Monday, April 25, 2011

Trailer Trashed, by Hollis Gillespie

Hollis Gillespie, author of Trailer Trashed: My Dubious Efforts Toward Upward Mobility (skirt!, 2008), has a biting wit, sharp sense of satire, and the ability to sum up a character with just a few concise details. This book is a collection of short stories that serve as a sequel to her first two collections, many of which appeared in Creative Loafing. Gillespie portrays herself as a former nonconformist and wild woman now trying to reconstruct herself, primarily because of her young daughter, who is the center of her life. Most of the humor in these stories—really, they are more like sketches—stems from the friends Gillespie has collected for herself—Grant, Lary, David, and Keiger, her intermittent boyfriend. They are wild and crazy—or at least they were in the past—and she portrays herself as constantly imposing on them for help, entertainment, and support.

I enjoyed Gillespie’s accounts of her family, especially of her sister who lives in Costa, and of the itinerant childhood she lived with her parents, a mother who builds missiles and bombs for the government and a sometimes inattentive, hard-drinking, and ultimately absent father. In the job he seemed to hold the longest, he sold travel trailers, which may account for the author’s habit of collecting trailers and storing them in her back- and front yards. These family tales, too infrequent in the collection, are poignant, whimsical, and sad.

One of the problems with these stories is that Gillespie is a bit too insistent on seeing herself as a former outlaw. There’s a good bit of repetition here, as the sketches move on, and a lack of focus. Deeply interwoven with facts and tall-tale exaggerations, these sketches do not always make themselves clear. Gillespie’s a bit too proud of herself, and in the final pages of the book, after assuring us for the previous two hundred that she doesn‘t care about much for anything other than her daughter and her friends, she spends a good bit of time dropping Jay Leno’s name (she appears on his show) and relishing the possibility that one of her books may be turned into a movie or sit com.

These stories entertained me. But it strikes me that Gillespie could be a much better writer if she’d dispense with the wild guy tall-tale bravado and just get down to work.

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