Fragments come together to reveal a life.
Novelist and memoirist Chase (Winkie, 2006, etc.), who chronicled his brother’s death from AIDS in The Hurry-Up Song (1995), constructs this book—partly a documentary of his life, partly a meditation on living—in the form of “aphorism-like statements” which, “when added one to another, might accrue to make some larger statement that will placate despair.” The passages, most not longer than a sentence or two, contain random observations; journal entries; remembered dreams; overheard remarks; and bits of conversations with Chase’s partner, therapist, parents, co-workers and friends. He records losing his baby teeth, rewarded by a dime from the tooth fairy—a rare happy memory of his boyhood. His parents’ contentious marriage, he writes, resulted in his “crippling inner turmoil as an adult.” Emotional turmoil has been fueled, too, by his struggle to admit his homosexuality, “The odd nature of the closet, the open secret, not only to others but to oneself.” Lost “in the forest” of his feelings, he engaged in an affair with an emotionally fragile woman. “But this isn’t merely a story of sexual confusion,” he admits, “rather of self-doubt, which is bigger.” He doubts, above all, his ability to love and to be loved: “As the reader may have noticed, I like to mingle love with panic, self-doubt, and conjecture.” Chase writes movingly of his parents’ serious health problems and deaths and his brother’s tragic last years. He recounts travels to Rome and Egypt with his partner and reflects on the emotional impact of 9/11. Ellipses are as forceful as words: “[L]et the white space between these sentences stand for what couldn’t be seen then; or what can’t be remembered now….”
Coherence is a contrivance of any life story, Chase implies in his candid and insightful memoir; some truths may be shared in words, others hidden between the lines.