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It Happened on Memorial Drive


I seldom read memoirs, although I do not know how to account for this querk in my reading habits.


But Memorial Drive by Natasha Trethewey has made me rethink the entire genre of memoir because Trethewey's writing has shown me what I can learn about life from reading a work in which an author dares to bare her soul to her readers.


Years ago, a friend of mine, now already deceased, told me about hearing Gordon Lightfoot in concert at the University of Texas in Austin in the early '70s. He said the great balladeer sang a song he had recently written about lost love. My friend told how Lightfoot threw the crowd off by a couple of snarky remarks about breaking up before he launched into the tune, before he broke everyone's heart just as his heart had been broken.


The song was The Last Time I Saw Her, and it built to this verse:

But if time could heal the wounds, I would tear the threads away that I might bleed once more...

The sentiment of that verse is about as close as I can come to conveying the guts of what Trethewey does in Memorial Drive. She is a former US poet laureate and it shows in the beautiful rhythm of her spare prose. But it is the book's courage that grabbed me, courage great enough to reach where the author's hidden demons reside and to bring them forth for us less brave souls to ponder so that we may perhaps repent of the superficiality we pass off as heartfelt introspection.


My thanks to Ms. Trethewey for a remarkable literary gift.




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