ONE OF THE FAMILY by Wendy W. Fairey


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Fairey's primary (and mild) claim to fame is that her mother was Sheilah Graham, Hollywood gossip columnist and lover of F. Scott Fitzgerald. The interest of this rich memoir, however, is not in its celebrity cast, but in its reflections on the heritage of parents, biological and otherwise. Growing up in Beverly Hills, young Fairey knew that her ostensible father was a virtual stranger who lived overseas and sent monogrammed handkerchiefs every Christmas. Her first brush with a father substitute came when her mother married a football coach nicknamed ""Bow Wow""; Fairey, then ten, hated him. Then her mother began a book detailing her relationship with Fitzgerald, and the flurry of nostalgic obsession caused Fairey to identify the dead author as an intellectual progenitor. But it was not until the aftermath of her mother's death, when Fairey was 46, that she learned that her biological father was in fact famous British philosopher A.J. (""Freddie"") Ayer. Accepting this meant acknowledging that her mother had lied to her all her life. On receiving a letter from Ayer confirming his paternity, Fairey says, ""I felt rescued from my old life...transfigured by Freddie's acknowledgement into someone new and better."" A London visit with Ayer preceding his death produced for Fairey glimmers of belonging and pangs of loss for not having shared her father's life. Fairey deftly and exhaustively probes her lifelong struggle with a charming but selfish mother, and the effects her parade of fathers had on her sense of self. A graceful and moving personal examination.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1992
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Norton