tonight, 1/22/2010, 7 pm, come and hear the author read from and discuss his newly released memoir.
i read this in a couple of sittings yesterday, transfixed. it is a story about the impossible weight of our accountability, both the horror of our transgressions and the miracle (his word, not god’s) of our capacity to endure, to create and to love, past our expectancy of it. it is about learning and bearing witness and refusing to let go and not hiding from shame, and the difficult lesson that strength and weakness might be the two sides of one coin that has to be kept in play. it is about power and good and evil and how they can’t be separated and how we are responsible–all of us, together–for both. it is about blame and forgiveness and not being able to let go of pain but finding a way to move on with it.
the ticking is the bomb, you’ll know what i mean once you’ve read it, the title is like a koan. i think i loved it even more than his last i read, another bullshit night in suck city. a couple passages just destroyed me, many of them i had to reread a couple of times before moving on. it reads quickly and i didn’t want it to. for a couple of days i just carried it around with me before I started reading it because i wanted it close by. sometimes you just know. one of my favorite passages below.
“self-portrait as an infant in my father’s arms
I have in my hand a photograph of my father sitting in a chair–I am the infant in his arms. We both look into the camera, or at least at whoever it is that is taking the photograph–my mother, I imagine, since I found it with her things. The look on his face is heavy, as if I were a burden, as if he were burdened, though perhaps I am simply reading into it, knowing that he will be gone in a few months–impossible not to read into it. How old am I? He was gone by the time I was six months old, or we were gone, my mother taking me, us, away. Choose a version, choose a victim. The look on his face is a tunnel, leading out–no one would call it happy.
And now I have a picture of me with my daughter in my arms, in almost the same pose, all these years later. Now I am older than my mother made it to, older than my father before he walked into that bank with his forged check, smiling into the camera. I have her in my arms, and I am smiling so broadly that I barely recognize myself…
And now some weeks have passed, some sleepless weeks, and i am less certain about that photograph of me in my father’s arms. Maybe he is simply tired, bone-tired. Maybe he’s been up all night, trying to soothe me back to sleep, and what I see in his face is not unhappiness, only exhaustion. If you took a photograph of me one of these sleepless nights, pacing the apartment and singing All you need is love softly to Lulu, desperate for us to return to the land of sleep, you might say that I don’t look especially thrilled at this miracle I am holding in my arms. But you would be wrong. And so, maybe I’ve been wrong, all these years, about my father.”