Deceptive dad #1 appears in Laurie Sandell’s graphic memoir, The Impostor’s Daughter: A True Memoir. Sandell theorized that her father was in the CIA because of his covert actions — disappearing on business trips during which he always had the mail stopped; mysterious calls; his overly friendly, exotic secretary; his sudden unemployment and foray into art dealing. Then there were the stories of his heroic past fighting in the jungles of Vietnam and his romantic duel in Argentina. His looming business deals and technological inventions involved the interest of the richest men in the world. How to balance this with the man who sat around in his underwear and ruined her credit before she got out of college? Her sisters and her mother seemed oblivious to the inconsistencies and rages of this narcissist patriarch. Lacking their gift of denial, Laurie fell into an unsatisfying love affair and developed a growing dependency on pills and alcohol. Her riveting, brutally honest and literally graphic memoir is the story of a survivor who become a healthy and successful writer/graphic artist. A similarly heart wrenching memoir in the graphic format is Fun Home: a Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel which chronicles her coming of age as the daughter of her emotionally distant funeral director father.
Meanwhile, the second of our deceptive dad stories is The Tragedy of Arthur: A Novel, which coincidentally, is the name of the book within the book; the author, Arthur Phillips is, also coincidentally, the name of the main character. To further muddy the water, this novel claims to be a memoir and if you check Phillips’ website, www.arthurphillips.info, you’ll find some biographical similarities between the character and the author. The father of the novel’s Arthur is a flamboyant and gifted artist who uses his extreme talent to create masterful forgeries that often, but not always fool experts. This gift results in the senior Phillips’ almost continuous incarceration and early divorce. Arthur, the son and his twin sister share a bond that grows stronger in response to their father’s deceptions. However, Dana is much more forgiving and accepting of her father’s penchant for crime and is able to appreciate his charm and maintain a relationship; they share an almost fanatical love of Shakespeare and especially, the rare “Tragedy of Arthur” of which she owns a copy, a gift from her father and inscribed by her grandfather who performed in the play as a schoolboy. Arthur, on the other hand, unsuccessfully deals with his outrage over and anger for his father in painfully human and selfish ways. An accomplished writer himself, he never heals from his jeolousy over his twin sister’s closeness with the con man and his father’s obvious preference for her. At the end of his life, Arthur’s father leaves him alone a prize so amazing, it will guarantee the family’s fortune, but is it as phony as his signed Rod Carew baseball, angrily discarded when Arthur learned of his father’s real profession? Incidentally, the baseball was legit, but little else is — not the gift copy of “The Tragedy of Arthur,” the photo of his grandfather, or the Russian passport (also a gift). Is the inheritence authentic and can Arthur even believe the opinions of experts at this point? More significantly, will Arthur cash in? This story would sit comfortably alernating between the Bard’s tragedies and comedies and culminates with the printing of the rare play, allowing readers to decide its authenticity for themselves.