A remarkable read. Donald Anderson's Gathering Noise from My Life will linger with you long after you put the book down. This "camouflaged memoir" does so many things so very well.
The prose is crisp, often unflinching, landing like jabs thrown by the various boxers we meet in the text. Deftly blending his story with the larger political and cultural history of the past 60 years, Anderson provides a profound meditation on a life devoted to literature, rooted in the arts, indebted to reading. But it's also the compelling story of growing up in a mining town--Butte Montana--among saints and lapsed saints, about reckoning with the major wars of our time, from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan, about family, and wives, and names, and words, and questions.
In the end, it's a story that asks us to peer deeply into the camouflage we all erect around our storied lives, and once having done so....having seen with renewed urgency, as Anderson's final lines exhort us to...then we can begin to understand, as Stephen Elliott claims in Gathering Noise, " the world by how we retrieve memories,[to] re-order information into stories to justify how we feel" (190). Anderson's litany of retrieved memories, his often striking juxtaposition and re-ordering of them, then compels us to enter the story. Less justification than exploration, less feeling than immersion in powerful images (that inevitably evoke strong emotions), Gathering Noise embodies Anderson's note that begins the memoir: "We are where we've been and what we've read." We're lucky to have been where Donald Anderson takes us in this amazing narrative, and when we put it down, we're grateful for having read it. Quite simply, Gathering Noise is a gift; cherish it.