Love & Fury by Richard Hoffman: A Memoir on Class, Race, & What It Means to Be a Good Man in America
June 04, 2014
Richard Hoffman’s elegaic new memoir, Love & Fury, is a powerful investigation into the impacts of race and class, boyhood and fatherhood, family pressures and pain, and how the mistakes of the past can haunt the present. Hoffman writes beautifully of his upbringing in a working-class Pennsylvania town where abuse, racism, sexism, and other toxic values seemed his inheritance. Hoffman was, in his own words, “a boy made of coal and steel and violence and trucks and shame,” filled with a yearning to escape but also a longing to connect with and understand his enigmatic, difficult father. A father who, Hoffman would come to understand later, carried a different kind of class shame, as he reveals in this passage:
I had tripped a switch and plunged my father from the safety of his lyric, humorous, emblematic scene into deep shame and remembered desperation, the very emotions that his ritual telling, with its shrug and goofball smile, its cavalier “fuck ’em” attitude, was meant to exorcise. I was of course the one who didn’t get it, sitting there on my elbow with a shine-ola-eating grin on my face. I was not the one who had stood against a wall at six in the morning for the shape-up, hoping to get picked to work like a donkey for the next twelve hours. I was not the one who’d had to go down to the PP&L office with money made from cleaning out somebody’s suburban garage just to get the lights turned back on. I was not the one who felt humiliated the year our Christmas presents came from the Salvation Army, complete with tags that said, Boy, 6–8 years old. My father had taken all those years and all that shame and locked them in a little box of a story, and just when he was clicking it shut again, as he had so many times before, I propped the lid open a moment longer with my fatuous cleverness, and a monstrous cloud, a genie of shame, escaped.
Hoffman recently read from that section to a small, rapt audience in our former headquarters on Beacon Hill. It was an intimate evening, the perfect backdrop to Hoffman's combination of wry observation and personal revelation.
Love & Fury is available now, wherever book and e-books are sold.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Richard Hoffman is the author of Half the House: A Memoir; the poetry collections Without Paradise, Emblem, and Gold Star Road, winner of both the 2006 Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize and the 2008 Sheila Motton Award from the New England Poetry Club; and the short story collection Interference and Other Stories. He is senior writer-in-residence at Emerson College and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His website, where he also blogs, is at www.richardhoffman.org.