Several years ago, before I had children, I tore through a ton of
Joan Didion’s work. I began with Play It As It Lays and
ended with The
Year of Magical Thinking. The
latter was one of my all-time, no kidding, broke-me-in-half-for-a-long-time-afterwards favorite books. I’m
actually afraid to reread The Year of Magical Thinking for fear of tarnishing my original impression of
Aaron read it and said “Hey. If
you like this, you should read Patrimony.” (insert that riff from Reading Rainbow that used to play at
the end of “Don’t take my word for
Before this, I had read Goodbye Columbus (my personal favorite),
Portnoy’s Complaint, “The Conversion of the Jews,” and three-fourths of American Pastoral. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to
read Patrimony. How much mourning
literature can one person handle, right?
shot. Here’s what I thought:
keep my eyes open anymore. Though
the story is mainly about the illness that eventually killed Philip Roth’s
father, it is just as much about the life his father led long before he ever
got sick. One incident in the
present would trigger an entire chapter of memories.
think of my own family that took care of and just buried my grandmother. My parents were in Roth’s shoes. It is heartbreaking and, for most
people, indescribable. Philp Roth,
however, is a master of description.
The shaving mug. The
Houston Astronauts. The giving
things away. The tenderness you
only see when a child takes care of a parent (or vice versa). It all struck a nerve. None of it seemed contrived.
mourning), read it.
front of him?