Social Blunders

Social Blunders

3.5 6
by Tim Sandlin

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"Wild , wonderful, and wickedly funny...Highly recommended." -Library Journal

One of five men could be Sam Callahan's father. Is knowing the truth worth the havoc he'll cause trying to find out?

Laid low by divorce-the result of an endless stream of poor choices-Sam decides it's time he met his dad. But his

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"Wild , wonderful, and wickedly funny...Highly recommended." -Library Journal

One of five men could be Sam Callahan's father. Is knowing the truth worth the havoc he'll cause trying to find out?

Laid low by divorce-the result of an endless stream of poor choices-Sam decides it's time he met his dad. But his quest to meet the men and discover the truth does more than just shake up the five likely suspects-it pretty much napalms the lives of everyone he meets.

A comic novel of dysfunctional family and raucous debauchery, fans of Nick Hornby, Jack Kerouac, Tom Robbins, Larry McMurtry, Joseph Heller, Kurt Vonnegut, Carl Hiaasen will appreciate Sandlin's humor and Sam's journey.

Other books in Tim Sandlin's GroVant Trilogy:
Skipped Parts, Book 1
Sorrow Floats, Book 2
Social Blunders, Book 3
Lydia, Book 4

What readers are saying about Social Blunders:

"one of the funniest writers alive."

"I am a huge fan of Nick Hornby and Richard Russo, and Tim Sandlin belongs in their club."

"Besides being hilarious and lewd (a very good start), the novel is quite touching."

"Sandlin's narrative voice combines the absurdity of Tom Robbins, the pithy social observation of Douglas Coupland, the male sexual wanderlust of Phillip Roth."

"Rollicking raunchy raucous debaucherous dysfunctional good time fun-- with genuine heart and emotion mixed in for good measure"

"absolutely hysterical and touching. I haven't looked at treadmills the same way since!"

What reviewers are saying about Social Blunders:

"A story of grand faux pas and dazzling dysfunction...a wildly satirical look at the absurdities of modern life." -The New York Times Book Review

"Ribald... comic and bawdy...oddly effective blend of flippancy and compassion." -Publishers Weekly
"Tim Sandlin only gets better. Social Blunders is an affecting book...It is fiction to be savored." -Larry McMurtry
"A weird, funny, raunchy novel that veers wildly from pathos to slapstick and back again, and it's surprisingly effective." -Booklist

What everyone is saying about Tim Sandlin:

"Tim Sandlin's stuff is as tight and funny as anyone doing this comedy novel thing." -Christopher Moore

"His prose, his characters, all amazing."

"A story of grand faux pas and dazzling dysfunction...a wildly satirical look at the absurdities of modern life." -The New York Times Book Review

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Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
The GroVont Trilogy

When was the last time you were so taken with a book that you found yourself making excuses to read instead of: a) working, b) sleeping, c) paying attention to your wife and child, d) all of the above? Take my word for it, there's a price to be paid for each of these indiscretions. But Tim Sandlin's GroVont trilogy (SKIPPED PARTS, SORROW FLOATS, SOCIAL BLUNDERS) is worth it.

Earlier this year SKIPPED PARTS was recommended to me by two readers of very different tastes. At first I hesitated — if this Sandlin guy was such a great writer, why had I never heard of him? The answer to that question was, of course, somewhat humbling. In the final pages of the trilogy, Sandlin's hero, Sam Callahan, muses, "When I was young I had this strange feeling everyone around me knew something I didn't know. Turns out I was right."

I know exactly how he feels.

Let me make amends for this particular social blunder: SKIPPED PARTS didn't just take me by surprise, it blindsided me, left me dazed and desperately groping for the next installment. But don't just take my word: The new Riverhead editions are shamelessly prefaced with four pages of similarly awestruck blurbs, including raves from such luminaries as Larry McMurtry, John Nichols, and Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth (an endorsement that has earned Sandlin the dubious honorific, "the voice of grunge").

Beginning in 1963 and set roughly ten years apart in succession, these novels range from wide-eyed wonder to soul scorching catharsis to slapstick farce as they record a changing Americafromthe wonderfully skewed perspective of the extended Callahan clan. SKIPPED PARTS opens as thirteen-year-old Sam Callahan and his mother, Lydia, find themselves exiled from the family manor in Greensboro, North Carolina, to the Martian landscape of GroVont, Wyoming. This latest salvo in a titanic battle of wills has been fired by family patriarch and carbon paper baron Caspar Callahan, not only in response to his wayward daughter's latest indiscretion, but also to remove Sam from the corrupting influence of — would you believe it? — baseball. (Caspar not only burns Sam's prized baseball card collection in a ritual bonfire, but chooses GroVont precisely because it is "farther from a major baseball team than any other spot in the country.") Sam is admonished to restrict himself to the contemplation of his future role in the Callahan carbon paper empire, but his attentions soon stray to dark-haired, blue-eyed Maury Pierce. The short stories Sam is forever injecting into the narrative shift dramatically from pennant races to pubescent fantasies as he vies with Maury for the vaunted title of school know-it-all — and gradually the two outsiders find common ground in their mutual love of books.

While Lydia sulks in her taxidermically enhanced cabin, either nursing or recovering from her nightly pint of gin, — Sam and Maury begin to explore aspects of Steinbeck, Heller, and D.H. Lawrence not taught in AP English. Maury proposes to Sam that as friends, they should help each other lose their virginity — in order to avoid future embarrassments when they are old enough to have real girl and boyfriends. Sam is only too eager to comply, but when the physical logistics prove daunting, they apply to the resident expert for coaching. Lydia's hilarious Tex-Mex inspired instructions meet with resounding success, and a rigorous practice schedule is begun in order to perfect the technique. When Maury decides it is time to road-test their new found skills, she selects the moon-faced Chuckette Morris as a suitable steady for Sam, and for herself, chooses Dothan Talbot, scion of a family of relocated southern rednecks in which all the children have been named after cities in Alabama. Predictably, this is all too much for Sam — despite his promise not to "get squirrelly," he cannot bear the thought of sharing Maury with anyone else. At the ripe old age of thirteen he has found the defining love of his life, and, with his Romantic turn of mind, he half suspects that life is going to be all downhill from there.

His suspicions are confirmed when Maury announces to all concerned that she is pregnant. Worse, she has no intention of dropping Dothan and expects Sam to fulfill his social obligations to Chuckette! Confused, elated with the prospect of fatherhood and terrified at the idea that Maury's rancher father might appear at any moment with a gelding knife, Sam wonders, not for the first (nor the last) time, just where he fits in this unsolvable equation. SORROW FLOATS finds Maury Pierce married miserably to Dothan Talbot, mourning the death of her father and drowning her sorrows in Everclear. When Dothan uses her alcoholism as an excuse to take custody of their child and move in with the tramp next door, Maury knows her only hope is to get Sam's help. But Sam has moved back to North Carolina, and to get there she must team up with two symbiotically paired recovering alcoholics — one a "fat cripple" with a talent for imaginative prevarication and the other a weatherbeaten knight errant — on a Ken Kesey-inspired cross country road trip.

SOCIAL BLUNDERS once again focuses on Sam — now 33-years old and reeling from the break up of his second marriage. Carbon paper has given way to golf carts, and his scribbling has finally resulted in a string of popular Young Adult sports novels. But when he decides work through heartbreak by tracking down his real father — one of the five football players Lydia claims gang-raped her when she was 15 — he becomes mired in a Mrs. Robinsonesque dilemma that is likely to shock even the most unshockable reader. To give away more would be criminal — you'll simply have to read it for yourself.

At a critical point in SORROW FLOATS the crippled road warrior Shane likens his extravagant gloss on reality to an obscure third century cleric's defense of the miracle of faith: "Credo quia absurdum est — This is too absurd to be made up, therefore it must be true." Sandlin must have taken this as his personal credo, as his gift for suspending disbelief and transforming the most far-fetched situations into the realm of everyday occurrence is indeed nothing short of miraculous.

—Greg Marrs

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Product Details

Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
GroVont Series, #3
Edition description:
1st ed
Product dimensions:
6.25(w) x 9.26(h) x 1.09(d)

Read an Excerpt

Social Blunders

By Tim Sandlin

Sourcebooks, Inc.

Copyright © 2010 Sourcebooks, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4022-4176-5


"Traumatic events always happen exactly two years before I reach the maturity level to deal with them," I said, just to hear how the theory sounded out loud.

"Two years from now I could handle my wife running off with an illiterate pool man. Two years from now I will have the emotional capacity to survive another divorce."

Hints that I might not survive the crisis cut no slack with my daughter. In fact, I wasn't even certain she had heard my little speech. Shannon seemed totally absorbed in aiming a garden hose at the front grill of her Mustang. As she rinsed soap off the gleaming chrome, her eyes held a distracted softness that reminded me more than somewhat of the softness her mother's eyes used to take on following an orgasm. Now, there's an awful thought. According to the two-year theory, a day would come when I could accept my daughter having orgasms, but for now I'd rather drink Drano.

"They say divorce cripples men more than women," I said. "Women cry and purge the pain while men internalize and fester."

Shannon raised her head to peer at me through her thick bangs. "You've never internalized pain in your life. Heartbreak to you is like garlic to a cook."

"Who told you such nonsense?"

"Mom. She says ever since you saw Hunchback of Notre Dame you've been looking for a Gypsy girl to swoop down and save. Then later you can die for her and feel your life wasn't wasted."

Secretly, I was pleased Maurey had seen the parallel, although I'd always related to the hunchback more from the tragic outsider aspect than as a savior of Gypsy girls.

"Do you and your mother often discuss my psychic makeup?"

"Everyone discusses your psychic makeup—Mom, Grandma Lydia, Gus. Hank Elkrunner says you're an egomaniac with delusions of inferiority."

"I suppose Hank figured that out by throwing chicken bones."

Shannon shrugged the way she did when I was being too unreasonable to argue with and went back to her chrome. It was evening in October, the silver light hour when thousands of male Southerners all across the Carolinas stand back and toss lit kitchen matches at lighter fluid-soaked mounds of charcoal.

Shannon said, "You'll be mooning over a new woman within a week. Why not save me some teenage anxiety and find a nice one this time? Hand me that T-shirt."

"Isn't this my T-shirt?" It was lime colored with GREENSBORO Hornets in white over a yellow cartoon hornet swinging crossed baseball bats. "Wanda was nice."

Shannon stopped rubbing the headlights long enough to stare me down—one of those how-dare-you-lie-to-me stares women inherently pass on to one another. Shannon looks so much like Maurey, it's almost enough to make you believe in virgin birth. Where were my genes in this person who called me Daddy? Both my women had thick, dark brown hair, except Shannon cut hers short, collar length, while Maurey's hair hung down her back. Long neck, small hands, cheekbones of a Victoria's Secret nightie model, teeth that had never cost me a dime over checkups and cleaning—the only difference was Shannon had brown eyes while Maurey's were sky blue. And Maurey had a scar on her chin from a beating she once took at the hands of a man.

I said, "Okay, she wasn't so nice, but she had potential. Remember her crab salad."

"You don't marry a woman over crab salad. Wanda was a dysfunctional stepmother, a stereotype of the Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel ilk."

Ilk? "My God, who have you been talking to? Are you dating a psych major?"

Shannon reddened along the neck behind her ears. Fatherly intuition strikes again. The only question was whether the blush came from sex fantasized or sex completed. Shannon rubbed my T-shirt across the windshield with all her might. When she spoke, her voice sounded like she was hitting someone.

"You can't save every fucked-up woman you stumble over."

"I'd rather you not talk that way when I'm close by."

She turned the hose dangerously close to my tennis shoes. "You made fun of me when I said dysfunctional."

"Let's try neurotic."

"Okay. You find these neurotic women, God knows where, and you think that if you accept them as they are, out of sheer gratitude, they'll change."

Not a bad analysis for a nineteen-year-old. Of course, I couldn't admit that; never let a daughter know she might be right. "Why is it children always oversimplify their parents?"

Shannon smiled at me. "I doubt if it's possible to oversimplify you, Daddy. That's why I love you."

Tears leapt to my eyes. Wanda's leaving had turned me into an emotional sap, to the point where I'd cried the day before when I heard the neighbor kids singing "Happy Birthday to You." Because the picture on the front of the jar reminded me of a young Shannon, I'd stuffed a hundred-dollar check into the muscular dystrophy display at Tex and Shirley's Pancake House.

Shannon either ignored or didn't notice my poignant moment. She stood back to admire her shiny, clean Mustang.

It was ten years old, creamy white with a black interior and a Lick Jesse Helms in '84 bumper sticker. I'd given it to her for high school graduation.

"One thing for certain," Shannon said, still looking at her car instead of me. "That woman wasn't worth a heart attack. Why not get drunk and chase women the way you did before?"

"Because I married this one. The grief process is different when a marriage breaks up."

Her eyes finally came to mine. "Heck, Daddy, you're only grieving because you think that's what Kurt Vonnegut would do in the situation."

"Don't lecture your father on grief. I was miserable before you were even born."

Shannon stuck the hose in my pocket.

* * *

I flee to my Exercycle 6000 and ride fifty-five miles at high tension. Depression must be avoided, no matter what the cost. Depression is lying on the Edwardian couch for six months, too tired to unlace your shoes. Depression is awakening each morning feeling as if someone near and dear and closely related died the night before. Bad news. Don't tempt depression. Far better to pump a stationary bicycle for six hours, full speed, dripping sweat into your eyes and hurling curses at women not present.

Starting with Wanda. Wanda of the black braids, tiny tits, and ferocious tongue; Wanda who said my intelligence and ability to articulate caused her crotch to tingle with slurpy anticipation; Wanda who said "I do"; the very same Wanda who stole my Datsun 240Z and ran off with the pool boy—the pool boy for Chrissake. No matter how long or how hard I pump the Exercycle 6000, I can't get around it. She left me, the author of The Shortstop Kid and Jump Shot to Glory, for a boy with BORN TO LOOSE tattooed across his left shoulder blade.

My housekeeper, Gus, has no pity. "Wanda was a tramp. You just falling apart 'cause you think that's what a man does when his wife leave."

"But she left with a boy who can't read."

"So what he can't read." Gus is six feet two inches tall and black as a Milk Dud. When I piss her off, which is often, she leans back with her hands planted on both hips and glares down her nose at me. "She don't want his brain any more than she want yours. What she wants is his Peter."

I stop pedaling. "Is that what she wanted from me?"

"You, she want money, fool."

* * *

I ride with a fury—ten, twelve, fourteen hours a day. Sadistically, I screw the knob that increases the tension in my pedals until my quadriceps and calves scream in pain. When Shannon said it's not worth a heart attack, she wasn't speaking metaphorically. My chest pounds like a train. I can hear each gush of blood spurting through my temples. Sweat trickles from the ear where Wanda's tongue once licked. The saddle digs into my butt, raising blisters on the cheeks where Wanda's fingernails used to rake.

After five or six hours of riding toward a wall, the brain forgets there was ever a before the bike or may ever be an after the bike. I enter a zone without time, pain, or exhaustion. Some call it coma. If the deal works right, I forget the tongue and fingernails for a moment and reach a point of being so thoroughly wrung out that I sleep.

Before I discovered frenetic exercise, I only knew two other methods of avoiding depression. The first—getting drunk and staying drunk. That's not my style, and besides, when alcohol fails it fails big time. The second—sleeping with someone else as soon as is humanly possible. That is my style.

Here's my past pattern: I'd say to myself, next time out, tonight, I'll choose an impossible woman, an obvious trollop with whom I could never connect in any way outside the crotch. An airhead or a drunk or a married woman, anyone just so she's impossible. And I'll be safe.

Only the sex turns out not so empty and I wind up trying to save a lost woman who'd rather not be saved. Starting with the beautiful and wonderful Maurey Pierce at the age of thirteen, I had systematically, purposefully, made certain each woman was worse than the one before, in hopes of protecting myself in the clinches, and finally, upon reaching what I took as the rock bottom of women who could cause me pain, I married Wanda.


Maurey Pierce telephoned.

"You sound out of breath."

"I've been riding the bike."

"Gus tells me the slut ran out. Congratulations, sugar booger."

"Maurey, my marriage just blew up. That should call for a little sympathy."

Pause. "Your marriage was the family joke, Sam. Both your marriages. Nobody's going to fake sympathy when they blow up."

"That's what Gus said."

"How much did she take with her?"

"The 240Z and my baseball card collection. Me Maw's jewelry, but I guess I gave her that anyway."

"You gave her your dead grandmother's jewelry?"

"We were playing 'How much do you love me?' one night in bed. She said 'Do you love me enough to give me everything you own?' and I said 'Yes.'"


"It was foreplay. I didn't mean her to take me literally."

Maurey was quiet a few moments, obviously disgusted. "How's my baby?"

There was news, but I wasn't certain how to break it. "I think Shannon lost her virginity. She didn't come home Friday night."

"Sam, Shannon lost her virginity after a Carolina-Duke game two years ago."

I almost dropped the phone. "How do you know?"

"She told me. She bet her virginity on Duke and lost. She was planning to sleep with the geek anyway and figured if she did it on a bet there'd be no strings attached. Doesn't that just sound like a daughter of ours?"

I looked from the Exercycle to a painting on the wall of some Indians killing a buffalo, then back to my hand on the phone—all those years of protecting my daughter from the rancid gender down the tubes. I muttered, "She's so young."

"She waited four years longer than we did."

"And look how we turned out—maladjusted ambiverts unable to sustain the simplest relationships."

"Ambiverts, my ass, my relationship is fine." I shut up on that one. Maurey's relationship with Pud Talbot was a sore point with us, so sore that when she first took him in, Maurey and I stopped speaking to each other for eight months.

In the silence, Maurey said, "Before you go off the deep end, could you spare a couple thousand? The drought burned half our grass and we'll have to buy feed this winter."

"You must think I'm made of money."

Another sore point—my money. "You're made of horseshit, Sam. God knows everyone here at the TM Ranch appreciates our allowance; we're just tired of doing backflips to yank it out of you."

I didn't say anything. The first days after your marriage dies, people should cut a little slack. The women in my life don't know the meaning of slack.

"I'm sorry," Maurey said.

"I'm sorry too." I listened to Maurey breathe, but she didn't say anything more. "How many lost souls am I supporting this week?" I asked.

"Three, counting your mother. I've got a recovering junkie out haying with Hank, and an unwed mother who's supposed to be teaching Auburn French, but so far all she's done is cry. And Petey called, he's coming in Wednesday. God knows why."

"I thought Petey hated all things rural." Petey is Maurey's brother. He's never much liked me and vice versa, although we keep it civil. I never called him a derogatory name, either to his face or back, but he once said I was a screaming heterosexual.

"All I know's what the letter said—meet him at the airport Wednesday. I suppose you'll be the next to drag your ass home.

Pud wants to change our name to Lick Your Wounds Ranch."

"I better stay put for now. Wanda might come back and she'd worry if I was gone."

Maurey made a snort sound. "She's a bitch, Sam. The woman doesn't deserve to suck the mud off your sneakers."

* * *

Back to the bike. Now I have two traumas to flee—my botched marriage and my daughter's lost virginity.

To say that my life began with Shannon's birth is not the overblown remark you might think. I was thirteen when Shannon was born, three weeks short of fourteen. How much that matters can happen to a person before his fourteenth birthday? Mostly I took care of my mother, Lydia, which is another thing I discovered when I reached what passes for adulthood. Parents are supposed to take care of children, not the other way around. Lydia told me it was normal for a child to cook meals and wash the clothes. How was I supposed to know different? She had me balancing her checkbook when I was ten years old—the ditz never wrote down dates and check numbers—and these days she complains continuously because I won't let her handle money. I mean, good grief, already.

Lydia now runs the only feminist press in Wyoming. She's stopped drinking and stopped smoking, and she jogs the county roads wearing a sweatshirt, tights, ninety-dollar sneakers, and a headband that, if you circle it from ear to ear, reads Men can be replaced with a banana.

Oothoon Press publishes books such as Mother Lied and The Castration Solution. Lydia's authors call me, the one who pays their bills, a pig and a villain simply because I have a penis and most of the pigs and villains down through history have had penises. Hell, I don't like the male sex any more than Lydia's authors, only I make an exception of myself.

When Maurey gave me the Russell print of the Indians killing the buffalo, she said it reminded her of me. I'd recently ridden several days and several hundred miles directly into the scene, and I still didn't get the connection. One Indian is shooting the buffalo with a rifle, and one Indian is shooting him with a bow and arrow, while a third waves a spear in the air and shouts Indian stuff. Meanwhile, the buffalo is goring the hell out of a fourth Indian, who is either dead or dying, and stomping the hell out of the fourth Indian's white horse. The painting is dramatic, what with two animals and a human dying and three humans and an animal killing, and everyone caught up in your basic here and now.

After Maurey said Wanda was unworthy to suck the mud off my sneakers, I rode eighty miles, staring at her painting. I've never been one to get caught up in the here and now, myself. I can't remember a single scene I've been in where one part of me wasn't standing off to the side, figuring how to word it when I told the story to a woman, and conceptualizing her reaction, then my reaction to her reaction and so on until we wound up in bed or married or whatever. Call it the curse of the romantic writer—even the romantic writer of Young Adult sports novels. So far I have the temperament of Scott Fitzgerald and the following of Dizzy Dean. Reach out for an understanding of that one.

Did Maurey think of me as the Indians killing the buffalo? Or the buffalo itself? Maybe she was saying I'm the last of a dying breed, valiantly raging in a futile battle before ultimate death. That didn't really sound like my Maurey. Or maybe I'm the dead or dying Indian who got himself reamed by his prey.

She'd more likely think of me as an Indian than a buffalo. I'm not bulky or hairy enough to compare to the buffalo. She probably thought of me as an Indian—wild and free and prone to running around without a shirt. Lydia's boyfriend is an Indian. Hank Elkrunner does most of the actual labor at Maurey's ranch. I don't know how Hank puts up with my mother's never-ending narcissism. Lydia passionately cares about the condition of her nails and the worldwide fight for feminist awareness, only she doesn't put much stock on details in between, like family and friends.


Excerpted from Social Blunders by Tim Sandlin. Copyright © 2010 Sourcebooks, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Sourcebooks, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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What People are saying about this

Larry McMertry
"Tim Sandlin only gets better. Social Blunders is an affecting book, now spritely, now sad, as his characters experience the common upturnings and downturnings of life. It is fiction to be savoured."
Shelby Hearon
"Hold on to your heart, sit on your had, and give yourself over to a delicious, pothole filled journey. Social Blunders is a sad and savvy coming of good sense novel sure to win Tim Sandlin the larger audience he deserves."

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Social Blunders 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The best of the series. A reql indepth storyabout sam callahan
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
WOW! Tim Sandlin does it again. I was addicted with Sex and Sunsets, and it just doesn't stop. Sam Callahan is the creation of genius. This book was easily devoured, and read more than once. I feel pity for those that have no ability to appreciate this creation. Thanks Tim!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I honestly and wholeheartedly HATED this book! I couldn't relate to any of the characters and the plot was nowhere to be found. Do not waste your time and money on this misuse of paper! Read something worthwile like Youth in Revolt by C.D. Payne!