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domingo, 11 de mayo de 2008

What's In a Memoir

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.
J. D. Salinger

A memoir recounts events, explicates a life, explores history, and draws lessons. A memoir should excite, tell truth, affront, and reveal. No preaching allowed. A memoir should be an honest novel.

My father, Melvin Albert, advised, cajoled, defended, and supported. He was a liberal corporate lawyer. Alzheimer's killed him before he died.

My mother, Pearl Fleischman, taught kindergarten and fourth grade and labored over house, home, and health. Mom was appreciated by all. A few weeks before her 91st birthday she died. Relentless cancer was her Armageddon. The ocean became her cemetery.

I was told my early family lived in the same building as the great comedian Milton Berle. Uncle Miltie reputedly said, "If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door." Did I get my door-building predilections from Miltie?

My sister is nine years my senior. When I was five Anita was fourteen. She was a girl, then a woman. I was a boy, then whatever. Young, we barely crossed paths. Anita went to Cornell, in Ithaca, New York. I saw Cornell while visiting Anita and liked Ithaca's natural gorges. As a high school junior, I summered at Cornell in a science program for budding Stephen Hawkings.

Anita married Jack Karasu, from Turkey, whom she met at Cornell. Jack's business took Anita to Spain. When Anita returned to the U.S., an artist and teacher, she and I lived far apart. Years later, Anita moved nearer and we are now sister and brother sharing life's circumstances.

Anita's son, my nephew Marc, works in New York City in advertising. At Marc's Bar Mitzvah I gave him a copy of Che's writings. For his last fifteen years, Seymour Melman was Anita's partner. Seymour was a teacher/activist who spent his life fighting for peace and against military economy.

To assess family influences is perhaps a fool's errand. My brother Eddie and I had the same parents and sister, lived in the same places, and had similar mental faculties. But rather than becoming two peas in a pod, we became an apple and an kumquat or a tuna and a turtle.

Eddie was eight years my senior. We both liked sports, TV, and boy things. As a preteen I always sought Eddie's company. This annoyed him and I remember Eddie would make me say uncle while I held out against submission. Did lopsided familial fighting produce insecurities? Or did withstanding big brother's bullying produce a strong will?

Eddie was smart and congenial but his life pirouetted from a typical suburban trajectory into callous, near-suicidal gambling. Contingent choices of whom to befriend steered Eddie's options. With a little twist, perhaps Eddie would have had radical social concerns. Perhaps I would have suffered consumptive addictions.

As a young kid I watched Eddie's continuous heated conflicts with my parents. Did a soap-opera youth make me too timid or did it make me properly cautious? Either way, I decided in ninth grade that whatever I would do in life, I would reject subservience to parents, teachers, and siblings. I would respect reason, but not take orders. I became my own person. No big catharsis. No tumultuous introspection. I just found my own drum and started banging. Bang, bang, here is a memoir.

1 comentario:

scherzando dijo...

Who wrote this?

it is very important that you get in touch!

Scherzandok@gmail.com

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