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IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

June 20, 1993|CHRIS GOODRICH

I HAD A FATHER: A Post-Modern Autobiography by Clark Blaise (Addison-Wesley: $19.95; 204 pp). "I'm more stable than my father," writes Clark Blaise, head of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa and husband to fiction writer Bharati Mukherjee. "In 29 years we've moved only 26 times." Blaise, son of a salesman, isn't kidding; he attended at least three schools a year until the eighth grade, even starting fifth grade in Missouri only to find himself, six months later, in eighth grade in Pennsylvania. "I Had a Father," like "Above the Clouds" (reviewed below), is an account of a son's search for a distant parent, Blaise's investigation being self-consciously "post-modern" in that it is fragmentary and equivocal, based on belief as much as evidence. Lee Blaise is an interesting character, a French-Canadian gadabout with no close friends and many mysteries, a sociopath in the years before "Ted Bundy gave a bad name to sociopaths"; married four times, he was a compulsive liar, womanizer and manipulator, a Jay Gatsby figure to his grown son. But Clark Blaise's book is really about the son, about being both his father's double and his calculated opposite, and it's effective in evoking the deep ambivalences inherent in the exploration of an unknown, possibly shameful heritage. Blaise, at bottom, wanted to know his father's history for knowing's sake, to tie off loose ends: "I want my father for dessert," he writes early in the book, "even if I don't eat him."

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