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Paradise found: Rosa Lyster reviews Patricia Lockwood’s memoir Priestdaddy

Published in the Sunday Times

PriestdaddyPriestdaddy
Patricia Lockwood, Allen Lane
*****
Patricia Lockwood’s career has always seemed like an exception to the rule. She is a very famous and successful poet at a time when such creatures are presumed no longer to exist. It’s not just her career, though. She has been an exception to the rule since the day she was born. The title of her memoir, Priestdaddy, is a reference to her father, a former atheist who underwent “the deepest conversion on record” after watching The Exorcist 88 times on a submarine while in the navy, became a Lutheran minister, and eventually applied for the dispensation from the Vatican which allows married ministers of another faith to become Catholic priests.

This seems like enough to be getting on with already, ie: rich autobiographical material. Married Catholic priests are rare, and Lockwood and her four siblings grew up viewing the church from an almost unique perspective. Her family is also dementedly eccentric, and Lockwood has done a great service to this world by getting them down on the page.

This isn’t even the half of it, though. I would read Lockwood describing a trip to the bank. I would read 1000 pages of her just explaining how a very boring piece of machinery worked. She is inspiredly, unforeseeably funny, and her powers of description are unmatched. She is on another planet, and her writing makes you wish you lived there also.

Priestdaddy has been described as “kooky” and “quirky” and “whimsical” – all those words used to indicate that a writer isn’t to be taken totally seriously, especially if that writer is a woman. This is rubbish, obviously. It is a very funny book, but also a serious one, about family, and religion, and how it feels to be a writer, and about learning how to understand the world.

Follow Rosa Lyster @rosalyster

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