Firebird: A Memoir by Mark Doty

By Mark Doty

In Firebird, Mark Doty tells the tale of a ten-year-old in a most sensible hat, cane, and purple chiffon shawl, interrupted whereas belting out Judy Garland's "Get Happy" through his alarmed mom on the bed room door, exclaiming, "Son, you're a boy!"

Firebird offers us with a heroic little boy who has really adequate concerns with out gaining knowledge of that his dawning sexuality is the inaccurate One. A self-confessed "chubby clever bookish sissy with glasses and a Southern accent," Doty grew up at the flow, the family members following his father's engineering paintings throughout America-from Tennessee to Arizona, Florida to California. A lyrical, heartbreaking comedy of 1 family's dissolution throughout the corrosive powers of alcohol, sorrow, and thwarted hope, Firebird is usually a wry evocation of childhood's pleasures and terrors, a comic book journey of yank suburban lifestyles, and a testomony to the transformative energy of paintings.

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There he was again, filling the wardrobe mirror, a comically overweight middle-aged man, as grotesquely obese as anyone I had seen since I had filmed in the American midwest the year before. I inspected the bulk of this disgusting mountain of blubber from tip to toe and began to weep. I had spent the last quarter-century seeing myself on large and small screens and photographed in newspapers and had never been under any illusions concerning my physical appearance. But for some reason on that evening in that room I saw myself as I was.

He remembered the incident with absolute clarity. 'I say these things,' were, he maintains, my exact words. Regularly caned, always in trouble, never stable, never settled in or secure, I left prep school a sugar addict, thief, fantasist and liar. The pattern continued at my next school, Uppingham in Rutland. More stealing, more sweets. By this time the sheer quantity of sugary food I had gorged upon was beginning to take a real and painful physical toll. Not in the waistline, for I was as skinny as a pencil, but in the mouth.

Dominic Clarke, the hero, if such a title can used of so warped a character, delivers a speech in the second act in which he describes and conflates his first sexual and smoking experience. One of those painful steps towards manhood was my first smoke. It was behind the fives courts of my house at school, with a boy called Prestwick-Agutter. I can remember it as if it were five minutes ago. Prestwick-Agutter opened his packet of Carlton Premium and drew out a short, thin ... cigarette. As my lips rounded about the tip I began to feel panic.

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