“A book that welcomes you in, talks to you wonderfully for a while, takes you into its confidence.” —The Los Angeles Times.
In Harp, John Gregory Dunne brings home his celebrated gifts for keen observation, close reporting and vigorous humor to deliver a superbly engaging account of his life as a Hartford, Connecticut-raised Irish Catholic whose family on his mother's side traveled from “steerage to suburbia in three generations.”
At the start of what Dunne calls “autobiographical examinations,” he tells of a health crisis: “The medical dyes shooting through my arterial freeways were forced to make a detour around a major obstruction.” This reminder of mortality moves him to reflect upon the course of his life and the story of his family, a saga that begins with his mother’s father D.F. Burns, who left Ireland’s County Roscommon and rose from butcher’s clerk to wealthy banker, becoming a West Hartford “man of substance.”
En route to a concluding section detailing Dunne’s first trip to Ireland, the writer questing to learn more about his family origins, Harp shares stories of aunts and uncles, his surgeon father and hard-to-please mother, and his younger brother Stephen, a married father of three who committed suicide in his early forties. As well, Dunne chronicles journalistic forays around the world, and takes us inside his Hollywood experiences during the 70s and 80s, and his time in 1950s Germany as an Army enlisted man.
Constant note-taking, disciplined observing, a careful mining of his own past: Harp also opens a brilliant window on the writer’s life, Dunne sharing the work habits and inspirations that helped forge his career as a journalist, novelist and screenwriter.
Appearing in digital format for the first time, Harp is a moving, hilarious, and revealing self-portrait by one of modern American writing’s great storytellers and stylists.
Dunne identifies four stages of the Irish-American experience: immigrant, outcast, assimilated, deracinated. Growing up in Hartford, Conn., the Irish Catholic author who would one day write True Confessions felt like a social outcast, a ``harp'' among WASPs whom he pejoratively called ``Yanks.'' After being drafted into the army, this ``quintessential Princeton prig'' shed some of his snobbery, likewise his shame over his Irish roots. His marriage to Joan Didion, an Episcopalian, brought hate mail. By the end of this mordant, defiant, raunchy, sarcastic memoir--a mix of self-revelation, travel sketches, ruminations--Dunne is proudly searching for his great-grandfather's identity in the parish records of an Irish village. Along the way there are profiles of his relatives; an account of his heart surgery; reflections on the writer as permanent outsider; stories about the army, whores, a murder trial, deaths of loved ones and much else. Major ad/promo; author tour.