My Father’s Gui­tar & Oth­er Imag­i­nary Things: True Stories

  • Review
By – May 20, 2015

Read­ing My Father’s Gui­tar and Oth­er Imag­i­nary Things felt like open­ing a box of old pho­tographs — the ones that are awk­ward and embar­rass­ing and per­fect in their own, warped way.

Unlike most mem­oirs, My Father’s Gui­tar fol­lows no chrono­log­i­cal order. Each chap­ter stands alone as a sto­ry in Joseph Skibell’s life, the kind of sto­ries you tell at wed­dings and funer­als: the ones with the odd uncle and that time you ran into Sean Penn or three women all named Bar­bara in a bak­ery. Yet these moments strung togeth­er are what define Ski­bell as a per­son: his father’s ill­ness, the impact of promis­es made under duress, his daughter’s tran­si­tion from a lit­tle girl to a woman.

Skibell’s sense of humor per­me­ates the book. From a haunt­ed house, to ancient Jew­ish med­i­c­i­nal rit­u­als, to birdi­cure,” his mem­o­ries range from philo­soph­i­cal to sil­ly and every com­bi­na­tion in between, simul­ta­ne­ous­ly authen­tic and implau­si­ble. Each sto­ry amus­es and delights, yet they are also bit­ter­sweet, even acer­bic at times.

On page 25 you learn what hap­pens if you write a bad review (poor Jere­my). Don’t wor­ry, Mr. Ski­bell: I very much enjoyed your book!

Cathy Sussman’s pas­sion is books. She grad­u­at­ed magna cum laude with a B.A. in Eng­lish from the Col­lege of St. Thomas in St. Paul Min­neso­ta. She lives in Min­neapo­lis with her hus­band, chil­dren, dog and cat. For her day job, she spe­cial­izes in rein­sur­ance and is a prin­ci­pal at Dubras­ki & Associates.

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