The structure of a book of essays is something like this: strongest essay first, followed by progressively weaker essays to the point of despair, at which point you shore up the reader’s confidence with another solid essay, then repeat the petering out of bland work like a can of silly string that’s reached its last hiccups.
After reading Hickey’s first essay in this, I shouted hooray! and closed the book, eager to savor it and come back to what I knew would be lesser essays. Indeed, excerpts of Baby Breakers are available on The Paris Review. He struck first sentence gold: “I went to first grade in Fort Worth with Lee Harvey Oswald.” then goes on to write the kind of essay you get lost in, wandering in his sandy footsteps as he’s learning to surf in Santa Monica in the 1950s.
The rest of the essays vary in quality but never achieve the perfection of the first.