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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

More Memoirs

A while ago, I wrote a piece on "Reading Memoirs" that focused on remarkable memoirs by Joan Didion and Patti Smith.  This month, I want to focus on two memoirs by men.

The first is Along the Way, a dual memoir by Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez that focuses on their father-son relationship over the years and, as well, their relationship as actors during the production of The Way.  It is enlightening to see these two talented men talk about themselves and each other, revealing their own weaknesses and regrets, strengths and hopes and discussing the impact that the other's strengths and weaknesses had on their lives:  grown fathers and sons talking about each other and themselves in a way one rarely experiences.  This is a powerful book about life, about acting, about relationships.

The second is Elsewhere, a memoir by novelist Richard Russo about his lifelong relationship with his troubled mother, from the day she decided to accompany him on his cross-country journey to college and the rest of her life, as she alternated between living near him and returning to her own home town.  As Russo (author of Nobody's Fool, Empire Falls, and Straight Man) writes, "What a next of thorns the past can be."  For me, having grown up, like Russo, with a single mother who never quite realized her dreams, Elsewhere was full of insights.

These are both powerful, personal, revelatory books by people whose work I admire greatly.  It is wonderful that they, like Didion and Smith, have been brave enough to share their experiences and insights with us.