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Reflecting on how a studenta€™s parents met because of a fly ball to center field in a summer softball game, author Robert Root wondered how the lives of that studenta€™s parents and of the student himself would have changed had the batter bunted or struck out. Haunted by this pure example of happenstance, he began to ponder his own existence, dependent in part on geology (the Niagara Escarpment) and history (the Erie Canal). He wondered how happenstance had influenced the course of his parentsa€™ lives, in particular their marriages (they married and divorced each other twice), and consequently the shaping of his identity. Happenstance investigates the effects of that phenomenon and choice on one mana€™s life. Root explores this theme in interwoven strands of narrative, interpretation, and reflection. One strand, a€œThe Hundred Days, a€ follows his attempt to write one hundred journal entries, each about a different day in his life, to recover memories of specific moments or collections of moments. In the strand headed a€œAlbum, a€ he examines and interprets old family photographs in light of the way he reads them in the present, as someone now privy to a family secret that directed his and his siblingsa€™ lives without their knowledge. Interspersed among these brief interpretations and narratives are reflections on happenstance and choice, a sequence contemplating their effect on his life and perhaps on all our lives. Through juxtaposition and accumulation, the booka€™s incremental unraveling of meaning imitates the process of unexpected epiphanies and gradual self-discovery in anyonea€™s life. By revisiting individual days, giving voice to photographs that mutely preserve family moments, and reflecting on the way happenstance and choice determine the directions lives take, Robert Root generates a meditation on identity anchored in an album in words and images of a mid-twentieth-century life.LITERARY REMAINS Essay So far as I know, my fathera#39;s literary remains consist of one short essay and three poems, all typed on yellowing sheets of paper. My stepmother once mentioned occasional poems and humorous verse, but I haveanbsp;...

Author:Robert Root
Publisher:University of Iowa Press - 2013-11-01


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