Generally speaking, I try to avoid blogging about my personal life. I'm a private person by nature (I know that seems at odds with being a blogger) and I've never thought that readers would be particularly interested in knowing too much about me. I've always assumed it's the books (and the occasional cycling reference) that brings you back.
But I've gotten a fair amount of email this morning so I wanted to stop back and let you know that my father is in the hospital. He's been there all weekend with an atrial fibrillation, and a procedure is scheduled for tomorrow which they hope will return the irregular heartbeat to normal. My father has been in poor health for more than 10 years since he suffered total kidney failure. He goes for dialysis three times a week and although he's had a surprisingly fine quality of life in the intervening years, he is slowing down. It's complicated further by the fact that my family is in NY and I'm here in LA. I feel helpess and removed, and also guilty as my mother and sister bear the emotional burdens of his day to day care. (My mother suffered a very similar emotional fate during the declining days of her parents in Vienna.)
At any rate, I suppose it always comes back to books for me in some form, and so it's oddly appropriate that I should be reading John Berger's haunting and lovely new book Here is Where We Meet, a "fictional memoir" (a term I do despise) in which John meets his dead mother on the streets of Lisbon and together they look back remembering their lives. It's a poignant, beautiful work, perhaps a bit melancholy for me at the moment given the circumstance, but very much worth reading.
My father and I have always had a close if uneasy relationship. I think he's never known quite what to make of me and I'm not certain I haven't been a vague disappointment to him. (Certainly, watching-the-ball-game Sundays were never to be had with me.) But I know he loves me and the feeling is surely mutual. About eight years ago we went to England together, just the two of us, and there were long drives and dinners and talks. Even though our politics have always been diametrically opposed - a source of tension over the years - something changed during that trip. He told me, afterward via email, how much he enjoyed the trip and how much he liked the man I'd become. Given that even today, at the age of forty, the need for parental approval remains irritatingly high, it will surprise no one that I still keep that email.
So I find myself thinking this morning about literary fathers and sons. Certainly, I've come across a few lately - fathers and sons are threads through Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Close and Incredibly Loud; Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time; Siddartha Deb's The Point of Return. There's even a paternal dimension to Ian McEwan's Saturday. I'm tempted to kick Gilead up in the reading order now. And then there are the great literary fathers and sons, from Hamlet to Turgenev. What about you? What are notable father/son (or mother/daughter for that matter) literary relationships that resonate for you? I'd like to know. The comments box awaits you.
See you all in a few days.