100 Tricks Every Boy Can Do
A MemoirTold in one hundred episodes, the story of two brothers separated by suicide and the secret pain that shadows the family of poet William Stafford
Bret and Kim Stafford, the oldest children of the poet and pacifist William Stafford, were pals. Bret was the good son, the obedient public servant, Kim the itinerant wanderer. In this family of two parent teachers, with its intermittent celebration of talking recklessly,” there was a code of silence about ...
- Published: September 2012
- Published: September 2012
Bret and Kim Stafford, the oldest children of the poet and pacifist William Stafford, were pals. Bret was the good son, the obedient public servant, Kim the itinerant wanderer. In this family of two parent teachers, with its intermittent celebration of talking recklessly,” there was a code of silence about hard things: Why tell what hurts?” As childhood pleasures ebbed, this reticence took its toll on Bret, unable to reveal his troubles. Against a backdrop of the 1960s puritan in the summer of love, pacifist in the Vietnam era Bret became a casualty of his interior war and took his life in 1988. 100 Tricks Every Boy Can Do casts spells in search of the lost brother: climbing the water tower to stand naked under the moon, cowboys and Indians with real bullets, breaking into church to play a serenade for God, struggling for love, and making bail. In this book, through a brother’s devotions, the lost saint teaches us about depression, the tender ancestry of violence, the quest for harmonious relations, and finally the trick of joy.
The style is spare and poetic, story and reflection, moving ponderously, smoothly and touchingly back and forth across time.” Portland Book Review
Kim Stafford’s moving memoir of loss and guilt about the suicide of his beloved brother, Bret, at age forty is brilliantly conceived and fascinatingly written.” World Literature Today
Stafford’s story cannot conjure up his brother’s return to life, but it does perform the magic of memoir. Even when there are gaps that cannot be filled, voids that cannot be crossed, the act of telling the story can provide the 'episodic evidence' that leans 'toward understanding' and holds the broken self together.”
Western American Literature
The epigraph of 100 Tricks Every Boy Can Do is a line of Stafford’s father: 'Why tell what hurts?' This exquisite book is Kim Stafford’s answer. It’s difficult to tell what hurts, he explains, but 'the darkest things hurt more when they are not told.'” The Seattle Times
Then, after so many years unable to work it all out, the encouragement of a new friend led to the remembering. And remembering led to the writing of this beautiful and brave story a story in which Kim Stafford put his arm around his brother, once again. And as they walked together, everything was OK.” The Eugene Register-Guard
“Kim Stafford tries to come to terms with his brother's death, through short poetic narratives about growing up together, and about his failure to notice his brother's hidden and not-so-hidden signs of depression."
— San Antonio Express-News
“Kim is sitting in a downtown coffee shop on a rainy autumn day. He's 63, ruddy and healthy, wide open to the world. On the table in front of him is a copy of his new book. A dozen others have come before it, collections of poems and essays, reflections on writing, a bravely honest biography of his father. This one is different. It's called '100 Tricks Every Boy Can Do: How My Brother Disappeared.'”
— The Oregonian
“This is a stunning book of exquisite consolation and understanding, not so much about loss as discovery. Through vibrant scenes, the precious and noble life of Bret Stafford unfolds, together with the shared lives of brothers, the weave of family and mystery, all becoming indelible forever. This book makes me want to live better. Kim Stafford has written a masterpiece of deepest love.”
— Naomi Shihab Nye
“A haunting and haunted memoir of a brother and his early death by suicide. Twenty years later, Kim Stafford assembles the memory stories of a life they deeply shared in an effort to unlock his grief and learn to speak the ‘blunt truth.’ We lucky readers travel with him as he deploys his poet’s deepest skills in a quest to honor and understand his brother and to free himself. This book is vivid, lucid, brave.”
— Gregory Orr
- Oregon Book Awards
- Independent Publisher Book Award - Silver for Autobiography