Friday, December 29, 2017

The Wine Lover's Daughter by Anne Fadiman

I'll admit I know nothing about wine, and I really don't care to. That doesn't make Anne Fadiman's memoir, The Wine Lover's Daughter, an odd choice for me. This is the story of her father, Clifton Fadiman, and, her yearning to appreciate the same things he did, good books and fine wine. She could appreciate the good books, and she succeeded in something her father never did, teaching at an Ivy League university. But, despite all her knowledge of wine, she never developed a taste for it.

It's Clifton Fadiman's story of rising above his Jewish childhood in Brooklyn. "Things were run by people who spoke well and who were not Jewish, not poor, and not ugly. He couldn't become a gentile, but there was nothing to stop him from acquiring money and perfect English." With his love of books, information, and knowledge, Fadiman developed the skills and English to make a living from his knowledge. Fadiman's wit and expertise brought him the jobs with radio, magazines, and the Book-of-the-Month club, jobs that provided him the money to indulge his other love, collecting wine.

Anne Fadiman, as her father's literary executor, had access to all of his writings, as well as her own memories of almost forty-six years with him. She tells his life story until his death at ninety-four. She tells of his feelings of inadequacies, while also discussing her own feelings of inadequacy when it came to wine and writing. She still checks to see there are more Google entries for her father than herself. And, she tells of looking for scientific reasons why she can't appreciate wine the way her father did. Like so many of us, she never outgrew the need for her father's approval.

While I skimmed over the named wines, I appreciated the story of Fadiman's life, and his daughter's story of it. It was the chapter called VIP that interested me the most, though. This chapter discussed his move to Captiva, Florida, late in life. It mentioned South Seas Plantation, 'Tween Waters. This was the period in which Fadiman went blind, and attended classes for the visually impaired in Ft. Myers.

I met Clifton Fadiman and his son, Kim, once on Captiva. I was the manager of the Captiva Public Library, and Fadiman and his son came in to donate books, including a copy of his book, The New Joys of Wine. It was so large we had no good place to put it. But, I knew who Clifton Fadiman was.

I met Clifton Fadiman just that one time. But, it was enough to make me pick up Anne Fadiman's memoir, interested in reading about the intellectual I saw as a book man. She saw him as her father, and sees herself as The Wine Lover's Daughter.

The Wine Lover's Daughter by Anne Fadiman. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017. ISBN 9780374228088 (hardcover), 272p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I asked the publisher to send me a copy.


Jeffrey Meyerson said...

That's a pretty cool connection. I remember Fadiman from the days I belonged to the Book of the Month Club. I read her EX LIBRIS: CONFESSIONS OF A COMMON READER.

To me it's sad that she is still competing with her father nearly 20 years after his death.

Lesa said...

It is sad, Jeff. She still wants to be able to appreciate the same wines, and she's the only one of his children to become a writer because his sons didn't want to compete.

I read EX LIBRIS, too. I'll read almost any memoir about books.

Charlotte said...

Just read that Sue Grafton has passed away. I didn't know she had been battling cancer for two years. Feel sad for the family at this time.
She will be missed by so many who loved her books.

Lesa said...

Charlotte, I had been out and about, and hadn't heard this until I read your note. I'm so sorry for her family, and for those of us who loved her work. I'll share a note tomorrow.

Trisha said...

Thanks for this review. I liked her book "The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down" and enjoy wine, so this could be another great book for me.

Lesa said...

I like her style of writing, Trisha. She's easy to read. And, you'll probably enjoy the wine parts more than I did.