Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Maybe that's why people rate him ...

Not a great deal of time for Will Self, but this affectionate father's day piece is really rather good.

As we come to resemble our fathers, so we re-encounter the individual who reared us. I turned 42 four years after my father died. Since then, with each succeeding year I feel I’ve come to know him better and better: I feel him in my habits of mind and my physical quirks.

It's true that many of us, after a youth spent trying to be as little like our parents as possible, come to accept, even to celebrate, the similarity. But it seems that parenthood is a necessary condition for this process. Suddenly you become much more aware of the struggles they'll have had - and much more sympathetic to them. (But in my case, my father having left when I was three, it was my mother who was the influence. The influence of my father was that on becoming a dad myself I was determined not to do what he did.)

"Just you wait 'til you have children of your own" said my mother. And would you believe it, she was right.

I noted during a comment debate at Philobiblon "it’s only when I became a father that I realised just how many of my mother’s attitudes and ideas I’d absorbed". I would imagine that if you don't have children, it's possible to forever remain disconnected and even to celebrate that deficiency - like Janet Street Porter.


Mark said...

Thanks for linking to this piece by Will, which I think is rather more than good. His Dad lectured me at the LSE 30 years ago and he describes him exactly as I and many fellow students remember him.Will has clearly inherited Dad's penchant for stortyelling and long walks, as well as his height and not-suffering-fools-gladly demeanour.

Ralph said...


Great quote from Will Self - if only because it's so at odds with his media persona.

Not so sure about your conclusion that becoming a parent is necessary for truly realising one's similarity to one's own parents. Everyone's experience is different, I suppose, but I found myself spookily like both my parents long before I became a dad myself. And I know plenty of parents who find their own parents an inexplicable (and unattractive) mystery. Parenthood doesn't necessarily confer wisdom, more's the pity. And being childless doesn't, if my family and friends are anything to go by, make one any less likely to appreciate to the maximum the role of those who brought you up.