Far From the Tree
This is a book by Andrew Solomon. When I downloaded it from Audible and started listening to it – I knew I had a winner.
A brilliant and utterly original thinker, Andrew Solomon’s journey began from his experience of being the gay child of straight parents. He wondered how other families accommodate children who have a variety of differences: families of people who are deaf, who are dwarfs, who have Down syndrome, who have autism, who have schizophrenia, who have multiple severe disabilities, who are prodigies, who commit crimes, who are transgender. Bookended with Solomon’s experiences as a son, and then later as a father, this book explores the old adage that says the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree; instead some apples fall a couple of orchards away, some on the other side of the world.
I downloaded the Kindle book from Amazon so I could also read it as I listened to it. Immediately, I noticed differences in the two.
The audible version begins by quoting from the poem Poems of our Climate by Wallace Stevens:
The imperfect is our paradise.
Note that, in this bitterness, delight,
Since the imperfect is so hot in us,
Lies in flawed words and stubborn sounds.
This is not in the Kindle version.
I liked this (00:10:32 in the Audible; location 75 in the Kindle):
The exceptional is ubiquitous; to be entirely typical is the rare and lonely state.
In a culture where everyone conforms with a passion (the usual situation in America) few would agree. Most would agree that the author’s homosexuality is no advantage to him, his family of origin, or his own family – now that he has a child of his own. After a long struggle (which he relates here) he is now happy with his identity as a gay man.
I have learned something different from this experience. For a book like this, listening to it is not enough. Too much is going on for me to assimilate it at the narrator’s pace. With writing, I have time to slow down my reading, and ponder what I have just read.
Sexuality is a huge subject – and my sexuality (and my father’s sexuality) – has often been a mystery that I could only understand much later.