What happens when a journalist interrogates her own rosy memories to reveal the instability around the edges? ... As an adult, Dancyger began to question the mythology she'd created about her father — the brilliant artist, struck down in his prime.
Dancyger carries us back to New York City’s gritty East Village in the 1980s as she investigates Schactman’s tumultuous life. She pages through her father’s old notebooks that she saved after his death ... she interviews Schactman’s friends, colleagues and even her own mother to learn how and why he descended into heroin addiction ... Dancyger’s struggle to escape the need to prove herself to everyone, including her dead father, is moving. Mourning is not linear, and she skillfully shows how grief mutates during different stages of life. The phantasm of closure stalks all of us who have experienced loss, as both Dancyger’s writing and Schactman’s artwork make clear ... Dancyger allows her father to be an imperfect and much loved person—her idol still, but a troubled and complicated one.
A double biography that tells Dancyger's story while simultaneously discovering her dead father's life ... At once an exploration of grief and a literary séance in which the author speaks to her father through art and interviews with his friends and exes, this book is also a coming-of-age narrative where grief and anger become a path that leads to destruction, addiction and, ultimately, redemption ... friends' accounts, Dancyger's own memories — and Schactman's sculptures, prints and paintings — create a map the author uses to navigate her past and her father's life and legacy ... the result is a book in which her feelings are so raw and exposed that it's impossible not to feel them too ... the author's retelling pushes against the boundaries of what we understand as a biography — and turns the narrative into a something like a whodunit, a supernatural thriller in which a journalist interrogates a ghost, a story in which art speaks about the past eloquently, and a biography of how a writer came to be and a daughter learned to live with something that shaped her early life and then shaped her again ... readers acquire a love and respect for both Schactman's work as well as the author's — and that's something anyone who reads this will know he would have been proud of.
... part-memoir, part-art criticism debut in which a bildungsroman-esque narrative of the author’s journey from 'a fatherless girl' to 'a fatherless woman' is braided with an investigation into her deceased father’s art, as well as his past ... Fearing the memory of her father—visual artist Joe Schactman, who participated in the East Village art scene in the 1980s and struggled for years with a heroin addiction—would collapse, Dancyger begins an exploration into his life ... by reaching into the murky depths of memory, dragging something that resembles truth to the surface, she realizes that this reconstructed 'reality' wouldn’t or couldn’t hold more weight than the memory of their relationship ... It is in this reckoning that she finds room to explore her own blossoming as a writer and a person in the world ... Chronicling a somewhat lawless adolescence to an adulthood burgeoning with creativity, academia, and insight, Dancyger reveals a vibrant, gritty world, one which feels all too familiar ... a penetrating, heartfelt story, one which plunges into the rippling depths of grief and remembrance only to change us for the better.