Sarah Vowell: still trying to decide how I feel.
What is the appeal of Curtis Sittenfeld?

A trip I'm jealous of.

What I enjoyed most about Mike Walsh's Bowling Across America: 50 States in Rented Shoes was his opening chapter about he and his five siblings' arranging of their father's funeral (their father died suddenly in his mid-sixties):

"We continued to cry aplenty, but the fine emotional line between that release and laughter enabled us to find humor in the grimmest of situations...At the cemetery, the woman helping us select a resting place for Dad (and de facto for Mom, since she would one day be buried alongside him) bore the real brunt of a sarcastic family's grief.

'Now, this plot is nice because it faces south, so it gets a little more sunlight," she said of one site...

'It's nice,' someone replied, 'but could you move the Calvano grave away from it? I don't want my parents to be buried next to any Italians.'

'Yeah, where are all the Irish graves?'

'Where might we find some existing graves where the wife's dead, but the husband's still alive? We're looking for a rich widower for our mother.'

At some point our saleswoman began showing us sites of five graves together, suggesting that some of us might want to make a down payment on our own graves so that we might be buried with our parents. That or she was wishing more of us dead." (p. xvii.)

Bowling That's a lot of quoting, but I found the whole exchange hilarious and perfectly representative of the weird humor that pops out in families (especially big families) in the face of death.

The rest of the book is a travelogue of Walsh's quest to bowl in all fifty states (undertaken after he learned his father had had a similar goal of playing handball in all fifty states, but had died before he could achieve it). The chapters aren't too long and the stories are very enjoyable; it's sort of a Charles Kuralt "on the road" quest for younger readers. And he makes his trip sound like a lot of fun, even though he does, in pursuit of his goal, put more than 25,000 miles (on his mom's car) and inhale a lot of secondhand smoke.