Billed as an “unconventional memoir,” Gregory G. Allen’s moving Proud Pants dives headlong and heart-first into the difficult territory of the novelized biography. In undertaking to tell the story of his half-brother John’s troubled life, and in first person no less, Allen charts a path into risky territory; territory that in the hands of a less feeling writer could easily make the author an impediment–an impediment between the reader and the suspension of disbelief critical to the success of so-called ‘life writing’. That Mister Allen navigates this course successfully is a tribute to a remarkable (and some would say ‘technical’) gift: the ability to create and maintain a completely believable and compelling storytelling “voice.” To those familiar with Allen as playwright (“Invisible Fences,” with Stephen Kitsakos), this ‘gift’ will come as no surprise, for indeed, the dialogue in Proud Pants–regardless of character–rings pitch perfect and packs more than enough wallop to keep the reader turning pages. That in itself is a remarkable feat given that John’s story is not a happy one. A tale of early rejection and its aftermath–anger, substance abuse, and a life-long journey into chaos and loss–Allen nevertheless manages to infuse Proud Pants with a message of hope. Like its title, which refers to a favorite pair of purple pants (a boyhood back-to-school gift), Proud Pants makes us remember that sometimes it is the simplest act, the smallest kindness, that can be self affirming–that can help us, if only for a while, to wear a sense of pride.
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