In addition to writing fiction, poetry, and scholarly works, GERALD DUFF has taught literature and writing at Vanderbilt University, Kenyon College, Rhodes College, and Johns Hopkins University. He has published eleven books, including Indian Giver, finalist for the Great Lakes Colleges Association First Novel Award, and Fire Ants, which was a finalist for the Texas Institute of Letters Jesse Jones Award for the 2007 Best Book of Fiction. His other books of fiction and poetry have won the St. Andrews Prize for Poetry and the Cohen Award for Fiction, and have been nominated for the Edgar Allan Poe Award, the Texas Institute for Letters Award, the University of Michigan Literary Fiction Award, and the PEN/Faulkner Prize. Home Truths is his first book with TCU Press.
Home Truths: A Deep East Texas Memory dances with truth and lies as Duff redefines and recasts reality. This new reality recognizes the lie in order to gain understanding of the truth. Such is the recorded accumulation of Duff's collective memories. They are not absolutes; they are not total fabrications. Fact and fiction must embrace if they are to engage and enlighten the author and his readers. The secret is to lay bare that which one recognizes may best be left unexamined. This requires a strong mind, a willing spirit and a generous heart. Duff brings all three to the stories that spill from his life with wit, humor, and a clear vision. The reader of Duff's writings can approach his work as a history of a life lived in response to a difficult and challenging childhood. That is only a partial understanding of these memories and does not tell the complete narrative. It is when Duff takes his lifelong memories and declares their impoverished truths in order to claim the nourishment of lies that he and we gain wisdom. Spend time with these stories and expect to learn more about yourself. You will laugh out loud, you will wince with regret, and you will relish the terrible beauty of home truths. No lie.
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A Deep East Texas Memory By: Gerald Duff TCU Press 149 pgs 978-0-87565-435-5 Submitted by TCU Press Rating: 4.5
Home Truths is Gerald Duff's memoir of a boyhood spent on the Gulf Coast and deep in the piney woods of East Texas. I am a native Texan and I understand volumes by the mere mention of East Texas. I don't even like to drive through East Texas. Although a short trip in terms of geography between the gulf and the woods, the cultures and circumstances are worlds apart. Mr. Duff's father Willie was from East Texas but had moved from that physical world and worked at a good job in the petro-chemical plants of the Texas Gulf Coast. These were dependable well-paying jobs in the years following World War II. He married Dorothy Irwin, the daughter of an oil company manager from Nebraska. Night and day.
The author was born in a hospital which was something to remark upon in that day and age and place. Subsequently he acquired two sisters. Then Willie Duff was fired from his job, what I consider to be a real disaster because in an apparent fit of pettiness and self-wounding pride, he packed up his family and sentenced them to years in an East Texas prison. Not a prison with physical walls but a prison nonetheless, a prison of poverty, bigotry, religion, and ignorance.
This memoir is about how book-loving Gerald Duff survived and escaped with sensitivity and intellectual curiosity and ambition in tact. It is the author's contention that people in these circumstances must believe the lies they tell about themselves and each other in order to survive the psychic wounds inflicted by this culture. Desperation is a ruinous thing. This book is honest and courageous and I recommend it to you all.
Gerald Duff showed more of his talent in this book of memoirs. His talent as a writer has been compared to some of the best writers of the 20th and 21st centuries, and Home Truths is no exception. Duff skillfully weaves the story of his life with both seriousness and humor. He doesn't hesitate to make himself as well as other, more distant relatives the focus of the humor. I enjoyed reading this tastefully written, though short, book. I highly recommend Home Truths. "No lie."
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