Sunday, July 13, 2008

Alexander Waugh: books on father-son relationships

Alexander Waugh is the author of Fathers and Sons: The Autobiography of a Family.

For the Wall Street Journal, he came up with a five best list of books that "capture the complexities of father-son relationships."

One title on his list:
Seminary Boy
By John Cornwell
Doubleday, 2006

John Cornwell's memoir takes the opposite tack to that of Edmund Gosse. Here a bad, abused boy from the impoverished East End of London is driven, not away from Christ by a religious fanatic, but toward him by an indigent, fantasist father. The boy hears a mystic voice: "Come, John. Follow me. I want you to be one of my priests." It is the voice of Jesus. At Cotton, a seminary in the West Midlands, Cornwell is beaten and sexually assaulted by a fellow novitiate. The book is unusual for a father-son memoir in that the father disappears for 45 years and is seen only in the first and last chapters. Jesus takes the father's place but in the end fails to fill the emotional void left by the absent parent. "Seminary Boy" provides a searing insight into a boy's driven need for a father and a stark warning of the dire psychological consequences of a father's emotional or physical absence.
Read about Number One on Waugh's list.

--Marshal Zeringue