THE KING MY FATHER'S WRECK by Louis Simpson

THE KING MY FATHER'S WRECK

A Memoir
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A meager memoir from Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Simpson (In the Room We Share, 1991, etc.). Simpson's father, retrospectively cast as a kind of Prospero (the memoir's title alludes to The Tempest), was a highly successful Kingston (Jamaica) lawyer who divorced Simpson's mother, estranged himself from Simpson and his brother, and allowed his new wife effectively to disown them after his death. In the memoir's opening section, Simpson presents an unoriginal reading of Caliban and colonialism in The Tempest, which he proceeds to graft onto his experience of Jamaica's independence movement and his frustrated childhood in an unresponsive family and a beastly Anglophilic boarding school. About his experiences in Jamaica, Utah Beach and the Battle of the Bulge, Columbia University, and a New York publishing house, Simpson has already written at greater length and with more feeling. His latest treatments of these subjects (first published in The Hudson Review) read like dislocated stopgaps, while his essays about his later life as a poet and professor are simply pedestrian. Only one essay, ``The Vigil,'' in the book's closing section, stands out. In it, Simpson delicately balances a description of his uprooted academic routine during his mother's terminal illness with a review of her adventurous life in Russia, Jamaica, New York, and Italy. Concluding with his return to a Jamaica that has not improved with independence--its population exploding and its economy a shambles apart from tourism--Simpson finds a certain redemption in revisiting the dilapidated manor of his childhood home where squatters now live more happily than he did. Though this volume covers a lot of ground, too many of these events have already been chronicled in his essay ``The Other Jamaicans'' (in North of Jamaica, 1972) and his novel Riverside Drive (1962).

Pub Date: Dec. 13th, 1994
ISBN: 0-934257-09-4
Page count: 202pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1994