Monday, December 31, 2007

The Shadow Man by Mary Gordon

The book group will meet on Friday, January 4 at 10:30 am to discuss The Shadow Man, a memoir by author Mary Gordon. Everyone is welcome, even if you haven't read it.

Mary Gordon's father died when she was 7. Decades later, as a feminist author and professor, she forces herself to look at the pornographic magazine he published, and read the articles he wrote in support of McCarthy, Mussolini and Franco, as well as anti-Semitic pieces attacking Hollywood and Spanish Civil War volunteers (despite having been Jewish before his conversion). Shadow Man is the story of her reconciling this man with the adoring father who wrote her charming letters, published a children's magazine, left marginalia in his books addressed to her.

How was Mary Gordon's life influenced by the father that she believed in (Harvard graduate, writer and publisher, a European traveler, a devout Catholic) even if he wasn't the man she thought he was? If he had lived, would his influence on her have been different? How or why not?

Were there any extenuating circumstances that might explain why her father lied about so much (and did not tell them about important things from his past)? If you had the opportunity to discover whether a parent had lied to you about something important, would you want to know?

What did you think about the author having her father's body exhumed? Was it symbolic?

Why is it so important to us to think of our ancestors as being successful, especially after they have arrived in America?

Did you find the part about genealogical research interesting? Did it remind you of any experiences you've had tracing your family?

Did you think the section about her mother belonged in this book? Why or why not?

Do you have any early memories that you suspect to be unreliable? Why do memories deceive us?

More discussion questions are available at the Random House web site.

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