live at home with their parents than in any other arrangement.

    So Patricia Lockwood's decision to move with her husband, in the face of medical and financial hardship, back in with her parents in Kansas City "after twelve long years away" is hardly exceptional unto itself. No, what makes it exceptional is that they are throwing themselves "on the mercy of the church," which Lockwood explains in her delightful and debauched prose debut, the memoir "Priestdaddy," "exists for me on this earth in unusually patriarchal form." This is because her father, Greg Lockwood, is one of a small and little-known number of married Catholic priests.

    As Lockwood explains, if a married minister of another faith "converts to Catholicism, he can apply to Rome for a dispensation," which, if granted, means, "He is allowed, yes, to keep his wife. He is even allowed to keep his children, no matter how bad they might be." Because her dad became a Catholic after having been a Lutheran minister, his paperwork was approved by Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI), permitting him the right to work as a priest free of the requirement of clerical celibacy.

    Author of the acclaimed poetry collection "Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals," Lockwood has been hailed by The New Yorker as "the poet laureate of Twitter," where she has more than 64,000 followers. The New York Times has dubbed her the "smutty-metaphor queen," and she is deservingly renowned for her boundary-pushing wit and smutty apercus.

    Here, using the same offbeat intelligence, comic timing, gimlet skill for observation and verbal dexterity that she uses in both her poetry and her tweets, she delivers an unsparing yet ultimately affectionate portrait of faith and family. And her metaphors really are deserving of royalty status, as when she tries to capture her beloved sister, Mary, saying, "I have, on different occasions … described her as 'a tricked-out club Chewbacca,' a 'highly literate female Tarzan,' and 'a jaguar who went through a human puberty.' "

    Describing the Lutherans of her father's first flock with characteristic irreverent incisiveness, she writes, "If Jesus himself appeared in their midst and said, 'Eat my body,' they would first slather mayonnaise all over him." The frequency of her jokes and the grotesqueness of her hilarity lead to a high density of pleasure; virtually every page is packed with the potential to make the reader laugh out loud.

    Yet even as "Priestdaddy" is a book of leisure, capable of entertaining the heck out of you and letting you escape from your own life, so too is it a book that has something to teach you — with real pathos.

    Some comedians get nervous if too many minutes go by without a laugh, cracking jokes neurotically whether the gags are necessary or not. Lockwood's jokes, though, seem neither defensive nor compulsive. Rather, they deliver something essential to the voice, character and content of her story. Moreover, she can get deadly serious when the subject merits gravity, as when she writes about the child sex abuse scandals that began to rock the Catholic church in the early 2000s.

    After a raucous recounting of a celebratory dinner that she and her family attended that was presided over by Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn, who would later be forced to resign by Pope Francis for his role in shielding pedophile priests, she writes: "All my life I have overheard, all my life I have listened to what people will let slip when they think you are part of their we. A we is so powerful. It is the most corrupt and formidable institution on earth. … The we closes its ranks to protect the space inside it, where the air is different. It does not protect people. It protects its own shape."

    Impressive in its amplitude — ranging from Lockwood's own coming of age as a poet and feminist to her exchanging sexual information with the seminarian also living in her family's rectory, from her husband's eye surgery to her father's getting arrested at an abortion clinic sit-in — "Priestdaddy" gives both believers and nonbelievers a great deal to contemplate. "The air of a subculture is a different air," she notes. "It is harder to breathe, but it gives purpose to every part of you, to every cell."

    Frequently at odds though she is with the strict and restrictive worldview in which she was raised, Lockwood nevertheless concludes that "faith and my father taught me the same lesson: to live in the mystery, even to love it." In this memoir, she practically dares the reader not to do the same.

  • Susan Fair
    Apr 04, 2017

    Want to laugh out loud? And find out that there are families weirder than yours and that priests are even stranger than you thought? Not intimidated by the idea of becoming interested in or re-gaining an interest in poetry? This is the memoir for you! But really, you can just read it because it's really, really good, with sparkly, charming writing.

  • Sara Klem
    May 22, 2017

    "My dad despises cats. He believes them to be Democrats. He considers them to be little mean hillary clintons covered all over with feminist legfur. Cats would have abortions, if given half a chance. Cats would have abortions for fun."

    This book was fucking ridiculous, in the best way. I've never read anything like it. It would have been a wild ride of a (true!) story had it not been told by Patricia Lockwood -- I mean, it's about having a priest for a dad who plays sick guitar riffs, and growing

    "My dad despises cats. He believes them to be Democrats. He considers them to be little mean hillary clintons covered all over with feminist legfur. Cats would have abortions, if given half a chance. Cats would have abortions for fun."

    This book was fucking ridiculous, in the best way. I've never read anything like it. It would have been a wild ride of a (true!) story had it not been told by Patricia Lockwood -- I mean, it's about having a priest for a dad who plays sick guitar riffs, and growing up in a rectory -- but because she is a poet, the prose is extra fun to read and had me laughing out loud constantly.

  • Book of the Month
    May 01, 2017

    Papa Don't Preach

    By Judge Nina Sankovitch

    Patricia Lockwood is the daughter of a Catholic priest—and that is actually the blandest fact about her. She is one in a million, a fresh and honest and hilarious observer of life. And Father Lockwood is one in a million as well—a priest who takes the Lord seriously, even though he’s most comfortable when half nude and jamming on his electric guitar in the living room.

    In her memoir Priestdaddy, Lockwood explains not only how her father entered the priesth

    Papa Don't Preach

    By Judge Nina Sankovitch

    Patricia Lockwood is the daughter of a Catholic priest—and that is actually the blandest fact about her. She is one in a million, a fresh and honest and hilarious observer of life. And Father Lockwood is one in a million as well—a priest who takes the Lord seriously, even though he’s most comfortable when half nude and jamming on his electric guitar in the living room.

    In her memoir Priestdaddy, Lockwood explains not only how her father entered the priesthood despite the existence of her and her four siblings but so much more, including how to fall in love and marry over the internet, how to behave at an anti-abortion rally when you are four years old, which cream liqueurs are the most alcoholic, what to do when your father trades your college education for a guitar previously owned by a Beatle, and how to road trip with a mother who fears sexually-tainted motel comforters.

    The big answer to all of these questions, at least as far as Lockwood goes, is to apply an acerbic and brilliant sense of humor plus a strong sense of compassion and a total lack of sanctimony, to whatever—and I mean, whatever—life serves up.

    The book begins with Lockwood and her husband moving back into her family home in Kansas City, a move forced upon them by illness and poverty. The couple have endured some terrible months and yet I was laughing by page two, and I continued laughing for the next three hundred pages. Sometimes my laughter was mixed with tears, either from laughing too hard (“My father despises cats. He believes them to be Democrats. He considers them to be little mean hillary clintons covered all over with feminist legfur”) or due to the inescapable pathos of the moment, frankly related: “If the church teaches anything, it’s that sometimes we have to answer for what other people have done. Let me do it by standing up and walking out of the countinghouse, and saving my number for the smaller side.”

    Lockwood uses the nine months she and her husband remain uncomfortably living with her parents as the springboard for examining her extraordinary upbringing by two very eccentric individuals, and the impact such a childhood has had on her adult life. She explores her contentious relationship with religion, her self-questioning over faith and duty and family, and her eventual parting with the church. And yet it became clear to me that while Lockwood ultimately rejects the practices of modern-day Catholicism, she appears to have taken away the very best of its tenets: she approaches life open to every feeling and nuance, every vision and insight, and she expresses herself freely and beautifully. Her poetry has been heralded for its ingenuity, honesty, humor, and grit, and the same qualities come through in this, her first, and hopefully not her last, book of prose.

    Read more at

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