Taylor, Benjamin. “The Hue and Cry at Our House: A Year Remembered”, Penguin, 2017.
A Memoir of a Year
A few months ago I posted that we would soon be having a new book from one of my favorite authors and I am very happy to tell you that “The Hue and Cry at Our House: A Year Remembered” is now out. It is a memoir of one year of Taylor’s life and is quite a read. That year includes November 22, 1963 when eleven-year-old Benjamin Taylor and his mother waited to get a chance shake hands with President John F. Kennedy at the Hotel Texas in Fort Worth. Just a few hours after that, Taylor’s teacher called the class in from recess and told he students that the president had been killed. It is from this starting point that Taylor traces his life. He looks back at the tension that had come into his family and his childhood friendships, summer camp, family trips, he shares the influence that the story of America had on his life and himself.
What I have always loved about Taylor is his beautiful prose and he once again charms with his words and lyricism. While this is the memoir of just one year, we see that it represents a lot more and what we might thing is unique to a specific year is actually part of other years because of the implications that are part of it. He says, “Any year I chose would show the same mettle, the same frailties stamping me at eleven and twelve.”
I want to believe that he shares everything with us—the ups and the downs and he doe so with almost brutal clarity and incredible nostalgia. He uses humor to keep us grinning on the outside as we digest and think about that year and as we do we try to remember similarities in our own lives. If you read Taylor’s book on Proust, you are quite aware of the influences on Taylor’s writing.
Taylor was able to shake Kennedy’s hand that November morning and it was quite the experience for him. Since Kennedy was his hero, the president’s death affected him profoundly (as it did to most of us who were alive and remember that day). His writing takes the form close to a universal elegy of a hero taken from us and it took years to recover from it. One reviewer remarked that this book is part of the “literature of loss” that is both “classical and impassioned”. This is the story of a gay Jewish boy who comes into his own with the shadow of the assassination hanging over him. There was other experiences that hold significance in his life but what really grips the reader is the emotion and wisdom with which this book was written. As soon as I finished reading this book, I wanted more so I sit down and read it again… and, again. I did not want to miss a single word.
It was from the moment that Taylor heard that the President was dead that he began his search within himself, hoping to learn who he really is. We see that his youthful years were very important to the shaping of the man he is today and it is wonderful that he is willing to share what he learns. Through his elegant and stylish prose, Benjamin Taylor introduces us to him and we feel that we have gained a new friend.