Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Katharine Weber's "The Memory of All That"

Katharine Weber’s novels include Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear, The Music Lesson, The Little Women, Triangle, and True Confections.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new memoir, The Memory Of All That: George Gershwin, Kay Swift, and My Family's Legacy of Infidelities, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Memory of All That is a fractal of the first section of my book, which, while not heralded in the book's subtitle, is focused on my father, an unreliable and mysterious filmmaker. The page begins with a quote from some of the material in the hundreds of pages of FBI records on my father, amassed at taxpayer expense between 1936 and 1973. (My birth was noted in a Bureau memo to J. Edgar Hoover.) This paragraph is a mention of the Communist activities of my father's first wife, the actress Fran Heflin.

It also covers a bit of my father's history teaching film courses at The Dramatic Workshop, a theater program at The New School For Social Research, and I describe how my father must have stolen quantities of Dramatic Workshop letterhead, because:
...in my baby book there are notes on how many ounces of formula [and, bizarrely, orange juice] I was given in my fi rst weeks of life in November 1955 —I was a colicky baby, and the scribbled schedule is a diary of sleepless nights punctuated by 1½ ounces here, ½ an ounce there—all written on Dramatic Workshop stationery. Some of the drawings I made with Harold Weisberg’s stolen OSS waxpencils were on Dramatic Workshop letterhead as well.)
The page ends with the beginning of a description of a 1954 article in the New York Times Magazine about a course he taught called "Show Business: Work in Progress" which calls Sidney Kaufman a "modified hipster."

So there you have it: FBI records about my father's first wife, a secret marriage I didn't learn about until I was a teenager; stolen stationery (from the New School), and stolen pencils (from the OSS); and a mocking characterization of my father who took himself oh-so-seriously. While having nothing on George Gershwin or Kay Swift, whose romance is at the heart of my story, page 99 is a good core sample of the first part of my book.
Learn more about the book and author at Katharine Weber's website.

--Marshal Zeringue