A memoir charting an artist’s lifelong challenge to accept his calling.
Eberhart was raised by a famous poet, Richard Eberhart, and surrounded in his youth by accomplished writers: e.e. cummings, Alan Ginsberg, Robert Lowell, and an impressive cast of others. In this often bemusing recounting of an unconventional upbringing, Eberhart describes a family that quietly, even unselfconsciously, displayed its own brand of eccentricity. His mother once met Hitler—a story he used to impress his childhood friends—and his great grandfather invented floor wax, which Eberhart’s father sold for a time. Despite the high jinks, such an artistically sensitive environment could be frustrating for a young adolescent looking for something to rebel against. “ ‘I am at war with you!’ I shouted. ‘At war!’ What Dad did about my shattering fury was to be Dad. ‘Ah, youth,’ he glowed the next day and patted me on the back. ‘What energy! What purity of emotion! What muscles! Hurrah!’ This made it worse.” The author struggled to accept his magnetic attraction to pursuing art as his life’s work—a calling that was like family inheritance. He pursued theater before finally realizing that writing was the medium that most deeply inspired him. The book is a hybrid of dynamic parts; sometimes, Eberhart will digress to treat readers to a literary analysis of a famous poem (Robert Frost’s “The Road Less Travelled” is a memorable instance) or to discuss the psychology behind an artist’s work. For example, he furnishes a provocative but breezily anecdotal account of the way family friend T.S. Eliot’s work was both elevated and limited by his traditionalism. The extraordinary arc of Eberhart’s maturation—and coming to terms with his father’s legacy—culminates in a religious conversion. After years of mining Judaism for spiritual succor, the author, along with his second wife, finally found peace of mind in Christianity. He explains with philosophical subtlety the ways in which submitting to one father, God himself, helped him reconcile with another, his poet dad. The path he took was a meandering one, like an epic poem.
An often lighthearted but also profound recounting of a life in search of art and faith.