A review of Ed Zulkey's paper "Thumbthing's Up"

February 6, 2013

As you may know, I produce a literary reading series (Funny Ha-Ha, February 22!), but I’m not the only Zulkey who reads in public. My mom presents papers at her very old and fancy book club and Tuesday night I watched my dad present a piece he wrote on the American cultural history of hitchhiking through the lens of his own experience participating in this most adventurous mode of transportation.  


Dad’s paper was called “Thumbthing’s Up” (har har) and he read it at the Chicago Literary Club. Whereas the Hideout, where I read, is a dive bar located near where the city stores the garbage trucks, the Literary Club met in the Skyline Club, a private club on the 24th floor of a building downtown. At the Hideout you can purchase tamales from a guy who comes in with a cooler. At the Skyline Club we were served a four-course meal. The median age at the Hideout Club is about 28 and at the Literary Club I think it’s about 100 (just kidding.) Most importantly, alcohol is available at both.

After dinner and drinks, we settled in to hear Mr. Zulkey read, which I was looking forward to since I knew he’d been working on the paper for awhile and  that it included a lot of his youthful adventures. I enjoyed my dad’s piece, which glossed over hitchhiking in American books, TV and film and examined his own history of doing so, which raised many a question in my mind, including and more than once, “Your parents let you do that?” and “And you lived after doing that?” My favorite part is the end, where my dad talks about hitchhiking and getting picked up by a pretty lady whom he later married.

In the end, I give Ed Zulkey reading at the Chicago Literary Club two thumbs up (get it? Let me know if you don’t.)

I am obviously incredibly unbiased when it comes to this review, but as they say on Reading Rainbow, you don’t have to take my word for it.