The Tricky Part: One Boy's Fall from Trespass into Grace

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"Between the ages of twelve and fifteen, Martin Moran had a sexual relationship with an older man, a counselor he'd met at a Catholic boys' camp. Almost thirty years later, at the age of forty-two, he set out to find and face his abuser." "The Tricky Part tells the story of this relationship and its complex effect on the man Moran became. He grew up in an exemplary Irish Catholic family - his great aunt was a cloistered nun; his father, a newspaper reporter. They might have lived in the Denver neighborhood of Virginia Vale, but they belonged to
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The Tricky Part: One Boy's Fall from Trespass into Grace

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Overview

"Between the ages of twelve and fifteen, Martin Moran had a sexual relationship with an older man, a counselor he'd met at a Catholic boys' camp. Almost thirty years later, at the age of forty-two, he set out to find and face his abuser." "The Tricky Part tells the story of this relationship and its complex effect on the man Moran became. He grew up in an exemplary Irish Catholic family - his great aunt was a cloistered nun; his father, a newspaper reporter. They might have lived in the Denver neighborhood of Virginia Vale, but they belonged to Christ the King, the church and school up the hill. And the lessons Martin absorbed, as a good Catholic boy, were filled with the fraught mysteries of the spirit and the flesh." "Into that world came Bob - a Vietnam vet carving a ranch camp out of the mountain wilderness, showing the boys under his care how to milk cows, mend barbed wire fence, and raft rivers. He drove a six-wheeled International Harvester truck; he could read the stars like a map. He also noticed a young boy who seemed a little unsure of himself, and he introduced that boy to the secret at the center of bodies." Told with startling candor and disarming humor, The Tricky Part carries us to the heart of a paradox - that what we think of as damage may be the very thing that gives rise to transformation, even grace.

Second-Place Winner of the 2005 2005 Discover Award, Nonfiction

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Editorial Reviews

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The snapshot on the cover captures the author at 12, standing in a kayak, full of life and hope. It was this boy who, one night at a Catholic boy's camp, was seduced by an older man, beginning a sexual relationship that would last for 3 years. Nearly 30 years later, at the age of 42, Moran, racked with conflicting emotions, sets out to confront the perpetrator -- and his past. What he finds is an old man in a VA hospital -- and the mystery of grace.

The Tricky Part is a book about complex issues, each of which Moran considers with sensitivity and generosity of heart. But mostly, it's about the "story that would not let [him] go." Moran has crafted a memoir of searing honesty and extraordinary courage, tackling the themes of sexuality, spirituality, and the loss of innocence. With an expertly woven narrative of past and present, The Tricky Part startles, provokes, and sends chills up one's spine. In his search, Moran uncovered profound truths that change the reader as much as they changed Moran, for it isn't blame that pervades this stunning book, but forgiveness.

In conclusion, Moran leaves readers with a question: Is it "possible that what harms us might come to restore us"? As his title suggests, that's the tricky part. (Fall 2005 Selection)
Carolyn See
Martin Moran was a victim of a man who couldn't control those impulses, and it almost ruined a boy's life. But it didn't. Moran's courage was immeasurable, and it should be an inspiration to those children, who -- by the worst set of circumstances -- find themselves in similar situations.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
To everyone else in the Denver neighborhood where he grew up in the '70s, Moran was a studious Catholic boy. No one knew he carried a secret that would fester for 30 years and lead to extreme anxiety, sexual compulsion and suicide attempts. At age 12 he met Bob, a church camp counselor in his 30s who, for several years, took Moran hiking and camping, and had sex with him. Moran painfully recounts the inner workings of a lonely, insecure adolescent who, out of a desperate need for friendship and acceptance, continued a sexual relationship with a man 20 years his senior. Feeling guilty and shameful regarding the affair and his homosexuality, Moran lived a life in which the erotic and the illicit fused, and compulsive sex became a means of self-punishment. Over the years, Moran, now a writer and actor, managed to glean bits of guidance and self-acceptance from his aunt, a contemplative nun; a New Age music teacher; friends; and eventually, recovery groups and therapy. Moran's Catholic-American gothic differs from other abuse/recovery/coming-out memoirs in that it examines a uniquely gay mind/body split as it subtly reflects on a gay man's spiritual quest for self-determination and love. Agent, Malaga Baldi Literary. (June) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A remarkable memoir provides an absorbing depiction of abuse and its aftermath. Marty Moran, a good boy from a Catholic family in Colorado, was 12 when he spent the weekend with a camp counselor named Bob. By day, they did manual labor, working on the summer camp Bob was building. By night, Bob slipped into bed next to Marty and molested him. The friendship, and the sex, continued for three years. Sometimes Marty joined Bob in bed with Bob's girlfriend for a molestation menage a trois. Other times, Bob would invite over several boys and have sex with each of them, one after another ("we were part of some secret club; a blonde, blue-eyed bordello"). At 15, Marty told Bob he was ashamed of their relationship and he never wanted to see him again. And now, in middle age, Marty tracks down his molester and confronts him. Bob is pathetic. He makes excuses. Marty is both forgiving and firm. Throughout, Moran approaches his topic with subtlety and nuance. He admits that at times he enjoyed the sex, and he doesn't shy away from saying that it emboldened him, in fact aroused him. The author also deserves kudos for his deft treatment of the consequences of the molestation. He makes clear that the abuse formed him, shaped him, scarred him-but he never sounds whiny or victimized or predictable. As an adult, Moran wrestles with sex "addiction." Though he's in a long-term, stable and loving homosexual relationship with Henry, he occasionally prowls the streets and gay bars for the thrill of an anonymous coupling. Moran loves Henry, and his stable life, but he feels some compulsion for secret, hidden sex-a compulsion he knows he can trace back to Bob. Eventually, he confesses to Henry and goes intotherapy. Henry stands by his man, hurt, but committed to Moran. A must-read for anyone touched by sexual abuse.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807072622
  • Publisher: Beacon
  • Publication date: 6/15/2005
  • Edition description: None
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.04 (w) x 9.26 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Martin Moran
Broadway actor Martin Moran's courageous memoir, The Tricky Part, is a masterful ode to the power of forgiveness. Seduced by an older man as an adolescent, Moran, haunted by the experience, tracks him down some 30 years later. The result is an inspiration no reader will soon forget.

Biography

Martin Moran grew up in Denver and attended Stanford University and The American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. He lives in New York City where he works as an actor and a writer.

He has appeared in many Broadway and Off Broadway plays including Titanic, Cabaret, Bells Are Ringing and Floyd Collins. He was awarded a 2001 Fellowship for Creative Non-Fiction from the New York Foundation of the Arts.

He won a 2004 Obie Award for his one-man play, The Tricky Part, which New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley praised for the quiet victory of "rendering chaos with this kind of clarity." Moran continues to perform The Tricky Part all over the country.

Biography courtesy of the author's official web site.

Good To Know

Some fun and fascinating outtakes from our interview with Moran:

"I've performed in almost ten Broadway shows. I am about to take over for David Hyde Pierce in the musical Spamalot on Broadway. I feel so lucky to have found this combination in life of very collaborative – theatrical -- work, and the more solitary pursuit of writing."

"I have been with my partner, Henry Stram, for 21 years. We are both actors."

"One of my first jobs after I came to New York was sewing countless tiny shiny buttons onto the eyes of the Woody the Woodpecker balloon for the Macy's Day Parade!"

"I love to ski, to swim, and I think yoga and meditation (along with a good therapist) have saved my life. I love to ride my bike in Manhattan. With a helmet. I love going to the movies. I am a total French nut. I love France and love speaking the language."

"Singing makes me joyful. I thank God that singing has been my bread and butter. I think singing, finding my voice, led me to writing. My father was a beautiful writer. He died just a week after The Tricky Part was released.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Marty Moran Jr.
    2. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      December 29, 1959
    2. Place of Birth:
      Denver, Colorado
    1. Education:
      Stanford University, 1978-80; American Conservatory Theater, 1981; B.A., SUNY Empire State College, 1991
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

The Tricky Part

One Boy's Fall from Trespass into Grace
By Martin Moran

Beacon Press

ISBN: 0-8070-7262-1


Chapter One

March 28, 2002. It's Holy Thursday. That's Catholic for three days before Easter, and I'm in Las Vegas. I've come from my home in New York City to visit my father. We're at Vons, a fluorescent grocery store roughly the size of Manhattan, waiting in line to pay for pork chops. There's a bank of slot machines near the exit clanging away, and I find, as I do each time I come to this desert city, that I'm in shock to think it's here Dad's retired and will likely die.

There, on a rack in the checkout line, on the cover of Time magazine, is a gray and ominous drawing of the back of a bishop and these words: Can the Catholic Church Save Itself? The headlines of the scandal are everywhere at the moment. It's an uprising, the body of Mother Church erupting with such force that the shock waves are reverberating, at long last, all the way up to her head. Cardinal Law will resign before the year is out. I reach for a copy of the magazine.

"Jesus, that's been goin' on for a thousand years," my father says, jutting a finger at Time. "Did I ever tell you what happened to your aunt when she was little?"

"No, Dad."

"Father Murray, the basement of St. Bede's. I don't know what went on, but thank God the janitor happened by. I never knew anything about it until your aunt refused to let Murray say your grandmother's funeral mass."

I say to my dad, "Wow," but nothing else, because suddenly I'm riveted by a photo, page twenty-eight, of Father Kos and a Dallas boy, age twelve, who killed himself at twenty-one. I know the story of Kos and his altar boys; I'd cut every clip of it from the papers in '98 and stuck them in the thick file I keep under my desk. I'd read about the young men who'd gone to court and were awarded millions and the promise of a public apology from the Archdiocese of Dallas. I can recall the New York Times photo of them, handsome and courageous in their suits and ties, sitting at a table, along with one stricken mother who was there on behalf of her deceased son. I'd seen all this but I'd never, until this moment, seen the face-God, the face-of the boy who shot himself dead. His tiny-toothed smile, the light in his eyes, are absolutely haunting. He's in altar-boy frocks, all white, and the arm of the man with the Roman collar is slung behind his slim shoulders.

"Do you want me to buy that for you?" my father asks. I look into his kind old face and wonder, again, what it would mean, what it would be like, to tell him the story.

"No thanks, Dad, I'll get it."

This story that will not let me go.

April 1, 2002. Easter Monday. I've left my dad in Vegas and I'm in Los Angeles to visit my goddaughter; maybe pick up some acting work. I'm headed south, or possibly east, in the haze of the Hollywood Freeway when my cell phone gives three bleeps. A message. Maybe a job. One hand firmly on the wheel, I press voicemail, put the thing to my ear.

Marty, it's Bob C- hit the brake. The SUV behind me honks). I got your letter saying you'd be traveling West. I'd dearly love to see you. I'm at the Veterans Hospital in LA. Here's my number....

I take the next exit and come to a stop in the glare of a 7-Eleven parking lot, stunned that he's alive, that my letter actually found him.

I'd lost all track of Bob. I'd spoken to him once, by phone, nine years before when I was on a visit to Denver, my hometown. I'd sat, I remember, on the edge of my mother's bed, next to the phone, possessed suddenly by the idea of contacting him. My fingers had trembled as I dialed the number I'd just searched for and found. I was shocked when he picked up right away. We had a curt conversation: It does no good to dwell on the past, he'd said. I've made my peace with God. I hope you do too. Then he'd given me his address, saying that I should write. Numb, I'd jotted it down on the back of a housepainter's business card that was sitting on my mother's nightstand and stuck it in my wallet. Where it remained until, a few weeks before taking this trip West, gripped again with the idea of finding him, I called once more. Disconnected. No address. No further information. He must be dead, I figured, or moved long ago. I'd waited too many years. I mailed a note anyway with a Please Forward to the old address-some little town in California. I never imagined I'd hear from him, let alone that we'd ever be in the same place at the same time.

I pick up my cell and half dial him, hang up. Half dial, hang up. Come on, I tell myself, do it. Just do it. He answers on the second ring:

"Hello."

The pitch, the tenor of his voice enters my body like a lance. Him, after all these years. Him, reduced to a little human hum across a wireless. Very businesslike, we arrange to meet.

Thursday, April 4, 2002, the morning of the meeting.

My old high school friend, Jodi, prints out directions from her house in North Hollywood to the Veterans' Complex off Sepulveda Boulevard. "Good luck, Mart," she says. "Wring his friggin' neck for me."

Jodi is quick to fury on this subject, which always sets me to wondering about anger. My own anger, whatever, wherever it is, feels lost or buried somehow in complicity, I think. As if having wanted, allowed, has squelched any right I have to wrath or innocence. I remember when I first told Jodi all that happened, she looked at me with such pity that I blurted: "Hey, doll, I'm OK. It's not like the guy murdered me, calm down." "I'm so sorry that happened to you," she said, and I watched as she glanced across the room at her child, and the worry that flashed over her face told me I'd lived her idea of a parent's nightmare. And then I think of another friend who, when I shared the story said, "Oh, my ... weren't you a lucky little boy." When he said it, I laughed like a lunatic.

It's a gorgeous day.

Bob's instructions take me to a red-roofed convalescent home. I park the car. I get out and walk past the well-kept lawns and palm trees. A pretty place for mending, I think.

I ask for C-, please?

Crisp and smiling, the nurse points to the elevator. "Second floor, dear."

"Thank you."

First I step into the men's room for a pee, for a breath. I stand in a stall and take from my pocket two double-A batteries. I'd meant to do this in the car. Forgot. So, standing there in front of a toilet, I snap them into my little tape recorder like a lousy spy. I don't really know why I'm doing this. It's as if I'm afraid that without a record I'll forget everything or never believe any of it actually happened. As I snap the batteries in, I'm thinking: This is rude. Maybe illegal, immoral ... fuck it. I stick the recorder in my jacket pocket and catch myself in the mirror above the sink and break into a crazy grin.

The corridor is long, hospital-white. There are two to a room. I check the names, scrawled in black marker, tucked beneath plastic next to each door. Dazed-looking vets are everywhere. Some walking silently, wheeling IVs. Some staring out the window. The long hair, the age, say Vietnam. As I walk I rehearse lines in my head, afraid I'll go blank when I see him.

Do you remember the last time I saw you?

Bob, who was it, exactly, who sent you to prison?

And then the door is open and I'm thinking there must be a mistake because it's his name there but I don't recognize either person in the room.

In the far bed, a dark-skinned man is coughing up what appears to be part of his lunch. In the nearer bed, sitting up, is a plump person with a mop of white hair who looks to be someone's grandmother. My first thought is: Are there women vets here? There must be, I figure, but wait, it is a man and he-like everyone else-is wearing a rose-colored frock, prison-like, with faint numbers stenciled above the breast pocket. He's holding a plastic fork, poking at broccoli. Slowly, the face revolves toward the door, blinks once.

"Are you Marty?"

I nod. His voice, no question.

"I never would have recognized you," he says, and in that instant, like a shift from blurred to sharp, I get him. Exactly. Under the mop of grandmother hair I apprehend the features of the vigorous, thirty-year-old man I once knew. This is him, the guy who taught me about Buckminster Fuller and geodesic domes. This is the guy who took me glacier sliding. It was the summer after seventh grade, on a raft trip. He led a group of us campers into some Wyoming peaks and we came across a huge glacier and he said to all the boys: "OK, OK, climb up and slide down!" Everyone was terrified. Nobody moved, and Bob whispered into my ear: "I know you can do it." And I just turned and climbed and climbed. It must have been a quarter-mile long, this thing. I got to the top and tied my jacket around my butt and all the other guys linked arms at the bottom of the glacier to keep me from slamming into the rocks. It was insane. I screamed the whole way down and they caught me! I was king for a day. Brave, for once. This is the guy who woke me late one night at the mountain ranch and said: "Hey, come with me, Marty, you gotta see this." He grabbed a lantern and took me to the barn. The vet had come in the middle of the night to help deliver a calf. Bob and the vet had their arms all up in there because the cow was in trouble and suddenly this rickety-legged creature covered with goop and blood came out. Lying there on the barn floor ... alive! And Bob turned to me and smiled and I felt so lucky to be there, to see something so real.

"I don't want to interrupt your lunch," I tell him.

"No, no. It's OK."

He keeps blinking at me through these large, gold-framed glasses. I think of moving in to shake his hand but that seems ridiculous and we're in a freeze like, what? Victim facing perpetrator? Or like estranged ex's. Ex-altar boy, ex-almost seminarian, ex-friends? enemies? lovers? I don't know. Definitions fail, bleed one into the other. I watch him lay his fork on a paper napkin and I ask,

"How are you?"

"You're catching me at a pretty down time." His eyes are green, he's looking right at me but there's not a glimmer in there and I think: Jeez, the light's been bludgeoned out of this guy or maybe he's on something-antipain, antidepressant.

"What happened?" I point to his right foot, which is enormous, wrapped in white gauze up to the knee like the limb of a mummy.

"Oh, bad infection. They had to amputate a little."

"Wow, sorry."

"Ah, well," he says. "Stepped on a stupid screw in the driveway. Life." He shrugs, chuckles. "I've got diabetes. You remember how I liked my Coca-Cola."

"Yep. I do." I glance toward the hall, wanting to move outside, somewhere private.

"You look good," he says. "Your dad had quite a belly by your age."

I'm thrown at his mention, his memory, of my father, who he met, I think, maybe twice. I start chattering.

"Well, I'm an actor and the work's very physical, keeps me fit." In my skull I feel the buzz of words and how they're utterly weightless and how it's our bodies that are grave somehow, communicating, catching up. For my bones the whole experience isn't thirty years away but three feet.

"I see," he says. "You work in the theater, then?"

"Yeah. Uh-huh. Some TV. Plays and musicals sometimes. I sing and ..." Christ, Marty, I think, why not just give him an uptune and a ballad? Lord, he's got just the lost, ugly mug you'd expect in a news item on pedophiles-pasty pale, geeky glasses. "It's always eight shows a week, very rigorous ..." This sharp lament moves through me as I think how much the course of my days has been affected by this broken being in front of me. "But Broadway pays pretty well, when you can get it."

I watch him push, with an index finger, his glasses up the bridge of his nose, then scoop his bangs to the right. The gesture (exactly as I remember it) sends a tremble through my chest. It's as if I'm forty-two and twelve at once.

"Are you in New York?"

"Yes, I've been in Manhattan twenty years now." This sentence, somehow, gives me a sense of center, of pride. "I live there with my ... my boyfriend, Henry. We've been together for seventeen years." I want him to know, I realize, that I'm all right, that I've found success, stability. "Do you remember the last time we saw each other?"

"I do," he whispers, dropping his head, tripling his chin. "You were, what? Fifteen? You drove all the way to my place in Sunshine Canyon without a license. We sat by my empty fireplace and you told me you were ashamed that we'd ever met and that you never wanted to see me again."

I'm stunned and, oddly, flattered that he remembers it-the scene, my words-exactly as I do. It seems to say that it, that I, meant a lot to him. Is that what I've come for? I wonder. To see if I'm as vivid for him as he's been for me? That I wasn't just another little boy, an easy target, who gave it up to him?

"That tore my heart out," he says. "I curled into a shell that night after you left, for nearly two months."

He's speaking the truth, it seems. Or is he playing me? The confusion feels familiar. I finger the button of my recorder but don't push. I'm afraid it will click too loudly.

"Did you know, Bob, that this weekend will be thirty years exactly since we first actually met? April 7, 1972."

"Oh, I'm not aware." He shakes his head so that his hair falls back into his eyes. "Dates are fuzzy. I couldn't say the exact-"

"Oh, I can," I tell him. The man in the other bed coughs. He is watching a TV fixed high on the wall. I'm concerned he might hear me, and then I try not to care: "It was three months after my twelfth birthday. Except for my head, I didn't have a hair on my body. I didn't know a thing, barely what a wet dream might be."

"Let's go outside," he says, scooting across the bed toward his wheelchair. "Let's go outside."



Excerpted from The Tricky Part by Martin Moran Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2005

    The Tricky Part

    Martin Moran¿s book, The Tricky Part, is a wonderfully written memoir. He captures in words the pain and joy of coming of age and finding yourself. His tale carries us from a youth spent in the grip of an abuser in Colorado to an adulthood awakening and understanding of the impact of this relationship. It gives an amazing look into the psyche and thought process of an impressionable young man dealing with the attentions of an older man. We travel with him through his experience of living two lives at once as an adolescent and teen. Witness his daily angst of doubt and pain in young adulthood. And accompany him through his compulsive behaviors and recovery process. We are present to the later confrontation with his abuser and forgiveness around his childhood trauma. I found my emotions to be on a ride right along with his and I hung onto every word through this page turner.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2005

    Read This Book Now!!

    A beautiful account that puts you right in the child's shoes. It's like you're there. I highly recommend it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2005

    Articulating horror and enlightenment

    This book articulates things that are unimaginable and hard to make sense of. It is something that cuts to your core in a way that is gentle, campastionate, and most of all filled with love and self-exploration. Excellent.

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