Mr. Gutkind typically works like an anthropologist garnering material for his books. He spends years gaining entrance to and carefully observing a closed community -- organ transplantation, robotics engineers, baseball umpires -- then delivers an insightful, character-driven chronicle that unveils that subculture with dramatic flair and intensity.
In Truckin' With Sam, however, the closed-community motif is personal: His own father-son relationships.
In his 2003 memoir, Forever Fat, Mr. Gutkind first delved into his stormy relationship with his dad. This new book amplifies many of those 1950s traumas, but it aims to be a corrective by focusing on the new generation. Sam Gutkind's coming-of-age, under the tutelage of a literati father, will not resemble Mr. Gutkind's bar mitzvah experience.