It’s not easy being a dad—so much to live up to, so far to fall. Just ask the sons who write memoirs about them. Do fathers always get buried in print? Sometimes, sure, like in Geoffrey Wolff’s mercilessly unpleasant portrait of his old man in The Duke of Deception. But there are more than a few books that manage to strike a balance between honesty and cruelty, respect and disappointment, connection and yearning.
Just last year, in Liner Notes, Loudon Wainwright III, who’s made a career writing unapologetically intimate songs about his family, showed great restraint and admiration in his depiction of his father, who was an accomplished writer for LIFE magazine. He goes so far as to include a handful of his father’s original writing, an act of generosity that is surprising and revealing—his father was the better prose stylist. Maybe Wainwright is mellowing, but it suggests a trio of father-son memoirs where the writer has come to some kind of peace with the man he must love and kill and try to love again.
Notes on a Cowardly Lion by John Lahr