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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
If I'd a Knowed: A Gay Writer Writes About Writing and Other Stuff is a non-fiction collection of memoirs and essays written by Tom Beattie. Beattie always knew he was destined to be a writer and have his works published, but he wasn't quite prepared for what happened when he did publish Ad Majorem: A Gay Man's Spiritual Testament, his autobiographical account of growing up in the shadow of his iconic hero and role model, St. Ignatius of Loyola. While the responses to his autobiography run the gamut from being considered visionary to fanciful, Beattie takes it all in as a learning experience; one he cautions others who may be considering penning and publishing the details, dreams and experiences of their past to prepare themselves for. And despite what some may have said concerning the analysis he gives of Ignatius, Beattie still thinks that canny Jesuit would've appreciated his discernment, or, at least, the neat picture of him that graces the cover of that book. The essays in If I'd a Knowed continue in much the same vein as Ad Majorem, with the benefit of the author's hindsight. He discusses the details involved in getting a book published and noticed, and shares what seemed to work and what, sadly, didn’t. The author’s take on current social issues are also covered in this collection. Throughout the work, Beattie includes marvelous commentary courtesy of Mark Twain and concludes with questions over what the next four years may bring for LGBTQs and other minorities in this country.
An old friend of Beattie’s, who he describes in Ad Majorem as conducting enlightenment seminars, had these words of wisdom for the author upon receipt of his book: Write More Books. I agree and hope that Tom Beattie does just that. I wasn’t sure what to expect in his latest offering, but I was quite pleased with what I found within this book, though, in retrospect, I would have expected no less from him. Beattie is a writer, and a gifted one at that, even if his first book didn’t automatically skyrocket to the top of the charts. His writing is inspiring, funny and, above all, written in a personal manner that speaks directly to the reader. There’s no pretense or artifice here -- you get Beattie, along with Iggy and, this time, Mark Twain, all boon companions and on the same wavelength -- more or less.
Those readers who are old enough to remember the bad old days of Catholic School discipline and fear will probably marvel, as I did, at how Beattie could put such a breezy spin on it, acknowledging the bad and somehow rising above and effortlessly lampooning those sisters who probably would have smacked Iggy, had they had the opportunity. While you can read this book (and you should), without having reading Ad Majorem, do consider reading them both. Tom Beattie has a lot to say, and I’d be quite surprised if others don’t enjoy the experience of reading his memoirs as much as I have. Yes, write more books, Tom, there’s definitely an audience for your words, even if they don’t make you a top ten best seller -- though you never do know. If I'd a Knowed: A Gay Writer Writes About Writing and Other Stuff is most highly recommended.