Saturday, May 1, 2021

LITTLE AND OFTEN :: Trent Preszler

A version of this review previously appeared in Shelf Awareness and is republished here with permission.

Trent Preszler, born and raised on a farm, longed to live in New York since watching The Muppets Take Manhattan in a 1986 Faith, S.Dak., theater. He made the dream a reality: he earned two degrees at Cornell and, then, as CEO of Bedell Cellars, created the merlot served at Barack Obama's inauguration. Yet his successes were haunted by his estranged father Leon's words, "You ain't never gonna be man enough." In Preszler's superb memoir, Little and Often, the improbable happens--the non-craftsman builds a canoe from scratch and makes peace with his demons. 

Disowned 14 years earlier, Preszler is stunned when his dad has nice words for him during a rare trip home. Leon dies shortly thereafter, oddly leaving Trent his toolbox. Recalling a fond memory of a time in a fishing boat, Preszler somewhat inadvisably decides to build a strip canoe, following directions from a decades-old paperback he discovers at the lumberyard.

The build begins about as well as expected as Preszler, whose friends think macramé might be more appropriate, rushes in and learns on the fly. But using his father's tools and discovering more about the churchgoing Vietnam veteran and championship rodeo rider helps Preszler understand his life's traumas. Readers learn along with Preszler as he works; he thoughtfully doles out historical details over the course of the boat's construction, as he reveals the family's background. Insightful and humorous, Preszler's memoir is a deep dive to find the father he longed for and the confidence to be his own man.

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About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.


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