Thursday, June 13, 2013

Top ten father memoirs

Andre Gerard is the founder of Patremoir Press and the editor of Fathers: a Literary Anthology.

One of his top ten father memoirs, as told to the Guardian:
Father and Son by Edmund Gosse

The first of all father memoirs, this is still one of the best. Interestingly, Gosse's first attempt to write about his father took the form of an official biography. Written shortly after his father's death on 23 August 1888, The Life of Philip Henry Gosse was admired by Henry James as "a singularly clever, skilful, vivid, well-done biography of his father, the fanatic and naturalist – very happy in proportion, tact and talent". Luckily, at least two other readers – John Addington Symonds and George Moore – suggested that Gosse should be more autobiographical and explore the father-son relationship.

Almost 20 years later, Gosse unburdened himself of Father and Son. Though the book was an immediate success and the reviews were largely enthusiastic, the reviewer of the Academy had reservations about the "close anatomisation by a son of a father", and the Times Literary Supplement raised the question of "how far in the interests of popular edification or amusement it is legitimate to expose the weaknesses and inconsistencies of a good man who is also one's father". Perhaps not always fortunately, subsequent writers, far more frank and confessional, showed far fewer qualms in writing about their fathers.
Read about the other books on the list.

Father and Son is one of Alexander Waugh's five best books that capture the complexities of father-son relationships. Susan Cheever called it a "model for writing about a parent."

--Marshal Zeringue