A working novelist well into his ninth decade, just about the last of the San Francisco Beats, offers a smart and philosophical valedictory.
Gold (Daughter Mine, 2000, etc.) rose to literary fame 41 years ago with the bestselling Fathers: A Novel in the Form of a Memoir, and his latest—which is pretty much a memoir in the form of a novel—still provides worthy entertainment. He does not, as an octogenarian might, lament the ubiquity of cell phones or the evident collapse of civilization as he once knew it. He writes rather of loss, love and life, focusing on friends who are gone, fleeting encounters and those he long cherished. In no particular chronology, the author flashes back to his excessively politically correct pals in hip California; to his Jewish childhood in Lakewood, Ohio; to Columbia University, where he got some education; and to the Army, where he got some more. He spent time in mythic postwar Paris, an expatriate on the GI Bill hanging with difficult Saul Bellow; he sojourned in Haiti with colorful foreigners. Gold introduces us to the ghosts of his beloved brother, an adored wife and friends heard once again through the tinnitus of accumulated years. He savors the lingering fragrance of the days when he “consented to be very young, very happy.” He recalls the dear children, the divorces and the causes of yesteryear when he was middle-aged. As solipsistic as any memoirist must be, he’s also rather repetitive, but merely for emphasis, he insists.
Good, acerbic reading imbued with the writerly spirit the author has expressed for nearly half a century.