cover image The Draw: A Memoir

The Draw: A Memoir

Lee Siegel. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26 (272p) ISBN 978-0-374-17805-5

In this powerful, jarring memoir, author and critic Siegel (Against the Machine) painstakingly maps the bitter familial legacies that shaped him. Suspended between parents with artistic aspirations—an ineffectual, self-effacing jazz pianist father and a histrionic, failed actress mother—Siegel bombed as a student and low-wage worker, even as his immersion in literature convinced him that he was destined for greatness. His attempts to escape the vortex around his childhood home propelled him to college in the Midwest and later to Norway, where he finally began to create a viable self. Eschewing the standard minimalism of the literary memoir, Siegel explores the psychological complexity of his family romance in layered prose, in particular the impossible demands of a mother who shrieks across the pages like a monstrous suburban hybrid of Joan Crawford and Blanche Dubois. Siegel’s vivid portrayal of this turbulent woman is so intense that the narrative can falter when she’s offstage, with friends, lovers and even his father fading in her absence. Siegel’s strong focus on psychological depth rather than the visible remakes his familiar journey from American boy to man into something strange, disturbing, and wonderful. [em](Apr.) [/em]