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Listen to Justin's father, the man behind '. . . My Dad Says'

May 10, 2010 |  2:13 pm
Justinhalperndad

Justin Halpern, a newly dumped and apartment-less 28-year-old, washed up at his parents' house in San Diego looking for refuge. Luckily, they took him in -- lucky not just because it gave him a place to stay, but because of what happened next.

Justin, who was working as a writer for Maxim.com, found himself spending a lot of time around the house with his father. Samuel, a retired doctor with strong opinions -- and stronger language than we can replicate here -- inspired Justin, his youngest son, to begin tweeting.

Justin took things his father said, condensed them to 140 characters, and the rest is Twitter history. The profanity-laden Twitter feed now has 1.3 million followers. It has spawned a television pilot for CBS -- "Stuff My Dad Says," starring William Shatner -- and a book, whose title ends with "My Dad Says," now on shelves.

Can a Twitter feed successfully transform into a book? Well, this book is not 140-character blasts alone. In fact, many of his father's exhortations have been expanded into full phrases or are a few sentences long, too long to fit into a tweet. Each has been given a one-line intro: "On my attempt to hide a hangover," "On Pringles flavors," "On asking to have the candy passed to me during 'Schindler's List.' " Justin has also written several short essays that break up the stream of pithy statements, describing things like his father's short tenure as coach of his little league team, a science experiment gone wrong, his father's habit of sleeping naked and talking to his father about death.

It's a fun gift book that is bound to crack up anyone who flips through it -- as long as they don't mind the frequently filthy language, which is, of course, part of the fun. Most 70-somethings don't often say . . . oh, never mind. Newspaper bloggers can't say it.

Reading the book in one quick blast, as I've done, presents a different picture. Even though he seems to spend a lot of time yelling and swearing and issuing proclamations, Samuel Halpern is intriguing. He grew up poor in Kentucky, served in the Army, became a doctor and all the while held on to his own entirely unique perspective. Justin's experiences are more limited -- and in this book, he's at his best when he turns his gaze on his dad, who he's made into a Twitter star.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Justin Halpern with his father, Samuel. Credit: Justin Halpern and Harper Collins

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