One of his top ten father memoirs, as told to the Guardian:
The Shadow Man: A Daughter's Search for Her Father, by Mary GordonRead about another book on the list.
Mary Gordon sketches a passionate portrait of a deeply flawed man, a shabby pornographer with literary pretensions, a convert to Christianity who was so ashamed of his immigrant and Jewish origins that he hid his past and became a nasty antisemite and a writer of speeches for Joe McCarthy. In the course of investigating her father's life and of reflecting on the motives for her search, she also had his bones dug up and reburied.
The intensity of her obsession with her father, who died when she was only seven, is terrifying – yet readily understandable. The father of her childhood, after all, was not a real human being. He was a fairytale father, an Angela Carter father, a "magic uncle", a Pied Piper strewing candy and trailing kids. In trying to find her "real" father, in trying to come to terms with the lies her father told her, Gordon confesses: "I have done things to my father. I have remembered him, researched him, investigated him, exposed him, invented him." The one thing she cannot do is exorcise him.
Gordon is a spiritual sister to Sylvia Plath – who lost her father when she was eight – and despite her ironies, her literary inventiveness, her distancing techniques, she cannot escape the curse of victimhood her father's early death bequeathed her.