Terry Teachout was a clumsy, nearsighted teacher's pet who grew up in Sikeston, Missouri, population 17,431—"A Community That Works!" as its boosters trumpet.
Teachout stumbled through Little League and Boy Scouts, he tells us in his memoir, and distinguished himself in school as "the very worst kind of Goody Two-Shoes." He carried an olive-drab briefcase and once fell down a flight of stairs while trying to impress two girls. Teachout writes well of his own sissyhood. In fact, I wish he had given us more: the pain, the awkwardness, the pockmarks, the right-field misplays, the Friday nights spent squirreled away reading sci-fi paperbacks, the unrealized cheerleader fantasies. This is the book Teachout should have written: Memories of a Small-Town Geek.
As a teenager, Teachout finds partial social salvation through music. He takes up the violin and the bass guitar and discovers "the incomparable joy of doing something really well." He joins a hillbilly band. Sour Mash, and plays "I Saw the Light" in churches and Holiday Inn bars. Although his bandmates make him the butt of their crude jokes, Teachout finally belongs. What's more, he is—in a retro way—cool.
City Limits drags us along with Teachout to William Jewell College, where Greek-Independent rivalry flares; then to a bank teller's job in Kansas City, where he sees a stick-up...