In my continuing series of book reviews with an Oregon connection, the following is a review of Floyd Skloot’s The Wink of the Zenith: The Shaping of a Writer’s Life. Read more of my reviews at Amazon.com: http://bit.ly/5C9RIL
In The Wink of the Zenith, his fourth memoir, Floyd Skloot turns his focus on how his past shaped his life as a writer. Through a series of overlapping essays, arranged in roughly sequential order, Skloot reconstructs memories vividly in order to examine how the influences of his past turned him towards a writing life. In the chapters covering his childhood in Brooklyn, and later on Long Island, what emerges is a stark portrait of a lonely boy with a vivid imagination, who struggles to make sense of his father’s untimely death and his mother’s cruelty.
Through a baseball essay originally assigned by a teacher as punishment, and through his fascination with the world presented to him by the television set his family owned (the Zenith of the title), Skloot details how he came to discover the creative world of writing and how it functioned to provide him an escape from his troubled life.
Subsequent essays follow Skloot during his undergraduate years at Franklin and Marshall College, where under the mentorship of his advisor, he discovers Faulkner and embarks on a comprehensive study of the works of Hardy, and continue into his early years as a writer. The essays in the third part cover his adult years, as he copes simultaneously with his mother’s Alzheimer’s, and with cognitive changes in himself brought on after contracting a virus in his early forties that left him with neurological damage. It is a testament to Skloot’s writing skills that what emerges is an always compelling, sometimes humorous, sometimes poignant account of how he got where he is today as a writer.
The Wink of the Zenith was a 2009 Oregon Book Award Finalist in the category of creative nonfiction.