Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Last Wolf

I was in a hotel room in Washington, DC for a bookselling conference. After a couple nights of poor sleep, I came back from dinner and dozed off at 9:30. I woke up happy and convinced of my good night's rest.  It was 12:10 a.m. I was as awake as the sun.  So I started to read the book I'd brought with me, the book that despite being at a bookselling conference I'd not had time to read.  The book, a memoir by Mira Bartok called The Memory Palace, about how she lived with and fled from and returned to her schizophrenic mother, is so achingly sad.  Here is a passage that is not typical--She does not in general go for the poetic digression:

     "A friend in town says she heard the last wolf when she was ten and lost in the woods. Twenty years later, she heard it again. The loss of the wolf is like the loss of a mother. Somewhere she roams in memory, in darkness. Our bond with her is inexplicable, before the beginning of time. She is fierce love, she is sorrow. She is a howling in the wilderness we can never see, calling us home. She is what we fear--and what we long to return to--the heat of the cave and animal closeness, before all civilization and reason."

I have been rereading Grimm's fairy tales recently. The Memory Palace reminds me of stories of lost princesses, and witches under curses, and the wolf in the woods.

Mira also has a website that lists sources for grants and artist residencies, for all you art types out there.


  1. sounds like a good book. I checked out the link - what a story. did you finish?

  2. I did finish it. Very well done--most memoirs need to have a point, or some huge scene that makes everything come together. She was brave enough to just have the intense story and tell it without closure or a summing up.