My Book World
Many celebrity memoirs or autobiographies seem to read as if the author has recorded his or her story and transcribed it word for word—with little benefit of revision or constructive editing. Not so with Sally Field. The arc of her narrative advances from one point of tension to the next until the climax splatters on the page like a scene from one of her films. In making herself vulnerable to all the revealed truths of her life, she encourages readers to acknowledge their own truths, and because of this honesty readers are willing to forgive her her foibles. Even if Field does not possess a degree from an accredited institution (a lifetime regret on her part), she creates prose that stands up to that of any fine writer. Moreover, she does a superb job of connecting the emotional DNA from great-grandmother to grandmother to mother to Sally. She quotes from Jung as her touchstone:
“‘Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent’” (29)
But the story of Field’s acting career is only one strand of her memoir. She shares the most intimate parts of her life which help to illuminate who she is as an actor. I am reminded of her titular role in Norma Rae, when she stomps up onto a table and unites laborers where she works, and it is not difficult to believe that Field gains her power from a very real scene transpiring with her stepfather, one of the most dramatic scenes from the book. Sally is fifteen, both her mother and stepfather, Jocko, are drunk, and he picks a fight with Sally, informing her she’s a smart-ass, that he knows her inside and out, and she denies that he knows anything about her:
“The room turned red, bright blazing red. I rose from where I sat perched on the edge of my childhood, rose up through years of fear, fury, and longing, of confusion and love. I stepped onto the coffee table and there we were again, eye-to-eye, nose-to nose.
‘I hate you! YOU’RE the liar! Not ME! And you know NOTHING!’ From my mouth came a voice, but it didn’t belong to me, and from a faraway place I watched as this little person who looked like me stood up until she seemed to tower over this man.
‘You don’t know who I am!” This guttural voice, filled with loathing, vomited forth as she peered into his eyes. But it wasme. I was still there, somewhere. And while she stood, I held my breath—for a minute? An hour? And a stunning realization hit me: He was frightened of her. He was frightened of me” (90).
Jocko throws Field repeatedly against a glass patio door, but even so she realizes she has won. “Somehow, some part of me that wasn’t afraid, that didn’t care if I was loved, or if I lived or died, had beaten him. He knew it too” (91)
NEXT TIME: My Journey of States-37 New Hampshire