BOOK REVIEW: 'Where's My Wand?': An Odd Boy's Out Account of Surviving the Shag Carpeted '70s

Reviewed by David M. Kinchen
BOOK REVIEW: 'Where's My Wand?': An Odd Boy's Out Account of Surviving the Shag Carpeted  '70s
Eight-year-old Eric Poole, recently relocated from Iowa to the suburbs of St. Louis, Missouri, lacks the magical powers of Endora, from the TV show  Bewitched,  but he has a tattered chenille bedspread that mimics her caftans. His adventures through high school in the 1970s are chronicled in "Where's My Wand? One Boy's  Magical Triumph Over Alienation and Shag Carpeting" (Berkeley Books Trade Paperback, 304 pages, $15.00).

If you like David Sedaris, David Rakoff and Augusten Burroughs and their memoirs, you'll connect with Eric Poole's mostly hilarious and often sad, and always touching escapades -- as in the case of a Ford Pinto slamming into a bus Poole was riding with his father, Ray up to their former home in Cedar Rapids,  Iowa to collect their car. The Pinto's occupants didn't survive the collision with the bus.  Poole's dad, employed at a big aerospace company in St. Louis, is often overshadowed in "Where's My Wand?" by his obsessive-compulsive "Queen of Clean" mother, Elaine, but both parents are trying their best to raise Eric and his four-years-older sister Valerie.
BOOK REVIEW: 'Where's My Wand?': An Odd Boy's Out Account of Surviving the Shag Carpeted  '70s


Val and Eric are buddies until puberty spirits his beloved sister away from him and into the clutches of her "prostitot" girlfriend Vicki (I'm using a term I saw in the newly published "The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth" by Alexandra Robbins)   and boys and Eric is left to face a world that wants him beaten to a pulp. He's called "CessPoole" -- along with homophobic slurs -- and he's pitched headlong into the bullying world of school kids that Robbins portrays so well in her book. It doesn't help that Eric has no hearing in one ear, resulting in the inevitable nickname "One-Ear." Kids really lack originality with their slurs.


Eric's refuge is a basement rec room that his parent grandly call a "rathskeller" and his magical wand substitute is his tattered bedspread, described so well in the opening chapter, "The Captain of Chenille":  the chapters  have similarly clever names and are loosely and chronologically linked. This is an era of typewriters and dial phones, no computers, cell phones or social networks, so people are nasty to each other in the good old-fashion face to face way.

Eric Poole
Eric Poole

Eric's coming-of-age chronicle will appeal to all, male or female, gay or straight.  It's written with joie de vivre and most of the episodes will resonate with readers of a certain age -- and even with older ones like me. I was especially taken with Eric's approach with air-gun owner Albert Anderson, who loves to target squirrels and rabbits. Their relationship plays out in Chapter 10, "What A Friend We Have in Jesus."


In Chapter 3, "A Call to Arms," Eric acquires a new buddy, a lanky, beautiful blonde, Stacy, who has a disability far beyond Eric's hearing loss: She was born without arms. Despite this daunting disability, his classmate comes to the aid of Eric with her take-no-prisoners language, a truly fierce attitude and kick-boxing skills that are amped up when she's fitted with an erector-set like artificial arm that comes in handy when the two encounter a bully at a creek.


Here's an exchange between Eric and Stacy about name-calling and bullying that I particularly liked: 


"Why do you let them laugh at you?" Stacy said, shooting several boys a threatening look that sent them hustling down the path.

"Because I don't care what they think," I replied airily. "You don't care what people think about you, either." "Sometimes I do."

I turned to her, shocked. "You do?"

Stacy sat on the ground, her legs bent in front of her as she kicked idly at the tufts of grass with her left foot. "It's just easier to make people scared of you than to make them like you. At least, when you look like me."


"Where's My Wand?" is a delightful, touching memoir that is being developed into a TV series. Read it before it gets mangled by Hollywood. You already have a TV set in your head, and maybe, a tattered white chenille bedspread stashed somewhere.


About the Author (abridged from his website, www.ericpoole.net)

Eric Poole was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, a farming and industrial hamlet best known, in the 1960’s, for its Quaker Oats factory (the entire town smelled like oatmeal). There, he excelled in television viewing and falling over the railing of the family’s split level foyer.

Along with his parents and sister Valerie, he moved to St. Louis, Missouri, in 1969 – a move that launched him on a personal and spiritual odyssey that continues to this day, some forty years later....Eric remained in St. Louis from 1969 until 1988, when he moved to Los Angeles... to pursue a career as a sitcom writer.....He has spent his career in advertising and marketing.... The last ten years have been spent at a major media company, where he’s VP of Radio Marketing.


Publisher's website: www.penguin.com
Comments powered by Disqus