The word “memoir” evokes something very particular in its genre details: an individual life story, a look backward, something fundamental about its specific details. Maximilian Werner’s Gravity Hill is all of these things—yet at its core, it’s absolutely none of them.
The University of Utah faculty member begins with stories of his own relatively new role as a father before slipping into reflection on his own youth primarily spent in the Salt Lake City suburbs with his siblings and divorced single mother. And it’s a life that seems remarkable he escaped alive: adolescence (and even pre-adolescent years) spent in heavy drinking, drug use and all of the various accompanying activities built on those years’ armor of perceived immortality.
Yet mortality itself is the meat on Gravity Hill’s bones, as Werner tells tales of many friends and acquaintances lost too soon to foolishness or dumb, terrible luck, even as he contemplates the connection between parenthood and awareness of death’s inevitability. He nests flashbacks within flashbacks, his remarkable prose—at times deeply poetic, at times simple and earthy—turning his poignant, funny, improbable anecdotes into the equivalent of reading a life flashing before the author’s eyes, while he also tries to see beyond the “bend in the road” that will one day separate his life from those of his children.
The result is a kind of existential epic, but one full of acid trips, near escapes from tragedy and the haunting realization that “the more I love, the more I fear death.” (Scott Renshaw)
May 10, 2013 Time:
1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City, 84105Where: