Confessions of a Former Child: A Therapist's Memoir

Among the many pitfalls that can befall memoir, there are special classes of pitfall reserved for memoirs by therapists. Because the writers come armed with arsenals of theoretical know-how, they can be overly brooding, full of false epiphany, or highly academic. They can navel-gaze, stare into a wistful distance, or endlessly deconstruct themselves in search of object lessons. Occasionally, some of these formulas work, and sometimes they are pleasing and insightful, but what's refreshing about Daniel Tomasulo's memoir is that it celebrates emotional complexity without seeming to do any of these things. Though written by a therapist, it seems only to be recounting a life with generous humor and a gentle wisdom acquired in hindsight. Tomasulo, who lost his father to a heart attack and his mother to cancer, meditates on other losses as well: some as large as losing friends and patients to heroin, others as small as the pain of throwing away old running shoes. And as a man of Italian and Irish ancestry living in New Jersey, Tomasulo offers linked vignettes with a "regular-guy" simplicity that comes off as generous, slightly gritty, and down-to-earth. As his stories leapfrog through time, it becomes apparent that he has a simple guiding philosophy: it is possible to live in the past and present at once, and that it's possible to feel contradictory feelings at the same time. Living with complexity is his sense of resolution. The stories aren't really pat, but what Tomasulo occasionally seems to lack in theoretical depth, he makes up for in warmth. Holding his newborn daughter in his arms for the first time, he feels the wide expansion of both present and past in the miracle of her body. At once, a rueful kicker: "It was at this very moment I realized I had become a father, that Nancy and I were now part of a family, and that my keys were locked in a car outside the emergency room with the motor still running."

April 17: "In less than three years, both GM and Chrysler would be bankrupt, and a resurgent Ford would wow Wall Street..."

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

advertisement
Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.