Monday, February 22, 2010


There had been no other year quite like this year so far, this year of time travel. And by the end of spring I knew I had the goods on these people of the past, and this overrode for me memories of Nana’s kindness. And also memories of how it had been so crucially helpful to me when I was an outcast to recall, even when the boarding school boys were beating me, that Gaga had been an early active socialist – going after the bad people in what was surely his concern for justice, though he never said a word against the respectable rich people of Chicago form whom he had come. Nana once said they had had to move east because they were too liberal, too unusual, for Chicago. The criticism was too unpleasant. Which seemed a little strange when I heard if, for going beyond what was commonly accepted did not seem to be in the nature of people of these summer towns in New Hampshire that seemed to at some point have become Gaga and Nana’s main base. These towns for which I did feel affection..

I was out to explode the accepted versions, but one part of the family lore that was true was that Gaga had been in the first phase of the Russian revolution. And Nana once told me that she felt too awful to go on during long months she would read news accounts that mentioned Ernest Poole was missing somewhere in Russia. I had not known that Nana could ever fall apart, and I wondered if she were telling me that because when she did I seemed so down. It was in my first year of college when I felt everything I had wanted – Kitty and the debating championship and the gang of summer friends and this idea of being a poet full time in Paris – had come to nothing.

And I did remember it had been comforting to know that, though he was not the sort of Fitzgeraldian or Hemngwayesque romantic figure I thought a writer should be, Gaga had known – in a time that seemed unrelated to the later part in his own life -- everybody on the left. He had plunged into the settlement house movement, actually living in the New York slums – though he wrote that at the after a stint in the slums he went off to recuperate while riding in a rich man’s private train car.

Still, enough the way life should be, though I could not forget the private railway car part. But I knew that what was being propagated in the settlement houses was something so kind and open and radical that if fit with my growing passion for justice that had been coming out in the open since some point when I was turning 15 and suddenly became not the good twin but the smart twin, admired by the accepted boys and girls if not by the family.

And while remembering these things that felt warm about Gaga and Nana, I did not forget that I had been in danger of obliteration, obliterated in favor of Peter. I believed that though Gaga was the novelist who counted, Peter was expected to carry on that tradition. That the world they lived in now was the world put into words by Gaga and the only possible world of the future would entail living in the a reality that Peter invented.

Even as I remembered in 1986 how I had lost hope when I was back in the family again at 16 in a summer in Paris, where, even as I was plunging into a new love, painting, this return to family now seemed to have something to with why after that summer I threw it all away. As if I had died after that.

No comments:

Post a Comment