“I didn’t want to turn the reader off by going on and on about my father’s biography, but it was extremely important to me to convey my father’s power in two realms: his power in the world as a writer, critic, and teacher, and his power in my private world as my father.”
With her new memoir, The Critic’s Daughter (Norton), Priscilla Gilman explores her relationship with her father, Theater Critic and Yale Drama professor Richard Gilman (as well as with her mom, literary agent Lynn Nesbit). We get into the perils of literary-kid memoir, the NYC book-scene she grew up in, her parents’ divorce and how it led to her learning way too much about her dad’s sexuality at 10 years old, and the challenges of capturing her early selves without jarring the reader. We also talk about how much she enjoyed recording her own audiobook, the role of the critic and the golden age of literary reviewing, what she’d ask her dad if he were around now, the disconnect between her parents’ public & private personae, and the lessons she had to learn for herself about love, marriage, and parenthood. Plus, we share a literary lightning round, some football talk, and our Thurman Munson memories! Give it a listen! And go read The Critic’s Daughter!
“I think that writing about grief and writing about someone who’s gone, you get that person back.”
Here’s that quote from Henri J.M. Nouwen she mentions: “When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”
About our Guest
Priscilla Gilman is the author of the memoir The Anti-Romantic Child and a former professor of English literature at Yale University and Vassar College. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, O, the Oprah Magazine, and elsewhere. She lives in New York City. Her new book is The Critic’s Daughter: A Memoir.
Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Zoom PodTrak P4. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Priscilla by Gail Albert Halaban. It’s on my instagram.