The Harry Variationsby Hav Gefter
Hav Gefter (1931—2006) was an American original, a prolific writer in love with the English language, who put millions of deliberately chosen words on paper, who wrote a succession of fascinating literary works, and who was only published in the very last two years of his life. His works are noted for their honest and graphic descriptions of sex and human… See more details below
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Hav Gefter (1931—2006) was an American original, a prolific writer in love with the English language, who put millions of deliberately chosen words on paper, who wrote a succession of fascinating literary works, and who was only published in the very last two years of his life. His works are noted for their honest and graphic descriptions of sex and human behavior, and for their invention and use of language.
In late 1973, Hav Gefter received a phone call from his younger sister Joan, known from childhood as “Babe.” The news was grim; their father, Harry, was in a Los Angeles hospital, suffering the advanced stages of colon cancer, and was not expected to live much longer. If he wanted to see his father alive he should fly down to LA right away.
Harvey and his father were always in conflict. In most ways, Harry never understood his son. Harry was a tireless worker, a man who put in twelve hour days at his market, often working seven days a week. He saw no reason for living except to work, and work, as defined by Harry, meant endless toil and labor. When he looked at his son, Harvey, he could not understand what he saw, a boy who listened to classical records and not popular music, who read not pulp thrillers and comic books, but impossibly dense books by Tolstoy and other unrecognizable authors. Art and music enchanted Harvey Gefter and he wanted nothing so much as to spend his life both creating and enjoying art. Harry saw Harvey as a lazy bum and Harvey saw his father as a ruthless tyrant.
By the time Babe called Harvey with news of their fathers approaching death, the two had stopped speaking, and with four hundred miles between them, it seemed nothing was going to change that. But Harvey immediately got on a plane and flew down to Los Angeles. He not only wanted to see his father before he died, but the writer in him could not be denied the drama. Even while his father lay dying, he began the work that he would title, “The Harry Variations.”
“The Harry Variations” is one of Hav Gefter’s most accessible books. His disdain for story or structure was defeated by the timeline of his father’s approaching death, and he followed it hypnotically. It is a moving and touching work. There have been many works on the subject of a child confronting a parent’s death. “The Harry Variations” is one of the most unique.
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