Social Blunders

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"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

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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Overview

"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

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.

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

"Ribald... comic and bawdy...oddly endearing...an 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

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

"Social Blunders finds the indefatigable Sam Callahan mourning the defection of his second wife, Wanda. In an attempt to shake off the doldrums, Sam embarks on a comic quest to find the father he never knew. . . . A weird, funny, raunchy novel that veers wildly from pathos to slapstick and back again" (Booklist). 304 pp. Author publicity. Online promo. 12,500 print.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
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

  • ISBN-13: 9780805016284
  • Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 2/29/2000
  • Series: GroVont Series , #3
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 281
  • Product dimensions: 6.25 (w) x 9.26 (h) x 1.09 (d)

Meet the Author

Tim Sandlin has published eight novels. Two of his screenplays have been made into movies. He turned forty with no phone, TV, or flush toilet and spent more time talking to the characters in his head than the people around him. He now has seven phone lines, four TVs he doesn't watch, three flush toilets, and a two-headed shower. He lives happily (indoors) with his family in Jackson, Wyoming.

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Read an Excerpt

From Chapter One

"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.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2012

    The adventure continues

    The best of the series. A reql indepth storyabout sam callahan

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2007

    Outstanding Again!

    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!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2005

    LOAD OF CRAP`

    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!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2012

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