The love of baseball unites father, son

Another Poet: Frank O’Hara, my father, and me
By Ada Calhoun
c.2022, Grove Press
$27/259 pages

Families. Especially if your parents are writers and artists, they can get under your skin. They love you, but sometimes withhold praise and suck the air out of the room. You might wonder if you’re going to end the second string of your celebrities.

That’s what it’s like to grow up for writer Ada Calhoun, author of the new memoir “Also a Poet: Frank O’Hara, My Father and Me.”

“Happy families are alike; “Every happy family is unhappy in its own way,” Tolstoy wrote in “Anna Karenina.”

If you’re a geek, you’ll find not only Tolstoy’s accuracy, but the family atmosphere that makes for riveting reading.

Calhoun, a lifelong New Yorker who grew up in the East Village, doesn’t disappoint.

His parents are smart and intelligent. Her mother, Brooke Alderson, began performing stand-up comedy in lesbian bars. Later, he was an actor whose most famous roles were in “Urban Cowboy” and “Family Ties.”

His father Peter Schjeldahl, born in 1942, is a poet and The New Yorker art critic.

Schjeldahl is far from a pompous gas bag. As The New York Times book critic Molly Young said in her book “Hot, Cold, Heavy, 100 Art Writings 1988-2018,” Schjeldahl had, perhaps, the most terrifying blurb. “Bruce is not the Boss; Schjeldahl!” Steve Martin said of the voiceover.

Not surprisingly, Calhoun did not have a normal childhood.

The gay writer Christopher Isherwood, author of “The Berlin Stories,” was among those who met Calhoun’s parents. “One of the sweetest children imaginable,” Isherwood said of Calhoun as a child, “neither rude nor unruly or mean, with a smile of confidence that is beautiful to all of us.”

Most of us saw “The Nutcracker” with an aunt or grandmother. Calhoun experienced a regular break with a “dreamy” composition. An artist who did not have the ability to paint other artists, it was no surprise to the young Calhoun.

While Calhoun’s mother makes some memorable appearances, “Also a Poet” focuses on Calhoun’s relationship with his father.

Relationships between daughters and fathers can be difficult. But fatherhood is more difficult for the famous writer. Especially when Calhoun, who was born in 1976, was growing up.

Then (please, at least for now) if you are a male writer, life in your family is about you. You didn’t help with the housework or pay much attention to your husband and children.

Although Calhoun was raised in the modest East Village, life with his father suited him well. One day, Schjeldahl let her go alone, without direction, when she was eight years old in a car to a friend’s birthday party.

As a young man, Calhoun wanted to escape the fictional Village life. “My usual answer is to be a farmer because it is the most and least cosmopolitan choice I can think of,” Calhoun wrote, as a child, people asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up.

But Calhoun couldn’t avoid holding the writing box. From a very early age, he wanted to leave his father’s shadow. So his work can be judged on his own merits. He changed his last name from Schjeldahl to his middle name Calhoun.

Despite their problems, one thing bound Calhoun and his father: their love for Frank O’Hara, the poet and Museum of Modern Art curator, who died at the age of 40 in an accident Jeep on Fire Island in 1966.

In the 1970s, Schjeldahl, who liked many poets, writers and artists from time to time, worshiped O’Hara, tried to write a history of the romantic poet. But O’Hara’s sister and executor Maureen Granville-Smith rejected her attempt to write a bio.

But all is not lost. Years later, Calhoun found tapes of people (from Larry Rivers to Willem de Kooning) that Schjeldalhl had interviewed for the project in his parents’ basement.

In a beautiful Rubik’s Cube of fiction and memory, Calhoun weaves a story of family and art.

The note will encourage you to read O’Hara. O’Hara wrote funny and moving songs out of the pop culture and sadness of his time (from “The Day Lady Died” on the death of Billie Holiday to the hilarious “Poem” – with the line “Lana Turner is down!” in “Personal Poem” about Miles Davis being beaten by the police).

“His life is on the edge,” Grace Cavalieri, a Maryland poet and host/host of the radio show “The Poet and the Poem,” said of O’Hara in an email. to the Blade.

In this “Don’t Say Gay” era, Calhoun and O’Hara offer hope that art will last.

Blade may earn commissions from eligible sales made on this post.

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: