- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (January 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393057380
- ISBN-13: 978-0393057386
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,171,686 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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In My Father's Footsteps: A Memoir Hardcover – January, 2004
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A son's relationship with his father can have profound bittersweet turns as boy grows into man. As Sebastian Matthews relates in this touching, often achingly personal memoir, that journey can be even more trying when son follows famous father's footsteps in both profession and personal dysfunction. William Matthews was a renowned, financially successful poet and academic, a seasoned lover of wine, women and song. His sudden death at 55 both shatters and focuses his son, and spurs him to a literary reconciliation that is as haunting as it is heart-rending. For beneath the elder Matthews' refined, world-wise tastes and sharp-witted poetry lie tragic compulsions--the very same trappings that seem to bless Sebastian with an uber-cool adolescence prove to have their own dark, destructive lining. Sebastian is not out to desconstruct his father, but rather to refine a deeper understanding and acceptance of him and their relationship--love is almost too tepid a word for it. --Jerry McCulley
From Publishers Weekly
For most people, the death of a parent can bring a wave of self-reflection and consideration about one's place in the world. For Matthews, the loss of his father, poet and teacher William Matthews, sparks an even more intense journey into memory and meaning. At first, his memoir seems to be a dreamy valentine, complete with poetic phrases about the emptiness of the poet's apartment and Matthews wondering if his dad's cat had gone to its owner, "confused by the fallen body, crouching with him in the tub, leaning into the discharged heat coming off his body." But the romanticism quickly ebbs as Matthews contemplates how fully he has, indeed, followed in his father's footsteps. Not only did Matthews become a writer, poet and teacher himself, but he imagines parts of his father's life as his father might have lived them. He gives as much weight to his father's affairs with students as he does to his own memories, mixing recollection, reality and hypothesis. Because Matthews's thoughts bounce through time and include some unnecessary scenes, the work is at times patchy. Usually, however, the intricate weave deftly shows that William Matthews was more than an idealistic, larger-than-life figure to his son. Rather, he could be wondrous and infuriating, and Matthews doesn't flinch from describing the hurt and anger he sometimes felt growing up. Still, this is not a tiresome laundry list of complaint tempered with some lush, loving moments. Rather, it's a glimpse of two lives and a look at how complicated a father-son relationship can become, even when one member is gone. Illus.
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This book often reads like a novel, a story of falling and then climbing to reach solid emotional ground. Anyone who struggles from the baggage left by parents who achieved success professionally but lacked parenting skills, can benefit from the story honestly told here. In understanding divorce, alcoholism, sexual infidelity and intimacy issues, Matthew ends the book on a high note where his career is now on solid ground and his personal life fulfilling. A great non-fiction read, I hope this is a starting point for other books from him outside of his normal poetry venue.