Author Philip Smith's Family is Weirder Than Yours

Miami native Philip Smith’s childhood story is so odd, he had to get documentation to prove his memoir wasn’t a lie. Last week, the thin, urbane former managing editor of GQ Magazine released his book Walking Through Walls -- a tale set in the Magic City -- that tracks what it’s like to live with a psychic healer father in the trippy 1960s. While Miami isn’t exactly known for its throngs of intellectuals (or, you know, people who read stuff) this one might make folks turn off the TV.

Coral Gables’ Books and Books, where he’ll be reading at October 4, previews his writing this way: “An astonishing memoir of growing up in a household where séances, talking spirits, and exorcisms were daily occurrences, and inexplicable psychic healings resulted in visitors suddenly discarding their crutches and wheelchairs or being cured of fatal diseases.” Smith spent eight years writing, digging through tape recordings, videos and photographs to finish the nationally distributed book, published by Simon and Schuster. (Watch him talk about it here.)

It promises to be a story of quintessential Miami strangeness. Smith tells Riptide 2.0 he remembers sick people knocking on the door in the middle of the night and that, “It was a bit like living with an emergency room physician.” His father, a Jewish immigrant, was constantly getting harassed by city authorities. Customs enforcement busted him for importing homeopathic herbs and police “roughed him up” for being different. His dad lived like a comic book character: Interior designer by day; miraculous healer by night. As teenager, it posed one problem: You can’t get away with anything if the old man is psychic. It also doesn’t do much for the adolescent quest to “just fit in.”

"We were like the Adam's Family," he says.

Publishers Weekly calls Smith “a gifted humorist,” and we’re just happy to hear somebody else’s parents are weirder than our own.

-- Natalie O'Neill

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