Stories matter, memory is tricky, the past permeates us: these and other insights appear continually in a collection of interwoven personal essays.
There is no indication that these pieces have been published elsewhere, though an internet search turns up some previous online appearances. Proctor (Creative Writing/Fairleigh Dickinson Univ.; Do You Hear What I Hear? Religious Calling, the Priesthood, and My Father, 2005, etc.), a translator, author, and editor, tells a number of stories, some of which resemble one another in certain ways, others that deal with adolescent foolishness, parents, motherhood, religion, psychotherapy, writing and translating, death and dying. Throughout, the author remains candid about herself—sometimes brutally, painfully so. She discusses her early difficulties in school; her relationships with men, including marriage(s); her times living abroad, where she learned Italian—she’s now a translator; her admiration for various writers, including Muriel Spark; her children’s sometimes-evocative conversations; and her visits with an astrologer. Proctor’s essays sometimes allude to one another in ways—sometimes subtle, sometimes patent—and she is very fond of endings and exits that evoke high emotion in a few words. Her text, as well, is full of pithy, even aphoristic phrases and sentences—e.g., “the perversions of memory”; “It is tricky to talk about shame.” In several pieces, the author employs a technique resembling a musical motif: in one essay, she revisits Waiting for Godot several times; in another, an astrologer’s observations pop up now and then. Among the most wrenching of her stories, which appears throughout the collection, is that of her mother’s losing battle with cancer. The final essay, “The Waiting Earth,” which takes readers to a cemetery, features a final sentence that will create a tear in even the driest of eyes.
Affecting stories told effectively, with all the complications involved in searching for truth.