Sunday, October 23, 2011

Harp, by John Gregory Dunne

Book 48

John Gregory Dunne was a writer.  He was also the husband of Joan Didion and the brother of Dominick Dunne.  Harp was a memoir that he wrote after two big, bad things happened in the late 1980's.  First, his younger brother killed himself.  And he was diagnosed with the heart trouble that would later kill him.

Joan Didion's book The Year of Magical Thinking was about the year after Dunne's death.  I loved it and I love her.  One of the striking things she remembered was Dunne saying, right around the time that he wrote this book I imagine, that it was a really strange thing to know how you are going to die.  She denied his statement.  He wasn't going to die from that episode.  But he knew that someday, it would come back and get him.

That's the guy I was looking for in this book.  And while he didn't speak so directly about his feelings - he isn't the type - I am happy to say that I found him.

He spoke a bit about the falling he and Dominick had at the time of Stephen's suicide.  John was an ass and then Nick was a big drama queen and it sounds like the kind of thing that happens in every family and you just want to smack them both.  Then he went on a bit of a European tour to find himself or whatever.

He started in Germany, where he served in the army post-WWII.  He went on to Ireland to find his roots or something.  He writes about it all in a very detached way.  "Observational" is the way he writes it.  He went so far as to say he was watching himself experience it.

There are a couple of times when he challenges the veracity of something just written.  He takes an "it is all true, in a way" attitude that bothers me.  I can certainly accept that "truth" is a matter of perception and he gets to remember and present his own experience as he chooses.  The self-consciousness, however, annoys me.  I guess it was a self-conscious time.

This was the first of Dunne's books that I have read.  I think the rest are fiction.   I can manage that.

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