Rich Terfry is a Canadian public figure – I use that term because I can’t think of a better one for a man who has been an (almost pro) baseball player, a hip hop artist and a CBC radio presenter – and is now an author. He is better known by many as “Buck 65,” the alterego he assumed for his musical career. I have been a fan of his work for years, though I didn’t know much about him before reading this book.
Because I didn’t know much about Rich Terfry when I started reading, I didn’t really know what to expect. I had a vague idea of your typical Canadian childhood with lots of ice hockey and other outdoor winter sports and the occasional run-in with some sort of wildlife (probably moose or bear) followed by a stumbling climb to national notoriety. Let me tell you, that is not at ALL what this book is. Though there are some familiar Canadian elements to Terfry’s childhood, and definitely a few stumble along the way, for the most part his story is… well, weird. I’m not 100% sure how much is fact and how much was embellished (it’s apparently a “fictional autobiography,” a term I haven’t heard before that leaves me unsure where reality leaves off and fiction begins), but I honestly don’t care – I’m choosing to believe every word because man, this is fantastic stuff.
According to this book, Terfry grew up in a small town in Nova Scotia called Mt. Uniacke. If you’re thinking rural, middle of nowhere, small, conservative, tightknit community, you’d only be a little bit right. Mt. Uniacke seems to be the place all the weirdos and oddballs in Canada ended up. Townsfolk had names like Flum, Buzzy, Teen Wolf, Lunk, Crust, Truck, and Walter the Human Walrus. And that’s only the beginning.
Terfry’s account of his childhood hops from one crazy anecdote to the next, telling about the house at the edge of town where the Carny folk lived (a favourite trick-or-treating destination for the kids in the area because you never knew who/what would answer the door), the time he fended off a black bear attack by playing the tuba, the time he set an egg-tossing record at the town fair with only a minor sidestep into a leech- and eel-infested lake (he came out covered head to toe in the former), how death seemed to take up residence in the minds of teenagers causing more than a dozen of his classmates to kill themselves by the time he graduated, and the time his grandfather had a fist-fight with a neighbour using freshly-baked loaves of bread for boxing gloves (this story ended with his grandfather’s opponent kocked out cold on the kitchen floor).
All of this (and oh, so much more) is conveyed with a minimum of fuss and complete credulity – as if this is how all Canadian kids grow up. For the record, and for those of you who are not familiar with Canada, it isn’t.
One thing Terfry learned quickly was that he would have to work hard to escape the town whose familiarity was also tinged with an aura of threat. Terfry hitchhiked his way out of Mt. Uniacke as soon as he finished high school, determined to pursue his dream of a pro baseball career. He very likely would have made it, too, if it weren’t for some bad luck and even worse injury – he all but shredded his shoulder, leaving him with permanent pain. He doggedly continued pursing his dream, though, deciding if he couldn’t be on the field, he’d train to become a team doctor. But music got him first.
Beginning with a DJ spot at his college radio station, Terfry quickly began experimenting with his own songs and eventually put together an album – an album that would gain the attention of none other than Radiohead, whose glowing endorsement set him on a path that would alter the course of his life irrevocably.
But the book doesn’t just deal with the facts of how Buck 65 became Buck 65. With plenty of introspection, Terfry shares some of his most intimate moments and experiences, and tells us of the loves and losses that pushed him to grow – and grow up. There is plenty of emotion in this book, though the action never suffers for it.
This is definitely a book you want to read if you like the absurd, bordering at times on the straight up insane. It’s easily one of the most entertaining books I’ve read all year. Plus, if it helps the world realize that Canadians don’t spend their lives sitting around in igloos sharpening their ice skates and eating maple syrup, but can actually have some pretty awesome adventures as well, all the better.
Terfry’s writing style is direct and accessible, and his ability to strip away pretense to reveal even his most painful moments will leave you feeling as if you know him personally. He manages to balance the internal and external to create a book that is at once poignant and fast-paced – not to mention hilarious.
I don’t really know what I hoped to find going into Wicked and Weird, but this exceeded all my expectations. I am left with the impression that there couldn’t possibly be a more fitting title for this book. You seriously couldn’t make this shit up.
Star radio-host Rich Terfry presents the amazing tales of his alter ego, musician Buck 65, in this rollicking account of growing up poor, talented, baseball-obsessed, music-mad and girl-smitten.
With wit, style and a born writer’s knack for telling detail, Rich Terfry gives us the wildly entertaining story of his unusual life through the eyes of his shy but brilliant and preternaturally observant alter-ego, Buck. Born in a small town in Nova Scotia to a mother who begins yelling at him the moment he is born and a father who keeps his own counsel, Buck imbibes fear and insecurity like other kids guzzle milk. Hobbled by his fears and demons, Buck almost disappears into the “evil in the woods” that lurks just beyond the town’s border . . . until he is saved by three gifts: baseball, romantic love and music. His epic journey—full of diversions, coincidences, and larger-than-life characters—out of the darkness of his suicide-plagued childhood and into the bright wide world begins with a killer pitching arm (Buck almost makes it to the pros) and continues with his transformation into hip hop artist Buck 65. Along the way, Buck develops into a hopeless romantic and an obsessively creative, shape-shifting man who both fears life and dives into it with abandon. Wicked and Weird is a lively, sometimes shocking portrait of a life lived on the edge, by turns funny and heartbreaking. – Goodreads
**Thanks to Random House Canada for providing a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!**
Book Title: Wicked and Weird
Author: Rich Terfry
Published By: Doubleday Canada
Released: August 11, 2015
Genre: Autobiography, Canadian, Music
Date Read: August 25-September 4, 2015