Back when Tony Kornheiser wrote for The Washington Post, he published lengthy Sunday columns in the Style section, many of which expounded his family life and watching his children grow up, later collected into book compilations. The title of the third one, I’m Back For More Cash, at least had the decency to acknowledge its raison d’être. The world doesn’t need more parenting memoirs, but that’s not stopping the never-ending fount of new voices sharing their experiences with kids. Deadspin and GQ contributor Drew Magary’s brief new book, Someone Could Get Hurt, the follow-up to his debut novel, The Postmortal, falls directly into that sinkhole of a genre, notable only for his distinct voice.
There’s only a slim overlap between the audience for Magary’s work at Deadspin and parenthood nonfiction, but for anyone who falls into that category, Someone Could Get Hurt provides enough humor to go along with basic parenting experiences in the recent past. Magary goes through his daughter’s princess phase, massive sleep deprivation, and being the only dad to take his daughter to a Gymboree class, all with the occasional profane phrase or all-caps shouting typical of his “Dadspin” columns and weekly mailbags. He was fortunate enough to have a son and a daughter, giving him the opportunity to comment on the difference between raising each gender, being prepared for a second child, and sibling interactions.
Deadspin frequently (and justifiably) mocks Rick Reilly for his descent from folksy back-page columnist at Sports Illustrated to self-involved blowhard at ESPN. But this is the problem between reporters and columnists/talking heads: Columnists far more often become a part of their own stories, to the point where liking the writer may outweigh interest in a column’s subject. Magary is guilty of this kind of self-aggrandizement as well, but his constant self-deprecating voice makes it bearable. He may be at the center of every story—how his children’s actions affected his mood, his outlook on life, his career, his relationship to his parents—but he wisely does not paint himself as a heroic figure. The book’s most powerful section details Magary’s DUI arrest and shame thereafter, mining the only story without his kids for the best self-reflection on how his life changed after having them and his feeling responsible for others.
As a hook, Magary begins the book with the story of his third child’s premature birth and struggle to survive in the NICU. As he and his wife wait to hear of progress of a surgery, Magary cuts away for the entire length of the memoir, going back to chronological stories of adjusting to parenthood. It’s a well-worn trick of structuring, planting the seed for the final chapter, the book’s most harrowing and terrifying. But it emphasizes just how unnecessary the rest of the material is for anyone outside of his regular readers. For those already interested in reading Magary’s stories on a wide variety of topics, Someone Could Get Hurt is a worthwhile dip into a repetitive genre, but it’s otherwise decidedly optional.