The Men in My Family
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 This lean midpoint memoir, fleshed out of collected short essays, alternates analysis of the author's male family relations with reflections on his experiences as the married father of two young sons. Novelist Lott (Reed's Beach, 1993, etc.)--a writing instructor at the College of Charleston and Vermont College--declares intriguingly that there is no way for him to write about his life without writing of ``RC,'' or Royal Crown Cola. His father's and his own early employer, the company is the locus on which his childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood centered and the subject of two of the longest pieces here. Lott is good at evoking the mysterious fraternal dynamic, the intensity of a father's love, the ambivalence of being a son and needing at once to accept parental guidance and to find one's own course. Some pieces succeed through use of a single clear image, as of the world ``growing blue'' for the author and his older son on a crisp December day spent outdoors following a rare South Carolina snowfall, a reflection that both gains context from and grounds subsequent recollections. In other chapters, though, Lott seems only to reach after epiphany, rather than arrive at it naturally. At its strongest, the writing focuses on concrete details, such as the author's childhood ritual of kneeling with his brothers at the curb, pouring out, in preparation for redemption, the returned soda bottles his dad brought back from his business rounds: Viewing the multibranded and hued soda swirling down the gutter, the boys ``watch the colors collide and move and mix,'' and out of such particulars a metaphor, unstated, is born--the river of soda as river of life. Lott has an instinct for the universal and sometimes finds it when he's not diverted by pursuit of everyday, less remarkable truths.

Pub Date: June 6th, 1997
ISBN: 0-15-100262-2
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1997


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