Friday, February 24, 2023

Book Review: The Critic's Daughter

Bought at Barnes and Noble: full price of $28. Priscilla Gilman's moving memoir of her relationship with her father, critic-essayist-teacher Richard Gilman, is incredibly detailed and specific in her memories of her dad's flaws and triumphs personally and professionally. The heart of the book is the bitter divorce between her parents, her dad the famously acerbic theater critic and her mom the powerful literary agent whose clients win Pulitzer Prizes and other awards like most people eat breakfast. Priscilla documents her painful role of acting as the "good, mature" daughter who holds it together while everyone else is falling apart. Richard Gilman emerges as a complicated, brilliant, but stubborn father and husband. What sticks with me are the little details--when he takes his daughters to lunches, the cash-strapped Gilman collects condiment packages. Here is a revered critic, feared by the likes of Tennessee Williams and David Merrick, hording ketchups and sugars. Gilman also recreates a world of literary New York that no longer exists. The internet has destroyed the traditional print media in which her father and mother thrived. She also gives us the harrowing final days of her dad's death by cancer as he is lovingly cared for by his third wife in Japan. A thorough, meticulous accounting of a daughter's love. We are friends with Priscilla's half-brother Nick and I feel I know him and his family better now.

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