Blog #176: Louise DeSalvo’s Chasing Ghosts–News Of A Patremoir From the Woolf World

List of Matremoirs

List of Patremoirs

Children of Writers

Thanks to a mailing from the Virginia Woolf Listserv, the patremoir has swum back into my ken. News of a new book by Louise DeSalvo has sparked a couple of patremoir thoughts, one personal, the other general. The general thought is that there are a lot of patremoirs which are prompted by the warrior father, Odysseus fathers one might call them, in which the child sets out to recover the father as a survivor of war. Unfortunately, I haven’t made a separate list all the books which fall into that category, but my sense is that there are over a dozen such books. They include Breaking the Code by Karen Fisher-Alaniz, My Father’s Secret War by Lucinda Franks, and the You’ll Never Know graphic memoir series by Carol Tyler. Writing about the soldier father makes sense, insofar as the soldier father is also the absent father, the mysterious father. Studying such books might also reveal possible impacts of having a father who was trained as a soldier. In my own case, for instance, I’ve always felt that my father’s military background and his experiences in WW II played a significant part in shaping our family dynamic.

It would seem that my general thought had a personal aspect. As for the personal thought, it probably has a public aspect. The personal thought simply lies in the realization that I’ve traveled a long way from the patremoir. It has been months since I’ve updated my patremoir and matremoir lists, even though I have quite a number of new books which could be added to the lists. I still make a note of such books when I stumble across one, yet I lack the interest or motivation to keep the list current. Exploring To the Lighthouse and Virginia Woolf’s life (both the lived life and the read life) is far more interesting and exciting. There is nothing as satisfying to me as trying to tease out the complexity and the richness of Virginia’s thought. Interesting and original as some patremoirs and matremoirs can be, I’ve lost my interest in them as a genre.

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