Phantom Father: A Memoir

Barry Gifford, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $23 (272p) ISBN 978-0-15-100250-4
Rudy Winston, the father of novelist and poet Gifford (Wild at Heart), was a Chicago liquor-store owner with a criminal record. He's remembered by his son in this collection of autobiographical fragments--or, to be more accurate, his absence is remembered. More often than not, Rudy, who divorced Gifford's mother when his son was eight, fails to appear. A typical anecdote describes the time he didn't show up to see Gifford win a bowling trophy. Other anecdotes include memories of baseball; summer camp (the embarrassment of bed-wetting); school (Gifford being publicly accused of smoking by an irate janitor); the author's grandfather; time spent fishing in Florida with a favorite uncle; a Chicago amusement park; death (a neighborhood butcher hangs himself; a Bears football fan--carrying two large beers--drops dead at a game). Rudy himself died when his son was 12, a year after Gifford's mother married for the third time, and his memory becomes a stronger reality than his presence was: as the man who brought Gifford comic books when he was sick, who made it into the newspapers by knocking a guy through a plate-glass window. After his father's death, Gifford goes to live in Florida with his mother's brother. Ultimately, it's recollections of Chicago and the people he knew there that give this free-form but affecting memoir its contours. The concluding section-- ""My Mother's Story,"" told in the first person from her point of view--is at odds both stylistically and thematically with everything that comes before. Photos. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/28/1997
Release date: 05/01/1997
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 240 pages - 978-0-15-100249-8
Paperback - 192 pages - 978-1-58322-676-6
Paperback - 978-2-07-049352-4
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