Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Philip Lopate’s memoir, A Mother’s Tale

Phillip Lopate's memoir, A Mother's Tale, is one of the most intensely absorbing and riveting books I have ever read. Lopate's mother, though dead, springs to life on the page. She is feisty, fierce, loving, bombastic, self-absorbed, narcissistic, and a thoroughly fascinating woman, who both resented and reveled in being an exhausted, devoted mother and a dissatisfied, put-upon wife. But who can blame her? She was orphaned young, mistreated by her siblings, barely educated, quasi-suicidal and when she did get married, chose her husband for that most practical and disheartening of reasons---he had a steady job. Fran Lopate raised four children and didn't find professional success until she became an actress in middle age. But boy, can she talk! Some of her observations about her sex life, which she shares with her son, the essayist and Columbia professor, Phillip Lopate, may leave you blushing, but you have to give her credit for her candor and ultimately, her indiscretion. She was a woman of few choices, until she generated them for herself. She had an incisive mind, with a keen understanding of marriage and family dynamics, and under her son's watchful gaze, with the tape recorder running, revels in examining their life together. Bravo!

After finishing the book, I emailed Professor Lopate to see if he wanted to come to speak to one of my workshops. He couldn't but it was delightful to receive a fast response from him and know that he, like writers everywhere, appreciated that his work had been read and loved.

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