Monday, July 22, 2013

Peter von Ziegesar's "The Looking Glass Brother"

Peter von Ziegesar is a New York-based filmmaker and screenwriter. He has written articles, essays and reviews on film and art for many national publications, including DoubleTake, The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, Outside, and Art in America. His short fiction won a PEN Syndicated Fiction Prize. His work as a film and multimedia artist has received national attention, including a solo exhibition at the Hirschhorn Museum of Art in Washington, D.C. He lives in New York City.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his recent book, The Looking Glass Brother, and reported the following:
Page 99 is full of incompletion and longing. It’s a part of the memoir where I go to visit my homeless stepbrother Little Peter who’s living temporarily in a halfway house in San Raphael, California. The place seems sterile and without inspiration to me. Each night my stepbrother leaves his room and hikes up into the hills behind the halfway house and sleeps on the ground. In order to cheer him up I take him for a drive in my rental car and he steers me to the house in Sausalito where he lived to age five before my father met his mother and took them both to New York. I’m not at all sure it’s the right house, but we have a kind of wordless epiphany sitting on the front porch. Afterwards I take him back to the halfway house and leave him there. Little Peter and I share that we were both kicked out of boarding schools. We are, in fact, both failed preppies. When I leave him that afternoon, he gives me “a despairing look, like a kid being dropped off at boarding school after a nice meal at the inn with his mother and father. A look that said, ‘Why me, and why this place? And when did you stop loving me, and don’t tell me that you didn’t, because it’s obvious, or you wouldn’t be leaving me here.’ A look I’d been on the inside of many times myself.”

Later on the same page, Little Peter leaves the halfway house and starts walking and hitching across country. From Sacramento he calls me and asks for a ticket to Albuquerque, one of his regular homeless hangouts, and I readily agree. Then I get into a tussle with his mother, Olivia, who is my stepmother. She thinks he should go back to San Raphael, where he has unfinished business. This is like the good angel and the bad angel on my shoulder, and I end up refusing to buy him the bus ticket after all. The result is that he takes to the rails and winds up in jail for Thanksgiving, much to my regret. It’s a theme throughout the book that I am more willing to indulge Little Peter and accept him for what he is, while almost everyone else wants to change him. This is both my biggest strength and my biggest weakness. In fact, I find I can’t change my stepbrother. I can only stay in touch with him, give him handouts now and then and try to ease his passage when possible. Often this thin communication lifeline is what he needs, though. Just someone to talk to.
Learn more about the book and author at Peter von Ziegesar's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Looking Glass Brother.

--Marshal Zeringue