Selgin (Confessions of a Left-Handed Man: An Artist's Memoir, 2011, etc.) explores his relationships with two men who “had a profound influence” on him.
As a twin, the author “had to share everything” with his brother, from birthdays and appearance to the love of their parents. They were also competitors and rivals. In this memoir, Selgin examines how their relationship combined with the influence of his father and his eighth-grade teacher to shape his own identity. The author’s brother was “the person he looked up to more than…anyone else,” his father was an iconoclastic inventor of electronic devices, and his English teacher was someone for whom he developed a long-lasting adolescent crush. Only after the deaths of his father and his teacher did Selgin discover that both had hidden key parts of their lives. At his father's funeral, he was stunned to be asked, “did you know your father was Jewish?” Later, quite by accident, Selgin discovered an obituary of his teacher and was astonished to learn of his Native American background. Family members told the author they either knew or suspected the truth about his father, and the teacher had taught him about art, music, and his dream of a place called “Castalia,” “a special community where scholars, teachers, artists, people who still know how to think and dream, would come together.” Through his writing and other artistic pursuits, Selgin began to share that dream. After his death, the teacher's dream had been brought to life in the form of an American Indian longhouse, while the uses of some of his father’s electronic inventions caused him to reinvent his past. “It was strange,” writes Selgin, “that the two men who had meant so much to you…both felt the need to break with their pasts and reinvent themselves.” Though they buried their own pasts, their influences helped the author invent himself, and thrive, through his search for his own Castalia.
A reflective investigation of the self, memory, and invention.