Negotiating the no man’s land between ages nine and thirteen, this memoir of a small-town boy’s life in 1940s Kansas continues the story William Kloefkorn began in his much-loved volume This Death by Drowning. With characteristic humor and in prose as lyrical as his best poetry, Kloefkorn describes the unsentimental education he received at the hands of the denizens of Urie’s Barber Shop and the Rexall Drugstore and at the knees of the true characters who made up his family. From the “firefly” stunt that nearly burns down his home to the distant firestorms of World War II, fire holds an endless range of subtle and surprising lessons for the boy, whose impressions Kloefkorn conveys with the immediacy, naiveté, and poignancy of youth—and reconsiders with the wisdom and distance of age.
By turns charming and resolute, funny and moving, Restoring the Burnt Child powerfully brings to life the lost, unforgettable world of a boy, and a poet, coming of age in midcentury middle America.
William Kloefkorn (1932–2011) was an emeritus professor of English at Nebraska Wesleyan University and Nebraska’s state poet. He is the author of a previous memoir, This Death by Drowning, (Nebraska 2001), and many volumes of poetry.
"As history both personal and communal, and as performance both written and oral, this book gives us [Kloefkorn] at his best."—David Pichaske, Great Plains Quarterly
“Imagine the renegade, 14-year old spirit of Huck Finn in the massive body of Merlin Olsen, gentlest of the giants who were the L.A. Rams’ legendary ‘Fearsome Foursome,’ and you’ve got Bill Kloefkorn. Or as close as you can get.”—Harold Hill, Lincoln Journal Star
2008 One Book, One Nebraska selection
2004 Nebraska Book Award, non-fiction category winner, sponsored by the Nebraska Center for the Book