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Heart, Memoir, Book, Memoir, Private Matters

July 16, 2013

I’m reading three books at once, which is impossible. Or should I maybe more correctly say that the three books that I’m reading are impossible?

They are three books by two psychotherapists about their respective fathers. Their fathers are very famous writers, whose books of fiction I have much appreciated.The factual biographies about these famous writers are written, by their children, now after their respective deaths.

The biographers, respectively, are conflicted about much of what they have felt compelled to write, to publicize, about their fathers. You can imagine the heart issues, the book life, the private matters. These children, now professionals of the human soul, have an unusual role to play in their writing. How much analysis do they do, how much do they share?

In this blog post soon, you’ll read which books these are. They are well written and are elsewhere well reviewed. I’d recommend them to you. When I say they’re impossible, then I’m just being personal. I think the books are personal. I’ve come to these three books after my own father died. After finding his own notes in a book by a psychologist named Paul Tournier, I started reading books about psychotherapy by psychotherapists, Jung, Freud, Adler. (This some has to do with the fact that one of my own children is studying to be a psychologist, and her grandfather, my father, encouraged this some.) At any rate, these are private matters, no? Here is my own father’s handwriting in the Tournier book:

What I’m intrigued by is how many many people knew my father. And yet how few knew him as I did. So does one tell what one knows? Why? How? Where? For whom? For posterity? For the grandchildren?

These are some of the motives of Greg Bellow. He’s one of the biographers of one of these three books I’m reading. His is Saul Bellow’s Heart: A Son’s Memoir. His very title, with its subtitle, is fractured by the punctuation dividing the one from the other. The book itself starts at the funeral, at the son’s realization how there are others in Saul Bellow’s family (a literary family, nothing like Greg Bellow’s family growing up). The book itself is structured so as to tell of two fathers, two Saul Bellows.

The motives of Janna Malamud Smith were similar. She is the other of the biographers, the biographer of the other two books I am reading. Hers are Private Matters: In Defense of the Personal Life and My Father is a Book: A Memoir of Bernard Malamud. She inspired Greg Bellow perhaps. Her father and his father were friends and were both the famous writers of fiction, the very influential writers of books, that I mentioned at the start of this blogpost. She starts off a talk about their fathers, and their biographies, in a video online here.

I think these three books belong together in a way. I think they are in part the intersection of two families, two children, two professions, two sorts of writing, in books. I said reading these is impossible. And yet I’m quite sure if I don’t I will have missed much. Already the fathers have impacted me. And now I find more in common with these their two children. Private matters, heart, memoir, book, memoir, are now open, to be opened and read.

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