must truth always be held within the unrelenting I? Falling Out of Time/David Grossman

Saturday, February 7, 2015

David Grossman's elegiac Falling Out of Time is not a memoir. It is not a memoir even though it comes from such a deeply personal place—the loss of the author's own son, an inconsolable grief. The book is, instead, a Greek chorus of a book—a concussion of voices, of grieving parents, of thoughts that wander through the dark night of loss. A Town Chronicler and a Centaur, a Duke and a Midwife, a Woman in the Belfry, an Elderly Math Teacher, a Woman in Net—each character spiraling down upon the empty place where a child no longer is. The "noneness."

They walk the night. They look for signs. They ask their wives or their husbands how they will ever again love each other "when/in deep love/he was/conceived."

They rehearse their history:

Two human specks,
a mother and her child,
we glided through the world
for six whole years,
which were unto me
but a few days
and we were
a nursery rhyme
threaded with tales
and miracles–

Until ever so lightly
a breeze
a breath
a flutter
a zephyr
the leaves—

And sealed our fates:
you here
he there
over and done with,
to pieces.
 I read the book late last night and this morning, in preparation for my Tuesday class at Penn, where I will be talking about (among many other things) the various forms of memoir. The graphic memoir. The second person memoir. The third person memoir. The photographic memoir. The poem as memoir.

Grossman's book is not a memoir, as I have said. But it is a suggestion of a form that memoirists might use—a place where truth might be put and rallied after. I'm exploring that idea as I prepare for Tuesday. I put it here, to share with you.

And in the meantime, I step away from my studies today and prepare for a bit of a party in New York. We have been celebrating, this week, my father's special birthday. May the festivities continue.


Katrina said...

If I had three wishes, one of them would be to become your student at Penn. Do they know how lucky there are? But at least we get the book list. Thank you for this one, which I'd not heard of. The excerpt is heartbreaking.

Victoria Marie Lees said...

Katrina is correct, Beth. I know I've said this before. I truly wish I was one of your memoir students. They are blessed and I hope they know it. Thanks for all these suggestions to add to my reading list.

Be Living Rock said...

Oh, my. What words. And, yes, to repeat the sentiment of the other ladies, I wish I lived in your part of the world, and could be a student under your tutelage.

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