Newly released by Patremoir Press, Fathers: A Literary Anthology is a book “to set the darkness echoing.” It is a transformational book which richly proves the wisdom of Doris Lessing’s insight that “We use our parents like recurring dreams, to be entered into when needed; they are always there for love or for hate.” The 24 essays and 25 poems in this anthology will do a lot to help readers better understand their Dad’s, as well as themselves.
On an individual level, Fathers is a manual for all children trying to understand and improve their relationship with their father. There is much to be learned in thinking about the peculiarities of Franz Kafka, the obsessiveness of E. E. Cummings's father, or the genius of Winston Churchill. Fathers is also a powerful tool for fathers—fathers young or fathers old—to improve themselves. To read James Baldwin, Annie Dillard, Doris Lessing, Sharon Olds, or Philip Roth as they explore aspects of their fathers is to open maps of possibility, and some of those maps may well lead readers to Anne Sexton’s realization that “It doesn’t matter who my father was, it matters who I remember he was.”
Collectively the authors in this anthology have 5 Nobel prizes, 7 Pulitzers, and 12 Governor General Awards. With father pieces by writers such as Anne Carson, Angela Carter, Thomas Hardy, Franz Kafka, and Virginia Woolf, Fathers is an impassioned argument for the importance of literature in our lives. It is proof of Annie Dillard's insight that “The mind fits the world and shapes it as a river fits and shapes its own banks.”
And the patremoir? That is another of the many transformational surprises offered up by Fathers. Andre Gerard, the editor of the book, claims that father writing is worthy of genre status, and he coins the word patremoir to describe this genre. More than that, he provides a history for this newly identified type of literature, and he makes a case that Edmund Gosse, a late Victorian pundit whom Evelyn Waugh once described as “the bloodiest little old man I have ever seen,” is the father of the patremoir.
Behold the patremoir! Once you start dipping into Fathers, you will want to trumpet this phrase throughout the libraries of the world. Better yet, you will re-evaluate and value your father, as you have never done before.