Filmmaker Marx, best known as the co-writer and co-producer of the 1994 documentary Hoop Dreams, recounts his grief after his wife died, as well as his lifelong emotional struggles.
When the author was 9 years old, his father suddenly died. It was a traumatic encounter with mortality that would haunt Marx for the rest of his life. He was plagued by thoughts of suicide; his teenage years were marked by rebellion, and at the age of 16, he left home to live communally with friends. He married in 2003, when he was 47 years old, and was forced to finally make his peace with the concept of death when his wife died in 2016 after a protracted struggle with cancer. The author found no solace in the Judeo-Christian religious tradition in which he was raised (which he considered “thoroughly inadequate superstition”) but he also studied and practiced Buddhism for much of his life. Debut author Marx’s eventful story seems tailor-made for a philosophically captivating memoir; his struggle with his inner demons supplies plenty of fodder for introspection, which he tackles with subtlety and candor. The end result is more of a meditative essay than a linear autobiography. However, it’s still a highly personal remembrance, dotted with excerpts from intimate correspondence, so it may appeal most to those who already know Marx well; those who don’t may have some difficulty relating to it. It is admirably forthcoming, however; he freely discusses his own private and professional foibles, as well as details of his relationship with his wife, including their sexual problems, with unreserved honesty. He also offers an unflinching account of her last days and his anguish in the aftermath of her death. Lost without his spouse, Marx turned to dissolute living before fully exploring the possibility of spiritual healing, and he insightfully and humorously describes his lack of success: “I failed at degeneracy. I couldn’t keep up the pace.” (Black-and-white and color photos included.)
A thoughtful recollection whose tone is perhaps more personal than universal.