Professional storyteller and Psychology Today blogger Coleman looks to his past in this eclectic coming-of-age memoir.
Acutely aware of the influences of his drifter sculptor father, “a cross between Ringo Starr and Daniel Boone,” and Holocaust-surviving mother, the author trumpets the bohemian tendencies that inspired his own artistic development. Early on, the author describes his father’s recurrent escape fantasy of road-tripping to Alaska with a clarity that essentially characterizes the thematic structure of the memoir and his life: “saturated with abandon and testosterone and bound with some kind of twisted love plot.” Buffeted on the one hand by his artist father’s rather public paranoia concerning all things adult and, on the other, his mother’s fear of self-revelation, Coleman’s identity formed in the fulcrum of these opposing forces, and he displayed a dramatic penchant for passionate attachments and anti-establishment behavior. As the author matured, he often found himself pining for some unattainable or unsustainable love interest while trying and often failing to measure up to traditional expectations, whether in an MFA writing program or the workplace. One particularly memorable scene occurred in Maine, where Coleman had landed a temporary position as a substitute teacher and had been asked to give a talk on education at a fundraiser for the incumbent governor. His original plan was to “speak for five minutes and then give a short whirling dervish demonstration.” Instead, for some reason unbeknownst even to him, Coleman slowly removed all his clothing, which resulted in the eventual losses of both his job and his love at the time. While the author’s account exhibits flashes of humor and thoughtful introspection—passages analyzing his mother’s reasons for hiding her Jewish identity prove especially moving—the memoir is far too episodic and inconsistent to cohere.
An uneven but entertaining examination of the plight of an artist’s progeny.