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I Will Be Complete

A Memoir

by Glen David Gold

I Will Be Complete by Glen David Gold X
I Will Be Complete by Glen David Gold
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2018, 496 pages

    Paperback:
    Jun 2019, 496 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl
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Writer Glen David Gold, best known for his novels, now turns his pen to memoir, taking readers inside his turbulent youth and his emergence as a writer.

Glen David Gold is a writer best known for his wryly observant, mordantly funny novels Sunnyside and Carter Beats the Devil. It turns out, however, that his most remarkable story might be his own life story, which is what he turns to in his new book, I Will Be Complete.

Gold's memoir is largely about his childhood and young adulthood, growing up under a variety of circumstances in both suburban Los Angeles and urban San Francisco in the 1970s and 1980s. Like his novels, this ambitiously sprawling memoir is packed with observations and details about the world around him, from the fashions to the music to the comic books. Gold's early childhood was spent in relative wealth; his father, an engineer, had made some quick money by inventing a popular brand of cassette tape. All too soon, however, that prosperity dried up, and tensions between Gold's parents became entangled with the family's increasing financial straits. After their eventual divorce, Gold's father took a fairly predictable route, moving to Chicago, remarrying a younger woman, and quickly starting a second family.

Gold's mother, on the other hand, took a radically different - and wildly volatile - path. Gold, who followed his mother to San Francisco, quickly became accustomed to her unconventional bohemian lifestyle. This was the late 1970s and very early 1980s, just before the AIDS crisis devastated the community, and Gold and his mother reveled in the freedom and downright silliness they found there, even as Gold - who was always a precocious child - chose to ignore the signs that his mother was slipping further into both financial and emotional instability. His mother, who took on increasingly risky investments, also developed relationships with increasingly shifty men. In an incident that comes to define much of Gold's coming of age, his mother abruptly took off for New York City with a man she had recently met, leaving the preteen Gold to fend for himself in San Francisco, turning eventually to his mother's erstwhile boyfriend for emotional and practical support.

Gold's substantial memoir is not entirely focused on his relationship with his mother, though that dynamic - and his growing detachment from it and from her - certainly forms the backdrop for his adolescence and young adulthood. It is divided into three parts; the first is more or less about his childhood, the second about his early college years and his time working in a bookstore, and the third about his origins as a writer and his first experience of real romantic love.

Throughout, Gold - true writer that he is - reflects on his own memories, on the ways in which he remembers (and misremembers) facts, and on how he processes the things that happened to him. He grows increasingly numb to his mother's instability - a fact that his friends and colleagues can't quite comprehend - but eventually, the ways in which he writes about her foibles comprise some of his earliest writing efforts and point to his early promise as a writer. Gold's growing emotional aloofness from his mother's volatility can result in a similar detachment on the part of the reader; nevertheless, anyone who's thought deeply about the process of identity formation, the unreliability of memory, or the roots of creativity will find much to connect with in this ambitious, but thoroughly readable, account of a remarkable young life.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in August 2018, and has been updated for the August 2019 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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