The Shadow Man

Mary Gordon, Author Random House (NY) $24 (0p) ISBN 978-0-679-42885-5
Popular feminist novelist and short story writer Gordon (Final Payments), in her mid-40s, discovered that the father she had idealized, the man who set her course as a writer, was a liar and an impostor. David Gordon died in 1957, when Mary was seven, and she grew up revering a supposed Harvard dropout who faced ostracism because he was Jewish, and who then became a literary critic and Jazz Age bohemian in Paris, Oxford and New York. But through library research, sleuthing and interviews, she learned that these were mostly fabrications, perpetuated by family myths. Her father, a high-school dropout, never went to Harvard, Paris or Oxford. Born Jewish, he converted to Catholicism in 1937, wrote vile anti-Semitic articles and pretentious literary journalism and ardently supported Mussolini, Franco and right-wing radio priest Father Coughlin. He also edited a tawdry nudie magazine. He was not born an only child in Ohio in 1899; in fact, his real name was Israel and he was born in Vilna, Lithuania. Further, he hid from the author's mother his first marriage, to a Protestant flapper. In this eloquent, deeply moving memoir, we watch Gordon reconstruct her identity, come to terms with her father and recognize her own Jewish roots. She also visits her octogenarian mother, who has suffered massive memory loss, in a nursing home. Ultimately, Gordon reburied her father--who was interred in her mother's family plot--in a separate grave under his own name. Author tour. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/01/1996
Release date: 04/01/1996
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