Citadel on the Mountain: A Memoir of Father and Son

Richard Wertime, Author
Richard Wertime, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $23 (262p) ISBN 978-0-374-12378-9
Reviewed on: 09/04/2000
Release date: 09/01/2000
Paperback - 192 pages - 978-0-374-52914-7
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HIn a powerful, tonic memoir, Wertime turns a lifetime of torment at the hands of an abusive parent into a fiercely lyrical exorcism of pain, sorrow and anger. A former editor at Archaeology magazine and now a professor of English at Beaver College, Wertime grew up in both awe and fear of his domineering father, Theodore, who was a historian of science and ancient technologies, an accomplished violinist and violist, an OSS officer in India and China and, by some accounts, a CIA agent serving as cultural attach in Iran in the early 1960s and later in Athens. But, according to Wertime, the urbane scholar and diplomat had a dark side as a macho, authoritarian know-it-all with a sadistic streak. In the mid-1970s, as his behavior became increasingly bizarre, Theodore built a fortress-like house (the ""citadel"" of the title) on a mountaintop in Pennsylvania, stockpiling goods to prepare for an impending revolution. Inviting his anorexic, alcoholic mistress to live with him, he ordered his subservient, long-suffering wife (the author's mother) to accept a m nage trois. Unprovoked, he shot and killed the family's pet dog. When Theodore was diagnosed with inoperable cancer, Wertime fitfully attempted to draw close to his impossible parent, while also working through the pent-up rage and confusion that derailed his own first marriage and threatened to undo his second. Wertime writes beautifully, with great restraint and with an undercurrent of stymied love. Though his father's death brings neither closure nor absolution, his wise and healing confessional is spiked with razor-sharp insights about coming to terms with death and about growing up with no viable role model. 23 b&w photos. Agent, Amanda Urban. (Sept.)
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