Air Force veteran Don Feeney—now living in Florida with his beloved fourth wife—entertains readers with anecdotes of a peripatetic life in his book, Gathering No Moss: Memoir of a Reluctant World Traveler.
Raised in genteel poverty in 1960s Pittsburgh, Feeney attended Catholic school, where he clashed with the nuns. His violent father and disinterested mother were an impetus to get out of Dodge, and get out he did: He left for college in the ’70s, spending most of his time partying and getting stoned.
His first wife suggested joining the Air Force, setting him on a lifetime path of exciting, gratifying career travel (the “reluctant” in the title never seems particularly accurate), including stations overseas, an assistant professorship at the United States Air Force Academy, and time with the Foreign Service and State Department.
Feeney’s carefree enthusiasm and amiable, frank style (his mantra, he explains, is “TMYKTMYDKS”: “The more you know, the more you don’t know sh*t”) keep the stories ticking along. The presentation is conversational and anecdotal; rather than adhering to a carefully crafted narrative that builds momentum, it unspools largely chronologically.
Feeney frequently addresses readers directly to apologize for potentially boring them. (“Okay, you’re still with me,” he writes at one point. “That’s good.”) He also freely admits that he hates to write but was badgered into writing the book by his wife. This comes through in his liberal use of clichés (“I said, with as much tact as a freight train”) and use of Wikipedia and dictionary quotes to describe what he sees, rather than using his own words. (“Borrowing from my trusty Wikipedia source,” he writes, ‘The Taj Mahal is a white marble mausoleum located in Agra, Uttar Pradish, India…’”)
As a result of such qualities, his memoir isn’t likely to appeal to general readers and succeeds best as a retelling of an anything-but-reluctant life for family and friends.
Also available in paperback and ebook.