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Sting-Ray Afternoons: A Memoir by Steve…

Sting-Ray Afternoons: A Memoir (original 2017; edition 2017)

by Steve Rushin (Author)

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856247,649 (4.07)2
A bittersweet memoir of the author's 1970s childhood nostalgically shares observations of his family life as it was shaped by influences ranging from the Steve Miller Band and Saturday morning cartoons to Bic pens and Schwinn Sting-Ray bikes.
Title:Sting-Ray Afternoons: A Memoir
Authors:Steve Rushin (Author)
Info:Little, Brown and Company (2017), Edition: 1, 336 pages
Collections:Your library

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Sting-Ray Afternoons: A Memoir by Steve Rushin (2017)


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Steven Rushin, who grew up to be the only thing he ever wanted, a sportswriter at Sports Illustrated magazine, recounts his childhood in 1970s Minnesota. With sharp wit and a knack for telling a ridiculous story (especially if it makes himself the object of ridicule), Rushin recounts growing up as the middle child of five (when his baby sister, Amy, is born after three boys, the obstetrician tells his father in the hospital waiting room, "Congratulations, you finally got one with indoor plumbing.")

The memoir is replete with so many of the touchstones of a '70s childhood in middle America, and as someone just a couple of years older than he, growing up a few hundred miles south, I found myself being walloped with nostalgia on every page. Someone who grew up in a different (that is to say, later) era might not have the same reaction to the specific pop-culture mentions, but much of the humor is universal, I think, and the ways that pre-pubescent boys think and act and play probably is, too. Probably the closest comparison I can make is to Bill Bryson's memoir, [The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid], with its recollections of a 1950s kid. Rushin's humor isn't quite as mean-spirited as Bryson's can sometimes be, though.

One of the hallmarks of Rushin's sportswriting (and Twitter posts) is his love of wordplay and puns (just as I rate Bryson's writing by the number of giggle-snorts it induces, I gauge Rushin's by the number of involuntary groans), and I loved learning that his infatuation with the rhythms of words and language began early, a child in love with alliteration long before he ever learned the word itself.

This is not a harrowing tale of abuse and dysfunction, which I found refreshing but does leave the narrative feeling a bit slight. No one overcomes tragedy or addiction or anything like that and yet the tone is far from saccharine. It's the kind of childhood that often gets labeled "idyllic" even taking into account the never-ending casual violence that brothers perpetually inflict on each other, down the line from oldest to youngest. For myself, this is a solid 4-star read, but I downgraded it slightly because I'm not sure a reader who isn't familiar with Rushin's writing or who didn't grow up in the 1970s American Midwest would feel the same appreciation and connection that I did. ( )
  rosalita | May 30, 2018 |
Okay, I'm a child of the seventies as well, just a few years older than the author, and I grew up in the Midwest too, Illinois rather than Minnesota. But it was pretty much the same childhood and many of the author's recollections might as well be my own. I had the off-brand Stingray and the same sibling rivalries (mine were all sisters but siblings are siblings). So I enjoyed this memoir, probably more than most others would. Still, I can't help comparing the writing style to that of Bill Bryson's, and that's where Mr.Rushin comes up short. It's probably an unfair comparison but I couldn't get The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid out of my head the entire time I was reading this. It's simply a better book with a similar subject. ( )
  5hrdrive | Apr 2, 2018 |
For anyone that grew up in suburban America of the 1960s, Sting-ray Afternoons is a font of nostalgia. Rushin streams a list of products marketed to middle-class America and the desires of a boy assaulted by this marketing while growing up with three brothers and a sister
  MichaelC.Oliveira | Feb 13, 2018 |
Steve Rushin's memoir of growing up in the 1970s Minnesota will pleasantly resonate with those who grew up at the same time no matter where you grew up. His memories brought back plenty of my own, such as:

- Getting up early on Saturday mornings to watch hours of cartoons ("until that terrible moment when American Bandstand begins");
- Hopefully thumbing catalogues at Christmas time ("The Sears Christmas Wish Book... was more than a catalogue of consumer goods. It was a glossy catalogue of children’s dreams");
- Sunburns in summer ("Life is a series of blistering sunburns, the skin bubbling up like the tar bubbles in the streets of South Brook.");
- Sledding in winter ("The thirty minutes spent getting dressed and ascending this hill is a pittance to pay for the breathtaking twenty seconds of descent.");
- The music ("The Hotel California itself scares the wits out of me, with its satanic guests stabbing beasts with their steely knives and its unreasonably inflexible checkout policy.");
- How much more common smoking was back then ("Dad doesn’t smoke, but... gives them to a grateful seatmate, who blows the smoke into his face for the duration of the flight. Nobody finds this arrangement the least bit disagreeable.");
- And of course, riding bikes around the neighborhood ("Six hi-rise bikes parked side by side turned any suburban cul-de-sac into the parking lot of a biker bar").

As a journalist he obviously has a way with words, but he's also laugh-out-loud funny and wise at the same time, as well as easy to relate to. And as much as I'd like to regale you with lots of quotes I enjoyed from the book, I'll leave you with just one more:

"There is no such thing as a carefree childhood, only a childhood that shifts the burden of care onto someone else. [Mom] is that someone else." ( )
  J.Green | Dec 6, 2017 |
There is both a lot of great and cringe worthy nostalgia wrapped up in this memoir by Steve Rushin. Looking back at his Seventies childhood in Bloomington MN, Rushin evokes a lot of memories of playing outdoors until dark, and how wishing for something so hard, like the 'right' Addidas sneakers or a real Sting Ray bike make those young days pass quickly. The fact he went to parochial school and had oodles of brothers to beat him up lends well to the tales of his rough and tumble years, yet he was always the wordsmith, loving palindromes and reading all the signs and posters at stores. And although I lived in a much more worldly area on the northern edge of Dallas, in those similar elementary years, I could certainly relate to parts of the book, especially those Saturday night viewings of Mary Tyler Moore, which evoked thoughts of our 'real' home in Minnesota. And while I admit to watching plenty of tv, he's got me beat on jingles, whether the slight gap in our years caused this, I am not sure. I spent plenty of time outside during those hot Texas summers. Time was either spent at swimming lessons or in one of the five pools that the first six houses on our block had. That and trips to the library, for reading marathons when it was too hot to do anything else. ( )
  ethel55 | Oct 27, 2017 |
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A bittersweet memoir of the author's 1970s childhood nostalgically shares observations of his family life as it was shaped by influences ranging from the Steve Miller Band and Saturday morning cartoons to Bic pens and Schwinn Sting-Ray bikes.

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