fierce attachments

a mother-daughter blog about the fierce attachments in our lives… title inspired by Vivian Gornick's wonderful memoir

Category: book reviews

why I will never read Chris Mathews’ new book Jack Kennedy: “Elusive Hero”

by nikki meredith

Chris Mathews on The Daily Show

I’m tempted to say I won’t read Chris Mathews’ new book, Jack Kennedy: The Elusive Hero because Mathews fawns and fawning is not a quality I desire in a biographer. If you don’t watch his show Hardball on MSNBC regularly, it might surprise you to learn that the in-your-face, swashbuckling, braggart is a world class fawner. Since Kennedy is a hero of his, I can’t help believing the book is chalk full of fawning.

I’m also tempted to say that I won’t read it because I question whether the book is totally truthful. One example: Mathews is taking credit for a scoop that isn’t a scoop. On Jay Leno the other night he said he had discovered that the origin of the famous quote: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” was not JFK himself nor Teddy White, Kennedy’s speechwriter who everyone had heretofore believed wrote it. The originator of the quote was the headmaster at Choate, the boarding school Kennedy attended.  (He had implored young Jack and his cohorts to: “Ask not what Choate can do for you, ask what you can do for Choate.”)

But it wasn’t a scoop. Read the rest of this entry »


fierce attachments: difficult mothers and the daughters who love them

by nikki meredith

A few years ago I was at an all women dinner party and we started talking about our mothers. Because it’s Marin County — an area saturated with shrinks of all stripes —  there was a lot of shrinkish  vocabulary circulating the room.  At one point when I talked about my mother and my complicated relationship with her, one of the women said,  “She must have been a narcissist.” No, I said, she was not a narcissist and I tried to back up my claim with examples of her non-narcissistic behavior. Another woman opined that my mother must have had boundary issues. Yet another, diagnosed her as borderline. I changed the subject. These terms, as applied to someone I cared about, were not only off the mark, they were offensive.  Where, I thought, is a novelist when you need one?

And this brings me to Vivian Gornick and her book, Fierce Attachments, a memoir structured around her walks with her aged mother in New York City and after which we named this web site. Gornick is not a novelist and it is not a work of fiction – I’ll get to that issue in a minute — but if you’ve read it, try to imagine someone affixing Gornick’s mother – an exasperating woman who could be petty and narrow-minded but who was also smart, courageous, and funny – with a label from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.  Imagine how much of the power and the intensity would be lost. Read the rest of this entry »

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