Sunday, April 29, 2007

Excerpts from Families

For those of you that haven't been able to read Wyatt Cooper's book, Families: A Memoir and Celebration, I wanted to share a few excerpts with you. I'll post a few this week and a few next week. I admire his writing for it's casual, unassuming style. It's interesting, to me, that Anderson shares this with his father. Enjoy....

From the Forword:

"In, September, 1974, as I was about to end this book, I went with my wife and sons to Quitman, Mississippi, to visit the farm where I grew up. My nine-year-old son Carter had often asked to see the place where my life began. Seven-year-old Anderson was looking forward to catching some fish from the pond on the land that nurtured my family for generations. I had often, in my imagination, brought them together before this, the yesterday and the tomorrow of my life, the landscape that figures vividly in my memories and the two little boys who represent my involvement in the future, and I felt impelled, before turning loose these pages, to introduce one to the other in fact.

As we drove out from Quitman in a heavy downpour, I reminded the children that the place would not look as I had described it. I knew that the house and barns were gone, the well filled in, and the land untilled and untenanted, but I was unprepared for what we found. Even the road was not where it had been. No trace remained of the house I had known and loved. Where the peach orchard had been, where the cotton fields had been, the pasture, the blackberry patches, the fences-all had been swallowed up by time. A forest of tall pine trees covered the entire 260 acres, and it seems a strange irony to me that the sale of timber brings in more income than all the cotton we ever grew."

He ends the foreword with this:

"But Christmas came, and, with it, the drawing together of my own little family group. There was the familiar joy of the children, their delight in the new bicycles they had themselves picked out, the presence of Stan and Chris, my stepsons, now fine young adults and the splendid painting that my wife, knowing the pleasure I take in her art, had made for me. Christmas is also our anniversary. This one was our eleventh, and to mark the occasion, she painted a family portrait. The setting is our living room; in it, she and I and our two boys form a continuing circle that is complete, comforting, sweet, and durable; that seems inviolate, hopeful, and somehow, sacred."

Here he writes about the Cooper Family Reunion...

"These reunions were of major importance to us. They registered the changes that took place in our lives: the marriages, the births, the moves, the prosperings and the failings to prosper. We watched each other growing up or growing old, and we felt ourselves to be a part of some timeless process, a process the rules of which applied equally to us all.

The reunions did not end when Grandma died, though they had already begun to fade some years before when she, like most of us, left her farm and moved to the town. It would never be the same in the city; there would be other demands on one's attention; one would go as one went to other engagements; it became an event sandwiched in between other events.

One needs land, really, to feel that kind of sense of family, for in those days it was the land that made you, that nourished you, that would, eventually, claim you. The land was home. It was permanent and eternal; it had always been there and would always be there; it was made of the bones of millions of years and the dust of centuries; it had known the games of Indian boys, and the battles of unnamed men. You stretched out your body upon it in the early days of spring. You felt it grow warm beneath your belly. You filled your lungs with its clean, rich, and lusty smell. You ran your hungry fingers through the tender green stubble of its surface, you lay and listened to the music of its silence, and gazed through half-closed eyes at the wide, high, pure, blue sky. It belonged to you and you belonged to it...

And to close here's one of my favorite excerpts from Anderson's book, Dispatches from the Edge, due out in paperback in May.

"I'm not sure when it happened, when I realized something had changed. I don't think there was a precise moment, a particular day. It's like when you're mourning and suddenly you become aware that the pain has faded. You don't remember exactly when it did. One day you laugh, and it shocks you. You forgot that your body could make such a sound.

Here, in New Orleans, the compartmentalization I've always maintained has fallen apart, been worn down by the weight of emotion, the power of memory. For so long I tried to separate myself from my past. I tried to move on, forget what I'd lost, but the truth is, none of it's ever gone away. The past is all around, and in New Orleans I can't pretend it's not."

Check back next week for another excerpt. Have a great week.
I'm pretty sure the caps are from bcfraggle :)


ACAnderFan said...

Purple Tie, thnaks for sharing that with us. It does seem that Andy has the same writing style as his father. I've never read 'Families' but I really want to. It sounds like a very interesting book.

The passage you picked form Andy's book is one of my favorites too. I hpoe you don't mind if I share my favorite passage from his book:

'For years after he died, I used to imagine that my father would somehow give me a sign, sometimes I still search for it, his approval, his advice. Friends of his tell me, "Your father would have been so proud of you," but it's not the same as hearing it from him, seeing it in his face. I like to think of him watching my show each nite. I like to imagine he's seeing it all'

I remember when I first read that, it made me cry. It shows just how raw Anderson's emotions still are. That last sentence is that sadest thing I have ever read. It makes me cry every time I read it. After I read Andy's book all I wanted to do was give him a hug and tell him everything would be OK.

copperfish said...

@Purple Tie, I don't have a copy of this book so it was nice that you thought of sharing some of it's contents. Thanks!

Anderson has the same facial features like his father even when he was still young. Carter on the other hand looks like his mom especially prominent were the cheekbones.

Reading in between the lines of the excerpts gave me an impression that the Coopers were close-knit clan. Very typical of the ones who values family very much. I would see why Anderson wanted this as his template when he had one. His dad mentioned a family picture in a living room. I think I have already seen a family picture of them somewhere in the net, I'm just not sure if that was the one.

His dad also wrote well. I would say writing is in their genes. And Anderson has shown it in his "Dispatches...". His book is a case of watching the watcher, where the reader is left to ponder what it means to be a witness to such devastation and become good at it, even famous for it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing that. You're right about the writing styles...

Cindy said...

Thanks for the exerpts from Wyatt's book. They were great. I can really see were Anderson gets his writting abilities from now!

Wyatt writes with such wonder Anderson reads this book every year! And uses it as a guide for his life.Too bad Wyatt only got to write one book. I would have love to read more from him!

I think Wyatt writes better than Andy! OK don't throw stuff at me now! But it's the truth!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, you made my day posting this. I need to get me a copy of Families at the library and copy it at work, I know it's illegal, but the writing is so beautiful and I wish the publisher would print another edition. Jenn

Roonie said...

Aw, thanks PT! Those are great exerpts. I'd love to own a copy of "Families" someday, but for now, that will suffice. :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for the excepts, He was such an amazing writer. It is such a shame he passed away so young. I would have loved to see all the wonderful things he would have written. I think anderson looks so much like his father. He was such a handsome man.

Fangirl moment-Anderson Cooper book signing in 9 days, can't wait!! Just can't figure out what I should wear or say....HELP!!!!! PLEASE!!!!!

Anonymous said...

KrisJordan: be yourself at the book signing. I had some small something prepared to say when I was finally standing in front of him, and it never came out. He didn't even look up at me! But he was nice just the same.

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much anonymous!!! I appreciate it. But I seriously want him to look up at me I have to see his eyes in person. Plus I really want to take a picture with him. Do you think that would be ok???I hope so!!! Fingers crossed

sydney said...

I was hoping to go to the book signing, but had to postpone my NYC trip, so no Anderson for me, wah wah.

Ah well, at least noone can accuse me of being a stalker LOL!

Anonymous said...

@kris jordon check with the place where the book signing is going to be regarding photos.

Anonymous said...

Will he be live from California tonight?

Anonymous said...

Purple Tie,
Thank you so very much for posting the passage from Wyatt Cooper's book! I've never been able to find the book in a library. (I live in Canada so maybe that's the reason.)
There were some copies on E-Bay, but the prices were unbelievable --hundreds of dollars! Your excerpts may be as close as I'll ever get to actually reading "Families". I was "born and raised" in the southern U.S., and I can certainly relate to the love of the land and the wonderful feeling of close family ties. I gathered from Anderson's book that he didn't spend a lot of time with the Coopers when he was growing up after his dad died, but didn't he attend one of their family reunions sometime in the past few years? I can't remember if that was in his book or where I read about it. Anderson certainly looks soooo much like his dad! Thanks again for the excerpt. I'll look forward to others. Brenda

Anonymous said...

I have read "Families," and go back to it on many occasions; it is a beautiful book! Wyatt seems to have been a beautiful man both inside and out. I have always thought Anderson was inspired by his father's writing style, but for obvious reasons Wyatt's writing is more open and personable than Anderson's. Although Anderson attempts to connect with the reader, and on occasion he does, unlike his dad, much of his writing often seems removed from the reader, as if there is a barrier between the two.

Wyatt's shirt reminds me of the one Anderson wore last week. A "not so beautiful" shirt made beautiful by two gorgeous men!!

Anonymous said...

@ Brenda,

I'm in Canada too and you can get the book through the library, you just have to work the system. Almost all libraries in Canada are connected and allow for inter-library loans. Ask the librarian how to access the system. Odds are really good that there's a copy sitting in a library in a major city. If you ask the librarian nicely they'll find it and ship it to your local branch. I had to wait a while, but it was worth it. Incredible book. Reading it felt like spending an afternoon with Wyatt just listening to him tell stories.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I thought I read somewhere where Anderson said that after his father died his contact with his father's side of the family in Mississippi and New Orleans basically became non-existent.

Anonymous said...

My copy of Families has a beautiful inscription from Wyatt in it and I want to share what it says because it is as beautiful as the writing in the book itself.

"To Mr. and Mrs. Lee" (not me or anyone in my family - I got my copy from ebay)
"With love and with the hope that you will find herein some cause for laughter and tears for laughter and tears are what life and good books are made of. Always yours. W"
signed September 30, 1975.

My goal is to one day get Anderson to sign this book as well. I think that would be absolutely amazing.

My two fav books - Dispatches and Families hands down. I can read them over and over again.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 10:13 am
What? he didn't even look up at you? oh! oh! I've been dieting for almost a month now, for this book signing. Damn! Oh well, thanks for the book signing I'll look good for myself. I'll be doing the studio tour too in Atlanta, so it wont be too bad. I might be able to see other cnn cuties.( Thanks to Anderson for the "motivation")

Anonymous said...

After I read Andy's book all I wanted to do was give him a hug and tell him everything would be OK.

Same here. *hugs Anderson*

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing excerpts of Families! I've read it a couple of times and enjoy it more each time.

I think Anderson's writing is as good as his Dad's but maybe not as open since Anderson hasn't had the same life experience regarding families as his Dad had. His dad had 10 years of being a father and husband; Anderson hasn't had this experience yet. I look forward to future excerpts.

Anonymous said...

I don't know about anyone else who has read the whole book but when I read it I get sad when Wyatt talks about Carter. Maybe if I had read the book before Carter past away it might be different but when Wyatt talks about Carter he is so full if life and wonder like any child his age would be. It is hard because we know what became of Carter, when I read the stories of Anderson they are cute stories of from his childhood. There is just so much life in the stories of Carter. Through this book and Anderson's book, Carter lives on.

Just my opinion :)

Anonymous said...

anon 2:57 PM, no, he didn't look up. I waited for almost two hours from the time he started signing to when I arrived in front of him. I don't know what he was thinking, but I guess he could have been tired. He was looking down at my book as he apologized for my having to wait, and since he didn't look up at me at all, I felt uncomfortable saying anything.

Unknown said...

I've known quite a few people that have gone to his booksignings and if you talk to him or ask him a question he will usually look up at you or talk to you. Try and think of something orginial. If you say "I love your book" or "I love your show" I'm sure he's heard that one thousands of times.

I'm glad everyone like the excerpts. I'll do a few more next week.

Anonymous said...

Anderson look so much like his father, very handsome men.
@acanderfan, that passage made me cry too, it makes my eyes teary everytime I read it, that he still searches for his father's sign, approval and advice and also that, he likes to think of his father watching his show each nite..aww! isn't it sad that he lost his father when he was so young? I lost my brother about 6 yrs ago and he left a 5yrs old son, every time my nephew ask me how his dad was like, it just breaks my heart.
That part of us humans, very deep inside, which no one can reach or touch but God only, and its only Him who can heal the wound.
When things like this happen to some people, the very innocent ones, I would argue with anyone that, this world is really not fare sometimes.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the advice about getting the book from the library. I'll try it! Brenda

Anonymous said...

Like all the comments before me, thank you so very much for excerpts from Families; Wyatt was a beautiful writer & it is clear his son has inherited his talent. Oh, how I would love to own it, but unless I win the lottery I can't afford to buy it. Hope springs eternal that somehow it will be reprinted -- I wonder who holds the decision on that. Are out of print books ever reprinted?

Taffiny said...

Purple Tie- Thank you, thank you, thank you!

They don't have the book at our local libraries, or local used book sales.

I love the passage, about the land,
(you have to have land, really...)

I didn't expect his writing to be so beautiful.

The Land, is what my Pop called his property. ( he had his family reunions there). Though he has passed on, and it had to be sold, I still feel about that land, the way Wyatt describes. I miss the two sisters (the two acorn trees that stood together). I watched them through the seasons, and I believed they watched me too. I will always consider that place, home.

@Cindy. maybe, I'm not sure. There are parts when Anders sounds, his words feel, different, then in other parts (like at the very beginning, the shark thing, the end, exploding into molecules transmitted through the air, and the day of the dead). I think the subject matter of most of the book impacts the style. I'm sure there are those who have written beautifully about devastation, about war, but I don't think it would have been right for this kind of book. It wouldn't have created the thoughts and feeling that it did. I kept getting lost in time, wars and death tumbling over, and in upon each other, I had trouble keeping it straight, and then I realized that was intentional, and felt the poetry of it.

@Cassie, I didn't know that. I'm going to try and see if my local library will do that. Great idea, thanks. I don't live in Canada, so Brenda and I wont be fighting over the same copy of the book

Anonymous said...

Wyatt's writing is really lyrical. Very beautiful and passionate. I get lost in his writings; they are so descriptive. Years ago people down South in the rural areas did live off the land since many were farmers. Sadly today not near as many farm and many have had to sell their farms or get out of farming. Wyatt left a great legacy; his writing and Anderson to carry on. Wyatt is proud of him!

Anonymous said...

Sorry to post again, but I came back to read the additionals comments and how people keep bringing up about Anderson hoping his Dad is looking down and how he looks for his approval. I guess today this is striking a chord with me since today is the anniversary of my dad's passing. The problem with looking for your dad's approval is sometimes you don't get it, even if he lives to be 70, 80, or older. Maybe I did have my Dad's approval, but he never said it. When a parent isn't demonstrative, no matter how many years you have together, you are still left yearning and searching after they're gone.

Sometimes you just have to take the approval of those who verbalize it and take that as a sign that those who are gone would approve.

Unknown said...

Most libraries in the country have inter-library loan. Ask your librarian how. Sometimes it costs a few dollars but it's worth it, if you can read Wyatt's book.

It's ashame that his writings weren't more appreciated at the time. And it's also too bad we don't have more of his writings.

Sheryn said...

PT, I love the last excerpt that you chose to post from Dispatches. Rereading it even today makes me so sad.

I so admire his talent for painting a picture with words. I envy it, truly.

Taffiny said...