BLOW OUT YOUR HOME
A story of family, feminism and betrayal
By Gina Frangello
Have pity on the poor memoirist. The urge to search memory does not tend to come from a place of contentment. Add to that that readers can approach the genre with skepticism or a whiff of schadenfreude. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told a version of “I don’t know how you do. You must feel so exposed, ”as if there was a subcategory of writer that was too damaged or disturbed to know that she had performed a public striptease. To be clear, memoirs – good memoirs – are not public striptease. But it is in the critique of memoirs that one does the art form the worst service (and it is an art form). Too often, it is life that is judged and reviewed, not the literary merits of the work.
Gina Frangello seems to know it and in “Blow Your House Down”, her uneven and provocative book, tries to be vaccinated against such a response. I am not sure I have read, let alone commented on, a memoir that came into my skin like this one. Ask my editor. I tried to get away from this review because I found myself judging Frangello harshly, jotting down notes like OMG and Stop and no!! in the margins. Admittedly, Frangello had a difficult life: a childhood marked by violence and poverty, an adult life spent alternately trying to repair or distance this childhood. She faces physical pain, suffers the loss of her best friend, cares for her elderly parents and, towards the end of the book, faces a cancer diagnosis herself. The last thing I wanted to do was pile on top of its mountain of misfortunes. But it is I who fall into this same critical trap. After all, as Vivian Gornick once wrote, “What happened to the writer is not what matters; what matters is the great meaning that the writer is capable of Make of what happened.
Apparently the story of a destructive love story that turns her marriage, her family and her life upside down, “Blow Your House Down” arises as a feminist manifesto, and its author oscillates between the two poles which are the greatest not -not about the ego: revenge and justification bordering on self-congratulation. She does so in increasingly dizzying recursive loops, arriving again and again at the same descriptions, questions and conclusions, without ever deepening her investigation. She begins by placing herself and her story in a sociological context, hoping, one can only suppose, to widen it by association: “You may have noticed that anger returns in women”, she writes. very early. “Maybe it would be fair to say that this is the moment I’ve been waiting for since sixth grade.” The problem is that in middle age, Frangello feels that she may have missed the boat. “I’m too old… beaten with a punch.” While the women finally stand up in droves to denounce their widespread treatment by men, I remain naked, without the victim’s immaculate red dress. On the contrary, I cheated, I lied, I did damage. I have been selfish and ruled by my desires … in other words, I have behaved like a man, despite being a mother, and as a result, I may have lost my claim on female rage.