During his weekly radio show on WGN on Sunday, January 22, Chicago journalism legend Rick Kogan had high praise for Patrick T. Reardon’s Puddin’: The Autobiography of a Baby, a Memoir in Prose Poems (Third World Press):
“I have never read a book like Puddin’, and I’ve read tens of thousands of them….It is unique. It is heartfelt. It is remarkable, in a word.”
Kogan devoted his show to describing and reading from Puddin’ as well as interviewing Reardon, a former colleague at the Chicago Tribune, about how he came to write the book. (He also published a story about it in the paper on January 31.)
Puddin’ is a look at the first year of life of a baby from the perspective and in the voice of the infant. In a special carefully crafted language, Reardon describes his own babyhood in 101 single-page prose poems, leading up to the birth of the second child in the family, his brother David. The two boys were followed by 12 other siblings.
One example is:
June 6, 1950
In the dark, I wake. I see the shades of dark. I hear birds. Their
sounds are lines from one to the other. Their sounds are lines
from them to me. I close my eyes. I sleep.
Another was read by Kogan on the air:
March 7, 1950
She moves chairs and all the rest. She talks to me as
if I am her. I can tell that she is mad about what he said
last night as they sat in their chairs at the meal. She
moves lamps and stands. She moves the couch. She
makes a new room. Her breath is hard in her chest, and
there is sweat on her dress as she stands still to look at
her work. She lights a smoke. She sits in a chair. She cries.
Puddin’, which Kogan called “a short but immensely powerful book,” is available from Third World Press and soon from Amazon.com.
As Reardon notes in an afterword, he used family photos of him as a baby to help him to channel his baby self in writing the book.
Kogan, who described Reardon as “one of the most talented reporter-writers in the history of the Tribune,” characterized the book as “a work of fiction, grounded in reportage.” The book, at times, is “chilling and heart-breaking,” Kogan said, and, at others, “remarkably buoyant.”
“One comes out of this book, as I did, unable to look at a baby the same way again, if not to interrogate every baby I see, ‘What are you thinking?’
“You’ll be able to read it in an hour, and it’ll change your life in ways small and perhaps even large.”
life in ways small and perhaps even large.”