cover image Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs

Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs

Sally Mann. Little, Brown, $32 (496p) ISBN 978-0-316-24776-4

Photographer Mann’s sensuous and searching memoir finds her pulling out family records from the attic, raising questions about the unexamined past and how photographs “rob all of us of our memory,” and calling upon ancestry to explain the mysteries of her own character. Rockbridge County, Va., a place of great beauty, is the site of Mann’s uncontained childhood; her wedding to her lifelong companion, Larry Mann; and the idyllic family farm, where she took the photographs collected in Immediate Family (1992). Those photos of her three young children in the nude, and the controversy that erupted around them, “changed all our lives in ways we never could have predicted, in ways that affect us still,” she says, firmly stressing that photography is mere artifice, that the images “are not my children.” The pictures and fallout attracted a fanatic stalker, who kept the Mann family on edge for years. (Indeed, this memoir periodically reads like a crime thriller.) Mann’s power at evoking the raw fear that comes with being a parent is uncanny, and she is equally insightful when discussing her own childhood. Her book is also a catalogue of material objects—letters, test grades, teacher reports, even a letter of complaint from the superintendent of schools regarding 16-year-old Mann’s wild driving. The vivid descriptive energy and arresting images in this impressive book will leave readers breathless. Illus.[em] (May) [/em]