• Bill Minor’s Inherited Heart: Book Review

    “I grew up in a home where legends greeted one everywhere: on the walls…on book shelves…and in everyday speech…”
    – Bill Minor

    The Inherited Heart:
    An American Memoir
    By William Minor
    © 2012
    ISBN 978-1-935530-71-8
    Park Place Publications, Pacific Grove

    There’s an American proverb that claims, “A man who prides himself on his ancestry is like the potato—the best part is underground.”
    That’s probably the case for most of us, and gentle, unassuming, witty and self-effacing William Minor might claim it’s so for him, too. But if you’ve met him, or watched him perform, or read any of his prose or his poetry, you’d probably say the opposite is true of Bill. His ancestry, which he has the privilege of tracing back as far as the 1500s, all funnels down to the talented, generous writer, artist and jazz musician we know. He is the fruit of his family tree and the loving gardener of it at the same time. He says, “What a thrill, in the course of this project, to discover all of these relatives – distant or fairly close at hand – who were writers and left such remarkable accounts of their own lives! And to think that they, given the reciprocity of all things, are somehow part of me and I of them!”
    The Inherited Heart: An American Memoir is his autobiography. Self-published and dotted here and there with tiny errors, it is still beautifully written and well worthy of being read over and over. Appointed the repository of the photographs, letters and even books written by members of his family, and the owner of what must be hundreds of pictures dating from the Civil War forward, Bill Minor has woven them all into what he calls an autobiography, but is more a series of brilliant, stand-alone short stories and essays, loosely organized by subject if not an actual time line.

    His stories and his memories behave as our own thoughts and memories might: Sitting before a warm fire, the family album on our lap, we leaf through it, gazing at pictures and now and then explaining them to a grandchild, we are taken back and forth in time and memory, each image or story leading to another and then back to the first. We might not have been present but we have the tale, handed to us, of uncles and great grandparents, children buried too early, lovers lost and famous people our ancestors might have known, and, in turn, of stories they, themselves told. If we’re lucky, as Bill is, they wrote them down and didn’t trust the proof to capricious memory or some uninterested descendents.

    A Pacific Grove denizen, he named his first “multi-media” piece after our city. It was a collection of poems and woodcuts, published in 1974.

    Bill grew up in Michigan and graduated from high school in the early 1950s. He tells of his childhood in those hopeful years and his coming-of-age in a family where he was the middle child and beset by insecurities and allergies.

    Bill in a coat closet, winning a round of Spin the Bottle: “There in the dark (in more ways than one) I groveled like the rank amateur I was and ended up kissing what must have been Fred Schittler’s raincoat – something very slick and rubbery and out-of-doors. Perhaps it was a pet seal the family kept in the closet; I don’t know. It certainly wasn’t Patti, or so I hope.” We know the disappointment of girlfriends who left him standing on the doorstep or never even let him even that close, so we’re the more pleased to remind ourselves that he has been married for 40 years to Betty, a girl he lost but regained later.

    How does one compete with an older brother named Launcelot, mentioned again and again as “precious” in his father’s diary whereas Bill is termed “sickly”? He says they have become closer in these late years, but not, probably, as close as he is with his younger sister, Emily. Nonetheless, the stories of the family of five resonate with those of us who have siblings and who grew up in those years of this century when change was the norm and we awakened every day to something new.

    He seems not to have taken after – or to – his father. There’s a loose comparison to Willy Loman, Arthur Miller’s Salesman, and an echoing of the word “loss” in connection with his father. But it’s clear he admires his mother, referring to her as the true ruler of the roost chez Minor. She is still alive and still beautiful, he says, at the age of 101.

    But it is Bill who shines through the stories of his family in The Inherited Heart, as hard as he tries to steer us toward the generals and priests and physicians and authors in his family tree. We probably identify more closely with the kid who touched Harry Truman’s sleeve when he passed through Birmingham, MI than we do with any president’s close adviser, so distant from our own lives as to be unattainable.

    When you have the chance, and you will Friday evening when he performs (with Heath Proskin and Jaquie Hope) at The Works, go listen to Bill Minor caress the piano keys. Find one of his CDs (they’re listed in the book) and above all, purchase a copy of this book for your own. But don’t ask to borrow my copy of the CD “Love Letters from Lynchburg” or The Inherited Heart: An American Memoir. I lent out “Love Letters” and can’t remember to whom, and my well-thumbed copy of The Inherited Heart awaits another reading on my bookshelf.

    Bill’s Uncle Cabell (James Cabell Minor, M.D.) wrote a book, published in 1917, called The Plan o’ The House o’ Man, Sir! Or The Parts Water and Position Play in the Prevention and Treatment of Physical Disorders of the Body. It sold for $1. Bill has a copy he inherited. Bill’s book costs $14.95, and surely you’d rather own The Inherited Heart: An American Memoir. You can order it from Bill by writing him (he’s still that old-fashioned) at 847 Junipero Ave., Pacific Grove, CA 93950 and adding $5 for shipping. Or you can buy it at The Works, 667 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove.

    posted to Cedar Street Times on January 10, 2013

    Topics: Arts & Music, Front PG News, Marge Ann Jameson

    Comments

    You must be logged in to post a comment.



  • Cedar Street’s Most Popular

  • Beach Report Card

    Loading...

    This is the Heal the Bay Beach Report Card for Monterey Peninsula beaches, which reports water quality grades, or when relevant, weather advisories. An A to F grade is assigned based on the health risks of swimming or surfing at that location. Look at the "dry" grade for all days except those "wet" days during and within 3 days after a rainstorm. Click here for more information on the Beach Report Card. Click the name of the beach when it pops up for more details, or choose a beach below.

    AsilomarCarmelLovers PointMunicipal Wharf 2 (Monterey)Upper Del Monte Beach (Monterey)San Carlos Beach (Cannery Row)Stillwater Cove (Pebble Beach)Spanish Bay

    adapted from Heal the Bay, brc.healthebay.org
    subscribe via RSS
    stay safe on the go: app for iOS or Android