- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
In her introduction to Close to the Bone: Memoirs of Hurt, Rage and Desire, anthologist Laurie Stone celebrates the fact that "we no longer require that writers mask their stories as fiction in order to tell them." Stone's implication -- that novels are merely personal history too cowardly to appear under its correct name -- does an injustice to both genres. Dostoevski was not a nihilistic murderer who thought he'd better hide his transgressions under the name of Raskolnikov; Crime and Punishment is an act of sympathetic imagination, not a lie. The fact that a memoir asserts its "reality" does not guarantee that the emotions it describes will always ring true. In Close to the Bone, for example, Jerry Stahl writes of his crack addiction: "Maybe I needed to break through the barrier of my own self-loathing, sink into some other region where ... I was shit in front of the world." Not every reader will experience a frisson of identification with this prosaic insight.
The anthology's eight pieces are bound together by a theme common in both fiction and memoir: the chasm between our desire for unconditional love and the slim chances of finding it. If we look to our parents for such love, then, on the evidence of these pieces, failure is certain. Parenting in these tales ranges from the sadistic to the rejecting to the neglectful. In an essay titled "Baby Doll," for example, a writer named Terminator recounts, in vivid snatches, his desperate seduction of his abusive mother's boyfriend: "I feel the tearing and remember the feeling from the last time. He was a cowboy, [my mother] was passed out, and I had to get stitches from a local doctor he knew."
Even in less violent pieces, maternal rejection is a constant. Stone's "Hump" connects her mother's coldness with her own childlessness and the failures of her intimate relationships. The powerful sexuality of Catherine Texier's mother in "My Father's Picture" leaves little room for her daughter's needs. Neglect, meanwhile, is the domain of fathers, as in Lois Gould's mordant analysis of her father's misogyny in "Businessman," or Phillip Lopate's confrontation with the decaying body of his misanthropic sire in "The Story of My Father." These narratives are insightful and affecting, but they made me wish it were easier to forget or forgive our parents' failures.
Close to the Bone, Stone says, "draws fuel from the erotics of knowledge." If "eros" implies pleasure, however, then little about these narratives is erotic. It's not just that sex is represented as aggressive and joyless. Close to the Bone delineates a world in which friendship, political solidarity, spirituality -- all the communal structures human beings do, somehow, manage to produce -- are absent, their place taken by a vague lyricism, as in Jane Creighton's "Brother": "I reach for bodies, a father and a mother alive, caressing voices, the chatter of children growing out of themselves and into something else ..." The depressing implication of Close to the Bone is that no amount of "reaching for bodies" can overcome the individual's isolation in a solipsistic world. -- Salon