Thomas Farber's writing has always been characterized by the tension between the concision of its execution and the immensity of its concerns. Here and Gone is brief, elegant and deeply moving. Intellectually omnivorous and agile, it is also as expansive, funny and full of life as only a book written in the full awareness of mortality can be.
James Bradley, author of Wrack and The Resurrectionist
In our youth-obsessed culture, writers willing to confront what lies ahead are surprisingly rare. In spare, heart-achingly beautiful prose, Farber moves between Berkeley, Boston and Honolulu, exploring the hard inevitable truth of mortality and reflecting on his life, loves, and work. It is difficult to convey how deeply the book touched me, and how it stays with me, without sounding hyperbolic or melodramatic. There are moments of levity, but ultimately Here and Gone is deeply serious, deeply human.
—Shawna Yang Ryan, author of Water Ghosts and Green Island
Thomas Farber’s poignant memoir Here and Gone carries on the “fixations and strategies of Compared to What and Brief Nudity”—now at age seventy.
Early on the narrator studies a photo, realizing “it hard to believe his father died forty years ago, his mother nearly thirty years ago….his father has twenty-four years to live, his mother thirty-five years. Neither can know this...‘Dramatic irony’: we the audience understand a situation in a way the characters do not….to witness [such] vitality and affection… is to see them as he could not have viewed them as a child….to see them as they could not have seen themselves…..among the things his parents do not know is how they will age, how they will die—all that their strength and love cannot, will not, spare them.” Farber’s parents were highly accomplished—his father a pioneering cancer doctor and mother a prize-winning poet.
The heart of the memoir is in its two longest chapters—a remembrance of his five Berkeley decades and of a vacation in Honolulu that deftly explores various views of our world’s end. After witnessing several levels of absurdity among humans, he gazes on the Pacific: “Constant in being inconstant, now picking up, clarifying on the falling tide. Waves: pulses of energy created-by-wind-created-by-sun. Having traveled from so far away: shore in sight. Waves responding to the shoaling bottom; rising up as if taking a final breath.” The adult years in Berkeley read like walking meditations—on youth leaving Boston, aloneness in bachelorhood, late marriage, and writing studded with etymologies, quotations, and aphorisms. Farber enjoys being the “writer” and his chapters are replete with pleasures.
In “Afterthoughts” he faces open heart surgery. Many risks—“any one of which could become his narrative. Book done; writer undone? Clearly, for the next seven days, the writer will be telling himself a story. To encourage himself to believe. . . this operation will be daunting but miraculous.”
—Robert Bonazzi, San Antonio Express-News
Here and Gone
by Thomas Farber
Published: Andrea Young Arts/Manoa Books/El Leon Literary Arts; October 2015