Circling My Mother A Memoir ePUB ✓ Circling My

10 thoughts on “Circling My Mother A Memoir

  1. says:

    Mother mother your feet stinkYou're old and poor and you like to drinkStill you're a Catholic pure and trueMother mother I hate youNobody reads Mary Gordon expecting warmth insight empathy or humor From the very beginning this renowned Irish American intellectual has specialized in hate But up until now she's been smart enough to restrict her hatred to safe targets In every book whether fiction or non fiction old Barnard warhorse Mary Gordon sidesteps the tough uestions about her envy resentment and spite and the vast half hidden sea of her own unconuerable self loathing Instead of looking inward she rounds up the usual suspects Men of course first and foremost But also Protestants meaning American native born types like Miles Standish or Bill the Butcher or Abraham Lincoln but never well born female Protestants like Lizzie Borden or Susan B Anthony or Jane Austen Or the Protestant ladies who founded Barnard College And she takes cheap shots at the military and the poor and country and western music and aging hippy chicks feel empowered and everyone goes home happy But this time Mary Gordon bit off than she could chew This time she broke the unwritten rule This time she turned on her own kind made war on her own family And the educated reading public was not amused But if you know where to look there's humor amidst the horror The old lies contradict themselves in some surprising new ways For example there's a great deal of whining at the beginning of the book about Mary Gordon as a child being miserable at summer camp And of course she blames it all on boys horrible dirty evil smelling boys who have unusually smelly st and talk about st all the time Now I think Mary Gordon is on to something here I mean I can remember being nine years old and knowing certain boys who thought that going to the bathroom was the funniest thing in the world Such boys exist but generally they grow up Is Mary Gordon grown up? Why is she still boiling over with hatred after sixty years? Come to think of it when was her last bowel movement?Now skip forward to the Sixties and the snotty phony way Mary Gordon feels sorry for herself for having to suffer during the anti war protests at Columbia University Now some real protesters at Columbia got their teeth knocked out Black protesters got killed in cities like Newark and Watts But then combat soldiers in Vietnam got their legs blown off and worse And what happened to Mary Gordon? She mumbles something about being shoved Oh dear I think Mary Gordon got off pretty lightly in the Sixties But I don't hold that against her What I resent is that she's lying about her own motives Hating the boys at summer camp led her to feel exactly what about the young men dying in Vietnam? Weren't they the same boys? Why pretend to care all of a sudden? Wasn't Mary Gordon merely looking to fit in with her wealthy and Protestant classmates at Barnard? In short wasn't she motivated by hate before the Sixties during the Sixties and after the Sixties?Now let's go back to summer camp Among the indignities of that terrible summer poor suffering Mary mentions having to read a book she didn't like Happens to the best of us Professor Gordon But the great literary scholar mentions a name LAST OF THE MOHICANS by James Feni Cooper Now I know all about Mary Gordon's hatred of American literature I've read GOOD BOYS AND DEAD GIRLS I've seen her spit in Mark Twain's face and kick Herman Melville in the shins Very heroic stuff But at least in those days she was attacking male writers who excluded women or trivialized their suffering or something Poor James Feni Cooper is no Mark Twain He bends over backwards to make Alice and Cora sympathetic and even heroic They see all kinds of horrors in the wilderness and they remain pure and compassionate to the very end So what's the deal?Okay skip to the very end of this hunk of cheese and there's a passage where Mary is moaning and groaning about her coarse unrefined mother who just couldn't appreciate the arts Moan So there's an intriguing passage where Mary's mother sees a Picasso nude and says something like I don't want to look at tits And then there's a priest who talks about dealing with bare breasted black women in Africa and says something like oh their tits were like coke bottles And Mary's mother laughs and Mary makes virtuous suffering sounds that indicate she's refined and can deal with tits provided they're portrayed tastefully and with elegance And it's art But I think she's lying I think Mary Gordon wants to be hip but when push comes to shove she hits the panic button and turns into a pumpkin shell at midnight just like her mother You see there's a passage in LAST OF THE MOHICANS that speaks to this issue It's where Alice and Cora are in jeopardy and brave young Uncas has to swim for help And as the young Mohican brave strips down there's a moment where refined virginal Alice gets a really good look and she very much likes what she sees But Feni Cooper is uick to clarify that she only feels the same pleasure she would feel at beholding an exuisite Greek or Roman statue As a kid I thought that was a silly cop out Now I'm not so sure I suspect Mary Gordon hated and feared this book because Alice got to be pure and innocent and still feast her eyes on a noble Indian brave without guilt and without shame Mary Gordon didn't like that at all I'm afraid that underneath the Barnard degree and the fancy perfume and the stale Sixties politics she's still a mean dirty minded slob just like her mother She tries to break loose but she hasn't the courage compassion or imagination to repudiate the corrupted values she picked up from her morally bankrupt father and mother So instead of actually breaking free she keeps going around and around in circles talking loud and saying nothing Hence the title Circling My Mother

  2. says:

    This is the second book I've read by Mary Gordon I have an ambivalent attitude toward her as a writer She writes well but I think I don't like her as a person It would be interesting to see what I thought if I met her Mary Gordon's book about her mom is a lot about her herself really And she seems to harbor a lot of grudges and ill will toward people in her family Her self pride particularly about her childhood precocity also seeps through a lot in an annoying way I did the book interesting as a peep into mid century American Catholicism Finally this book is a collection of essays and toward the end there is suddenly a chapter that was jarring to me insofar as it was written in uite a different style from the others again with the chopped free associative phrasing is this poetic perhaps? that makes you feel like you don't have the faintest idea what she's really trying to say and the sneaking suspicion that she doesn't either much like my experience of her entire Reading Jesus I hope I don't get drawn into reading Mary Gordon again because I will probably again find it compelling enough to read yet distasteful the old accident on the side of the road experience

  3. says:

    After reading this actually 34 before I flung it down in disgustI wouldn't shake Mary Gordon's hand if she held it out to me A memoir is all about personal perspective but hers is so bitter and warped and skewed and I don't ask for facts in my memoirs not necessarily but it seems so EXAGGERATED For proof read the chapter about her Aunts and how she paints them in the vilest bitterest colors and how she is just a sensitive child who was so terribly treated I think I threw it down after she complained in the most hysterical way about horrors being forced to help clean the house on Saturdays instead of being left alone to play or read Dear Mary Gordon I had to spend my childhood Saturdays cleaning the house too and I didn't like it would rather have read but guess what it's called teaching a child responsibility and pitching in and helping with the house that they live in and it's not punishment among the harsh chemicals it's life Your single mother and working Aunts probably didn't want to clean on Saturdays either Get over it just not in print thanksSincerelyMe

  4. says:

    No one will ever fault Mary Gordon for a lack of frankness or honesty In the past she has mined her rather difficult upbringing and family life for short stories novels essays and memoirs Now with Circling My Mother she shares intimate details of her often difficult relationship with her mother a woman afflicted with polio as a young girl and who was looked down upon by most of her relatives despite the fact that she for long periods of time provided the bulk of their financial supportRather than using a straight chronological approach to recount her mother’s life Gordon chose to focus on specific ways through which her mother related to the world In separate chapters she discusses her mother and her bosses her words and music her sisters her friends her priests her father her world view and her body However as Gordon “circles” her mother and explores a different aspect of her character in each chapter the reader comes to know as much about Mary Gordon as about her mother Anna Nothing less is to be expected of an author of Mary Gordon’s honesty and in fact it is the revelations that Mary makes about herself and her feelings that make Circling My Mother such a powerful bookMary Gordon lost her father at an early age and although her relationship with her mother was an uneasy one at times the two were close Mary suffered through her mother’s often public displays of alcoholic self pity and from her sharply critical way with words but in the end she is loyal to her mother’s memory and defends her actions as only a family member can do it She accepts criticism of her parents from no one almost refusing to acknowledge that her mother and father were often as wrong as those she criticizes for causing them grief during their livesCircling My Mother is Gordon’s attempt to reconcile the guilt that she seems to feel for “abandoning” her mother to a nursing facility in her last years a facility to which she dreaded to go for the horrible one hour per week that she spent with a mother who no longer recognized her or had control of her mind or body Her approach to her mother’s story paints a human face on a woman who was very much a product of her times but who still managed to achieve than many women of her day Anna spent a lifetime as a treasured legal secretary raised a daughter on her own supported her brothers and sisters financially until they could do it for themselves was a staunch supporter of the traditional Catholic church of the times and had close friendships with several intellectual priestsBut she could also be a vindictive woman and she resented the way that she was sometimes treated because of her handicap and “place” in life Mary Gordon seems to have inherited that resentment and she does not try to hide it Instead she describes several key relationships in her own life relationships which helped to make her into the woman that she is today but which she abandoned with little thought or guilt when she no longer needed them Some of the people cut from her life such as her truly horrible Aunt Rita admittedly deserved that treatment but that others who at one time meant so much to Mary Gordon were treated the same way is as surprising as her willingness to expose this weakness in herself to her readersCircling My Mother is not a sugarcoated feel good memoir the kind that often reads as fiction than as fact It is Mary Gordon’s honest assessment of her mother’s life and how she related to that life It is the work of a woman not afraid to expose her own weaknesses as part of her writer’s craft and although it is the kind of book that often makes the reader uncomfortable it should be read especially by those who find themselves caring for elderly parents of their own

  5. says:

    Well I'm going to take a page from Kristi's book and start a review mid bookCircling My Mother is this year's One Book One Saint Mary's book selection And to be honest I'm having trouble figuring out why it was chosen Less than 100 pages in the book comes across as incredibly bitter and self serving The author appears to be using this book to express her hurt feelings and share the difficult times she went through most of which she blames on her family She spends a lot of space complaining that her family is the root of her problems but I can't imagine that the publishing of this book will do much to endear herself to them Perhaps she doesn't careIt's an outlet for her anger and resentment Perhaps this is a way to help the reader understand why her mother is the way it is but I'm having trouble getting past my dislike for the narrator Lots of people go through difficult things every day and are able to find the strength to manage without being a whiny complainer I do hope this book turns around Perhaps the next few chapters will elicit a less visceral reaction I had hoped that this book would portray a strong female character but right now she's just coming across as being helpless I'm not impressed or inspired I'll certainly pick the review back up when I finishOkay I finished the book And it didn't get any better I was actually compelled to take notes on my thoughts on how much I disliked it My notes include the following descriptionsVengefulSelf servingUnforgivingThe narrator is uick to judge and refuse forgiveness which is pretty hypocritical for someone who had an affair Honestly if it weren't for the narrator one might see this book as an interesting dialogue on the lives of immigrants in America and their complicated relationship with the Catholic church and specifically priests But then the author comes in with her negative thoughts blame and self pity My final note came from the last 2 chapters which were the most disjointed in the book Seriously decide what you want to write prose or poetry Anyway this line relating to the authors feelings after writing her tome fits how I felt after reading the book perfectly The task has exhausted me A good book should not exhaust you I realize it was probably difficult for the author to pry all of those hateful thoughts and memories from the depths of her brain but I have no sympathy So that's my review In total the One Book One Saint Mary's book campaign is 0 2 in my book with this one really tipping the scales in favor of skipping the whole thing next year My hope from this campaign was to be introduced to stories and characters with strength and perseverance something I could learn from or strive to In this case I've been severely let down

  6. says:

    Public library copy I was looking for something 'light' to read ha This is not light reading I read it uickly because that is what I do when I'm not comfortable with what I'm reading Some people don't finish the book; I read it uickly Let me tell you whyMy mother lived until just shy of her ninety fourth birthday and like the author's mother she lived with the insidiousness of dementia for the last decade of her life although not in the nursing home that long I am like the author the only child of my mother There were similarities and I am coming to terms with her death so I thought it would be good to read of another's like experiencesAnd in that sense the book was very good for me I racked with sobs at one point but only one The book did what I wanted it to in giving me an outlet by which to let go of my mother to a greater degree; and let go of my guilt Beyond that I have nothing in common with the author and could not relate to much of what she wrote She has a gift with language in a different way than I am used to reading But what bothered me most is the absence of faith and hope in God on the part of the author It grieves me that her father was born Jewish and converted to the Roman Catholic church that her mother was wholly devoted to the Roman Catholic church and none of this seemed to have an effect on the authorIt is difficult to read such strong language in reference to one's own mother and family the author uses the term 'hate' The concept of forgiveness is absent The author deems that one can punish the dead by holding onto one's hatred of what was done in the past Perhaps this is just for the benefit of the writing I would not be functional in the present were I to hold onto the past this wayI learned from the book I learned about life in New York about Catholic immigrant families in America about Catholic life in the last century in America I can't say that I was endeared to them or to life in the city I have a great appreciation for the fact that my mother and her immigrant family didn't teach me to hate but instead taught me the personal love of God my Creator and Redeemer I am thankful that I know my mother is in heaven that I will one day see her againI cannot honestly recommend this book There is not surprisingly a good bit of language in it in addition to the other reasons mentioned It gave me much to think about in how to portray my own mother in memoir

  7. says:

    I'm nearing the 75 mark for memoirs read Since I'm writing my own I'm trying to read as many as possible to study form language characterization setting tone etc I have read about 10 that are stellar and what I like about them most is that they are lyrical rather than literal they are reflective instead of judgmental they are embodied rather than summarized So the problems I had with this particular memoir were many and various First I don't like the organization by topic It feels forced and it makes it feel like the Bonnard study was tacked on to the beginning and the end Next there were full chapters that read like a list of complaints We all have familial complaints but they sure are interesting when embodied than when listed Finally it feels like the first chapter was the most carefully crafted and that the energy was lost after that I made several notes in the first chapter and not in subseuent ones since the language became flat with lots of sentences like I was entirely happy or She did not die well Here are some lines that resonated for me in chapter 1My mother has erased me from the book of the living Toothless no woman can be considered beautifulYou weren't tempted by all that ardor?

  8. says:

    This was a book club selection Some people loved it Some disliked it intensely Most were indifferent I can't claim to have read this book I skimmed most of it The book is supposed to be a memoir of her mother In reality it is about the author The picture it paints of the author are vey unflattering It starts and ends with short stories about the painter Bonnard The chapter about her mother's boss starts the creepy part of the book The chapter about her mother's sisters is one I only read a few parts because it was mostly about how much the author hates her aunts It details mean things the aunts did to the author and her mother The chapter about her mother's friends is similar to the sisters chapter The chapter about priests is just creepy The chapter about the author's father is odd He seems like a cardboard person This was not a happy family The underlying emotions are all negative It was exhausting even though I only skimmed through most of this book

  9. says:

    I did not particularly like this book The relationship between Ms Gordon and her mother is so strained and strange as are her relationships with her extended family aunts cousins Perhaps I could not understand the dynamics of a large Catholic family and the huge role the church played in it I founds myself skimming paragraph after paragraph of interior dialog as Gordon attempts to explain herself in relation to her mother both as a young woman and as she the mother became ill with alcoholism and old age A very sad tale indeed The chapters can be read as self contained essays each focused on a different aspect of Gordon's mother's life The only one of the chapters that resonated with me with any strength was the one that described Gordon's mother and her boss My mom also a single mother worked at the same occupation legal secretary and had the same kind of idol worship of her boss That chapter rang true to me

  10. says:

    A memoir about a complex mother daughter relationship the author's tone is self involved and excessively self important Even though each chapter's title begins with My Mother and the author makes this a story about her own internal ruminations including an excessive use of literaryphilosophicalartistic references and as a result provides a fairly two dimensional rendering of her mother The author and her mother appear to have had a relationship that was part love resentment respect disgust and everything in between There are some interesting passages on her mother's relationship with the Catholic Church and her efforts to raise a child on her own but overall it's a depressing and tiresome read

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Circling My Mother A Memoir Anna Gagliano Gordon who died in 2002 at the age of 94 was the personification of the culture of the mid century American Catholic working class A hard working single mother – Mary Gordon's father died when she was still a girl – she managed to hold down a job dress smartly raise her daughter on her own and worship the beauty in life with a surprising joie de vivre Bringing her exceptional talent for detail character and scene to bear on the life of her mother Gordon gives us a deeply felt and powerfully moving book about their relationship Toward the end of Anna's life we watch the author care for her mother in old age beginning to reclaim from memory the vivid woman who helped her sail forth into her own life From the Trade Paperback edition

  • ebook
  • 0 pages
  • Circling My Mother A Memoir
  • Mary Gordon
  • English
  • 10 January 2014
  • 9780307472793

About the Author: Mary Gordon

Mary Catherine Gordon MA Syracuse University 1973; AB Barnard College 1971 is the McIntosh Professor of English at Barnard College and is known for her novels memoirs and literary criticismShe and her husband Arthur Cash live in New York City and Hope Valley Rhode Island They have two adult children Anna and David Gordon is the McIntosh Professor of English at Barnard College Ca