June 15, 2015
Originally published at DailyCaller.com
David Horowitz has spent a half-century in the battle of ideas that defines our age. A red-diaper baby who helped found the New Left and promote its ideology, Horowitz was awakened from those dogmatic slumbers by events both personal and geopolitical, including the murder of a friend by the Black Panthers. From then on he became the left’s most feared and reviled enemy, battling their ideology with writings marked by solid argument, relentless logic, and fierce passion.
Now in his late seventies, Horowitz has become more reflective, publishing a series of philosophical memoirs — The End of Time, A Cracking of the Heart, and A Point in Time — now joined by You’re Going to be Dead One Day. As in those earlier volumes, in the new one Horowitz reflects on his life to find the refutation of leftist ideology in the permanent, non-negotiable conditions of being human, with all the loss, failure, and suffering he has experienced in his own. But as the subtitle “A Love Story” suggests, Horowitz also discovers in his painful experiences the possibilities of redemption and the peace that come from accepting that in a world where we all “facing a death sentence,” as he writes, our highest aim in life should be to “only connect,” as E. M. Forster has it, to love unconditionally and allow oneself to be loved in turn, accepting all the risk of pain and loss that defines all human relationships.
While acknowledging, and at time envying, the certainties of religious faith, Horowitz searches for the answers to these “questions at the heart of our existence” in his attempts to make sense out of the tragic vicissitudes and sustaining relationships of his own life. The current book begins with a bungled hip operation that left Horowitz’s foot paralyzed and wracked with intense pain. This mishap followed his wife April’s near-fatal auto accident. Both disasters demanded answers, some meaningful account of why such random suffering should occur.
But as his memoir proceeds, Horowitz acknowledges that the answers to life’s mysteries, especially the pain and suffering both he and his wife experienced, may never be found. But he also realizes that the search for meaning can itself still be productive: “I am not ashamed to admit that I don’t know the answers to life’s most important questions. There is even an advantage to a perspective that accepts the insoluble contradictions at the center of our being. It allows one to keep one’s mind open and that in turn can open new worlds.”
Horowitz’s “negative capability,” as Keats put it, is a subtle challenge to the misplaced certainty, the “destructive folly,” as Horowitz calls it, of the leftist faith that there is one and only one revealed truth that inexorably leads to the utopia in which the tragic constants of human existence will disappear.
This theme persists throughout Horowitz’s accounts of his family and what they have meant to him. Like all parents, Horowitz must confront the fact that once his children are grown and have entered the world, they become, in Francis Bacon’s memorable phrase, “hostages to fortune,” beyond our ability to guide and protect. He had to accept that he was now “a helpmate with experience to share. There was satisfaction in that, but it was also a diminishment.”
Horowitz’s recognition that his grown children cannot be controlled or protected from the risks of life is a melancholy truth ordinary people have learned for centuries, and the type of wisdom that comes from lived life and challenges the totalitarian impulses of the left, whose imagined utopia depends precisely upon reducing people to children they can control and manipulate.
But there are also consolations in watching your children slip from your grasp and make their own way in the world along paths different from one’s own. Horowitz writes, his children “are a mirror that shows me my own limitations and makes me wonder about the different paths I might have taken … Parenthood, it turns out, teaches you about yourself, and not always in a reassuring way. Your see your failings starkly, and hardest of all you have to accept the distances that the dance of life creates.”
Later he ends his reflections about his son Ben with the observation that his son’s success as a businessman reminded him how he had been “driven — one might say obsessively — by a mission that blinded me to many things at the periphery of my sight … I was so absorbed in pursuing these wars that I didn’t pay proper attention to things I should have. As a result I didn’t have the breadth of vision of either of my sons, and consequently, unlike them, did repeat my mistakes and paid the price.”
Surveying the various other relationships in his life, Horowitz affirms the great truth that respect for humanity with all its flaws and failings should never be trumped by allegiance to ideology. The death of his old friend Florence, a committed leftist to the end, elicits from Horowitz a generous appraisal despite her “capacity for righteous anger, which in my experience is generally shared by people convinced that they can make a better world.” Nonetheless, Horowitz writes, “While her political activities involved a constant war against the enemies of the left, in her daily routines she had dedicated herself to helping the poor and outcast.”
Would that such generosity could be found on the other side these days, when conservatives, the rich, and people of faith are reduced to hateful caricatures no matter how much good they may do.
For the last two decades Horowitz’s wife April has been by example a constant reminder to him that those we love can be our greatest teachers. Apart from her constant love and support, her rescue of neglected and abused horses has been a lesson in the power of kindness and sympathy, for “a spiritual heart breeds compassion for the vulnerable,” as Horowitz observes, a “habit of the heart” that can check the abstract theorizing of what Jacob Burckhardt called the “terrible simplifiers,” those willing to create mounds of corpses to realize their utopian dreams. Yet as he tells the tale of April’s rescue of a particularly brutalized horse she names Lazarus, Horowitz is no sentimentalist about the power of a good heart. He is too aware of “the cruelty of men toward any creature they consider weaker or unable to retaliate” and of “the irredeemable aspect of the human condition, the casual cruelty and normal deceitfulness of human beings, which will always frustrate hopes for a better world.”
But again, Horowitz’s respect for the “irreducible complexity” of human nature draws another lesson from the rescue of Lazarus: “the possibility of redemption for an individual life. Each time you bring someone back from the doors of death, each time you restore them to health, you see how fragile life is and how glorious it can be.” Refuting the grand utopians and their revealed world-historical truths, Horowitz instead champions “creative faith,” one “born of humility and love; their adherents do not presume to act like gods and try to recreate the world.”
Brushing aside the question of whether a providential God is the author of such redemption, he writes, “What matters is a heart that is open, that connects your to the voiceless; what is important is a faith that inspires you to see to their care and revival.” Do not attempt to save all humanity and in the process neglect to respect the individual human. Instead bring love and succor to those nearest to you and those you can personally help. For as the Talmud has it, “Whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.”
You’re Going to be Dead One Day is a lyrical and beautifully written meditation on how one man’s life — and by implication any man’s life — offers the most profound refutation of the destructive dreams of the utopian left: the complex mystery of human life, human love, and human loss and suffering, a mystery that makes each one of us invaluable and worthy of respect.
In his final reflection on his life and work, David Horowitz confronts with equanimity the possibility that the latter may someday vanish: “What matters to me,” he ends, “is this: I have lived as fully as I was able, I have produced wonderful children and am married to a woman with a zest for living and the heart of an angel, and I am looking forward to my next walk.” As this wise book teaches, those we love and the simple pleasures of life comprise the only utopia any of us need or deserve.
Full disclosure: Thornton is a Sillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
June 27, 2015
By Cortney O’Brien
Originally published at Townhall.com
A routine hip operation turned into one of those life changing moments for David Horowitz. The surgeon damaged his sciatic nerve, leaving him with a paralyzed left foot and a reservoir of neuropathic pain, Horowitz divulges in the opening chapter of “You’re Going to Be Dead One Day: A Love Story.” In the midst of his suffering, however, the author found time for reflection.
Horowitz is an accomplished author, speaker, and freedom fighter. One of his most well known works, Radical Son, described the transformation he underwent from a radical leftist to a conservative activist. Recently, however, his physical struggles have urged him to take a break from politics and publish a four-part series on life and faith.
Horowitz’s biggest support system throughout his distressing trial, has been his wife April. Incredibly, shortly before her husband suffered through his painful surgery, she herself had just been through a traumatic experience of her own. A terrifying car accident left her near death in the hospital.
“She had a punctured lung, a broken collarbone, broken ribs,” Horowitz toldTownhall. “She came as close to death as you can probably come. But, fortunately for me, she was somewhat recovering when I was struck down by this botched operation.”
Horowitz said his strong relationship with April tells the story behind his new book’s title.
“We had to take care of each other,” he explained. “The climax of the book, where the title comes from, is that we took a decision to make a gamble. You save your life for the future. But you have to see there’s a limit to what the future is. My wife wanted to spend some money to make our environment more beautiful and I tried to stop her and she looked at me and said, ‘You’re going to be dead one day. I’m going to be dead. We need to enjoy our life.’”
Part of enjoying life, he suggested, means not dwelling on mistakes.
“In the book, I’m kind of hard on myself,” he shared. “I should’ve investigated more, although I don’t think he was a bad doctor. Accidents happen. I think, like most people, or at least people who haven’t been through serious health issues, we are pretty ignorant of the way the body works. So I wasn’t really aware the nerves are so crucial to the muscle and I had had a very successful hip operation so I thought, Oh this is a piece of cake…I don’t think it was malicious. There are a lot of terrible things that happen in life that you can’t really blame anybody for. Not that it would do any good if you could.”
Horowitz said that writing, which has always been a cathartic experience for him, has proved even more comforting during this bout of physical pain.
“When you write, you can put the world in order,” he said. “One of the things that people are in denial about, big time, is that everything is really out of control. There is no order. Things aren’t necessarily going to work out. It is very calming and therapeutic. I think a lot of the reason I began writing it, was that I was immobile, I was in pain. Writing took my mind off all that.”
Horowitz also said that to move past the regrets of the present, one must look to the future.
“If you’re looking at yourself in age, you’ve got to look at the generations,” he said. “I have some wonderful children. Some of the book is what they have to teach you about letting go.”
Toward the end of our conversation, Horowitz said he is an agnostic, yet shared that his wife’s strong faith has provided much needed restfulness.
“I wouldn’t have been saved if it hadn’t been for April’s faith,” he said.
As for those concerned that Horowitz has given up politics, have no fear. He hinted he won’t be able to stay away.
“Willy nilly that’s who I am,” he said.
By Ronald Radosh
July 20, 2015
You will be well-rewarded if you take a break from our current political turmoil to read David Horowitz’s new book, You’re Going to be Dead One Day: A Love Story.
In its pages, you will not find the conservative warrior that you know from his speeches, books, articles, and his organization’s website. Rather, Horowitz, in this third memoir since he wrote Radical Son, presents us with a profoundly personal and moving philosophical inquiry into the meaning of life in the face of death — hence the jarring title (as if we didn’t know it already). But, it is also, as the title states, a love story chiefly about his wife April and the other people in his life he loves and treasures.
I have been friends with Horowitz for decades, since our high school days in New York City when we were comrades in arms in the American Communist Party’s youth organization. But I was not prepared for the power of his writing, and his willingness to bare his soul and inner feelings from the months of May through September of 2014. Those months, as we learn, were particularly difficult ones for his family. David, after what he expected to be a standard hip replacement operation, was left with what is called “drop foot,” a condition leaving him unable to walk and in severe pain.
A short time after, April almost died in a car accident, and his son Jonathan was rushed to the hospital having suffered a heart attack at the age of 53. Thankfully, he survived.
This was not Horowitz’s first brush with mortality. At 60, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, which caused him to pass the Rubicon between a time when he enjoyed “robust health” and took it for granted to the realization that he was not going to be the exception. He could, he tells us, fill his head with happier reflections, but he won’t, writing that “thinking about our mortal condition, and the way it affects how we live in the here and now, remains as seductive to me as ever.”
Despite these setbacks and the unpleasant surprises life sometimes gives us, David Horowitz faces these tribulations as part of life, and still presses on with strength and optimism.
He has been “driven,” as he puts it, to “confront those who refused to give up [the] misguided” attempt to change the world and achieve the new socialist order that would supposedly triumph everywhere and solve all the world’s problems.
Now Horowitz tells us he is “a pessimist about humanity,” but at the same time an optimist about his own life. How can that be?
The answer, he believes, may lie in the “quasi-religious world” he was brought up in, where he was taught that “despite all improbabilities, despite the fact that our community of communist believers was tiny and hunted, the brave new world we were seeking was just beyond the horizon. History was on our side.” He admits that tragic experience taught him the “destructive folly of this faith, but habit and instinct continue to say otherwise.”
Life is indeed full of surprises. Like Whittaker Chambers, to whom Horowitz has often been compared, good came out of his youthful infatuation, and gave us a man who is now an energetic force devoted to fighting the lies of the Left.
Horowitz has tried not to inflict his passion and his own motivation on his children, who all have followed their own chosen paths. His late daughter Sarah moved to political and social action, but carried out her activist work within the tradition of Judaism. His son Jonathan became at first a musician and eventually a manager of major hit groups, and his son Ben, who opted out of “the family business” of political activism to become a Silicon Valley top executive, landed on the cover of Fortune magazine and now is a CEO of a major venture capital firm. His wife April’s son Jon, who, he raised and considers his own son, with his guidance and support became a successful researcher in immunology.
Horowitz learned to “avoid raising my own children as I had been raised,” he writes, not free to even consider another choice, which would “have been seen not as an alternative but a betrayal.”
Thus Horowitz knew he had to set his children free as they entered adolescence, which coincided with the beginning of his own doubts which eventually became overwhelming. That move to conservatism, he reminds readers, took place over a 20-year period.
I personally recall the beginnings of his transition. When I lived in New York City decades ago, Horowitz was visiting his parents and friends. I took him with me to a meeting of Dissent magazine, then both social-democratic and anti-Communist. He was looking to see if this was a potential alternative path for him that would leave him on the political Left while breaking from the old Communist left, the New Left, and the Black Panther Party.
Soon after, he wrote an article titled “A Radical’s Disenchantment” about his doubts for The Nation – then as now the major magazine of American leftists — in which he sought to explain why he was beginning to have doubts about the course taken by much of the Left. He wrote the following in 1979:
Can the left take a really hard look at itself — the consequences of its failures, the credibility of its critiques, the viability of its goals? Can it begin to shed the arrogant cloak of self-righteousness that elevates it above its own history and makes it impervious to the lessons of experience?
It would take many years for him to finally decide the answer, and he has devoted himself since — at times with superhuman effort — to continue the fight against the Left despite the personal costs it has taken.
In that journey, for the past twenty years, he has had the support and love of his wife April. Unlike her husband, April is a woman of faith, as well as someone who has reached out to save animals, especially horses. He has helped her establish a foundation called The Heart of a Horse, which rescues abandoned horses and seeks to save their lives. More importantly to her husband, she has brought dogs into their home life, rescuing many who had been abused and rejected and now brought back to life. Horowitz eloquently writes about the joy they have given him and what he has learned about life from them.
In the concluding paragraphs of his book, Horowitz writes that he feels “gratified to have composed a body of work reflecting what I have witnessed and learned; I take pride in the belief that it is good work and may be of some use to others.” In that journey, he concludes, “I have lived as fully as I was able, I have produced wonderful children and am married to a woman with a zest for living and the heart of an angel, and I am looking forward to my next walk.”
We all are in debt to David Horowitz for all he managed to accomplish after leaving the ranks of the Left, and it is my hope that he will still have good years left to complete the task he set himself to engage in so many years ago.
By Bruce Bawer
July 10, 2015
He’s known to both friend and foe as a polemicist of the first order, a tireless adversary of political orthodoxies who’s never afraid to meet the enemy and do battle. He’s Daniel in the lion’s den, Job enduring abuse after abuse but holding fast to his convictions, and (yes) David facing off against the establishment Goliath. His political writings, now collected in The Black Book of the American Left,are deeply informed and masterly in their argumentation.
But there’s another side to David Horowitz, man and writer. In three short works published in recent years, this very public man has vouchsafed us glimpses of his most private experiences, thoughts, and feelings as he makes his way through his eighth decade. A fourth book in this series has just been published.
At the outset perhaps a few words should be said about its title, You’re Going to Be Dead One Day: A Love Story. Obviously, it’s not the cheeriest title on record. Surely some people will give the book a pass precisely for this reason. Then again, those same people probably wouldn’t get very far into, say, Pascal’s Pensées, Goethe’sSufferings of Young Werther, Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations, Tennyson’s In Memoriam, or C.S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed, either, before tossing them aside and picking up Fifty Shades of Grey.
Why? T.S. Eliot understood. “Human kind,” he wrote, “[c]annot bear very much reality.” Most people just don’t want to dwell on their own mortality – or, for that matter, to think very deeply about their own lives. Of course, that’s a distinction without a difference: it’s impossible to think deeply about life without thinking about mortality. Today’s Western culture and technology, however, encourage and train us to do the opposite – to be ignorant of history, preoccupied with the headline trivialities of the day, and endlessly distracted by Twitter and Itunes, all the while pretending we’ll be here forever. Once, years ago, I wrote an article in which I quoted a line from the Book of Common Prayer: “In the midst of life we are in death.” After I turned it in, an editor queried me about this sentence. What, she asked, did it mean? She was young.
There is great wisdom here, which from time to time leads one to put the book down just to think for a minute or two; and there are also moments of remarkable feeling, when one pauses to wipe away a tear. Especially touching are the anecdotes that convey the Horowitzes’ tenderness toward animals and concern for their welfare – most notably, April’s heroic, hands-on efforts to help horses that have been subject to cruel abuse and neglect. For some of us, the ultimate test of one of our fellow homo sapiens is how they treat our helpless fellow creatures; Horowitz and his wife pass this test with flying colors. The very way in which he writes about animals, indeed, is a lesson in humaneness, in humanity at its noblest. It goes without saying that the overwhelming majority of those on the left who have routinely and reflexively savaged him in the media don’t begin to measure up to him in knowledge or sagacity; I suspect that, for all their pharisaical sloganeering about saving the world, few if any of them come near him in active, real-world benevolence, either.
Needless to say, this poignant, bittersweet, captivating little volume is light-years removed from Horowitz’s political writings in both topic and tone. But philosophically it’s thoroughly consistent with them. It limns a life lived not (as Horowitz’s parents, tragically, lived) in the grip of some utopian ideology that demands contempt for this imperfect world and its less enlightened denizens, but lived, rather, with a humble and realistic acceptance of the limitations, temporal and otherwise, of human existence – and a firm and fervent appreciation of the good and precious things, great and small, that life, while it lasts, can afford.
By Barbara Kay
June 25, 2015
Reprinted from PrinceArthurHerald.com
Towards the end of his new memoir, You’re Going to Be Dead One Day: A Love Story, David Horowitz reprises a vividly remembered incident that he had previously recounted in Radical Son (1996), his eloquent manifesto of liberation from his family’s hermetically sealed ideological prison.
Horowitz’s parents had come to California to see his new home. At the time, approaching early middle age, Horowitz was emerging from years of intellectual and domestic crisis. His erstwhile comrades, the Black Panthers, had murdered an innocent supporter, Betty Van Patter, in cold blood, creating (reasonable) fear for Horowitz’s personal safety, vaporizing his ideological confidence, and setting in motion a tortured self-interrogation that in turn alienated old friends and sabotaged his marriage, leading to a divorce and temporary estrangement from his four children.
Without savings or job prospects, his modest new dwelling (financed by his mother) represented nothing more than hope that a corner had been turned in his fortunes. Yet, having briefly toured the little house, his father’s comment was, “You lead a charmed life.”
The words, so at variance with Horowitz’s temporal woes, shocked him at the time. Considered these many years later, though, and contemplating the raft of fresh tribulations that inspired this book, he sees them as retrospectively true.
For the Black Panthers did not kill him after all. Self-interrogation opened the floodgates to positive, life-altering insights. His relationship with his former wife became amicable and enriching. His writing flourished and found mass audiences. He reconnected with his children on positive, mutually gratifying terms.
And, 20-plus years ago, he married April Mullvain, considerably younger but in many ways considerably wiser than himself, whose back story, character and philosophy of life are given generous attention in this memoir. What makes for the perception of a “charmed life,” it turns out, can be the difference between totting up one’s losses and counting one’s blessings. Horowitz has suffered greatly, but he has also been greatly blessed. And in this, his fourth domestic journal, the lion in winter is attuned more to gratitude for the blessings than sorrow for the losses.
Although Horowitz claims not to believe in God, he was raised as a believer – the “destructive faith” of Communism is more demanding and all-consuming than most other belief systems – and the banishment of that failed god did not relieve him of a yearning for a “creative faith” that would confer purpose and significance on his moral crusade, as well as the hope of redemption for personal sins that hovers over all of his apologias.
You’re Going to be Dead One Day is a slender, meandering flow of anecdotes mundane and meaningful, philosophical aperçus, personal performance review, and, strewn here and there – this, even off-duty, is David Horowitz after all – mini-attacks on the utopianism of the left.
The book opens on a brilliant spring morning with a description of a luxurious reclining leather chair equipped with impressive electronic bells and whistles, in which Horowitz is sitting and pleasurably contemplating Mothers Day celebrations in progress around him.
The chair, a gift from April, will allow him to write in relative comfort, true comfort being in short supply following a botched hip surgery resulting in severe neuropathic pain and a useless “drop foot.” Horowitz appreciates April’s thoughtfulness, all the more moving in light of her own terrifying brush with death and residual suffering not many months before in a car crash.
So the book begins in a perfect storm of labile emotion and memento mori markers: a family reunion; physical pain; the haunting near-loss in a loved one’s skidding halt on the lip of the abyss; and worrisome new evocations of his 2001 radical prostatectomy. Writing the memoir seems a natural way to console himself for his sense of general decline.
In one important way, though, Horowitz remains not only undiminished, but stronger than ever. The subtitle of the book is “A love story.” And that it is. Horowitz marvels: “I find myself in the throes of a passion that I would have thought reserved only for the young and innocent.”
Indebtedness and admiration flood the narrative when April is the subject. She clearly completes him, off-setting his pessimism with optimism, his impatience in decision-making (he chose his maladroit hip surgeon from the Internet!) with sobriety of action and his tendency to ratiocination with spontaneity.
He worries about amassing equity that will support her when he is gone; she, a seizer of the day, happily uses their “seed corn” to enhance their home’s beauty and hospitable utility (not to mention material value). As April puts it, providing the memoir’s title, “You’re going to be dead one day. I’m going to be dead. So let’s enjoy it while we’re here. Let’s be happy.” Horowitz, the great persuader, is persuaded.
Animals play an out-sized role in this book. Over the years with April, Horowitz has found himself the bemused owner of five rescue dogs, and his home a base for a horse-rescue organization. Although apolitical, April, like Horowitz, is in her own way a crusader for justice.
Some of her rescue animals were liberated from conditions so dire and apparently hopeless, only an angelic soul would see a life worth saving. Horowitz’s claims for April’s extraordinarily giving nature are backed up with evidence in inspiring tales of wretchedly starved, brutalized and even diseased dogs and horses – the details are quite distressing; man’s casual cruelty to animals is viscerally revolting – that she could not bear to abandon, and against all odds restored to lives of health and joy.
On a deeper level, this fourth memoir continues to explore the theme of parents and parenting that permeates Horowitz’s three others: The End of Time (2005), A Cracking of the Heart(2009) and A Point in Time (2011). A Cracking of the Heart was the most difficult to write, as its subject was Horowitz’s relationship with his heroic daughter Sarah, following her tragically early death at 44 from complications attached to her genetic affliction of Turner Syndrome.
In that book, reflecting on his own deficits as a father, Horowitz wrote, “Her thoughts were guiding me toward the future, as though she were my parent rather than I hers.” He was struck by a lesson Sarah took from a revered rabbi, “Pay attention to the ways in which your relationship continues.”
These are words Horowitz took to heart, for You’re Going to Be Dead One Day is suffused with sensitivity to the casual pain his ambitions and ego have inflicted on loved ones, even his beloved wife. In one tense episode, an uncharacteristically angry April tells him, “You are thinking only of yourself. You don’t consider what you put me through.” Chastened, Horowitz concedes, “I could not dismiss what she had said. I did bump into walls and people.”
Amongst the most important “people” Horowitz bumps into are his remaining children, Jonathan, Ben and Anne. Though circumspect and often vague regarding details, presumably to protect his children’s privacy, Horowitz offers much to interest the reader in his recurrent fascination with fluctuating cycles in the parent-child relationship. Understandably. Horowitz’s parents loved him, but they loved Communism more, and raised him to believe that a step away from Communism was a personal betrayal of them. That he did step away is a tribute to his courage, but he paid a high price in godforsaken loneliness for choosing self-exile.
Horowitz’s 1978 divorce created “a continental divide in my life.” His parenting role sharply diminished. As he writes here – a reality every parent of adult children will recognize – parenting “teaches you about yourself, and not always in a reassuring way. You see your failings starkly, and hardest of all you have to accept the distances that the dance of life creates.”
Grateful for his reintegration in their lives, Horowitz vowed that he would never subject his own children to the kind of political bondage he had known, and kept that promise, not only because of its inherent unfairness, but also because, as he writes in reference to Jonathan, “I didn’t want my enemies to become his enemies.” (I smiled at Jonathan’s quip, “Only dummies go into the family business,” and Horowitz’s rueful admission, “I was one of the dummies….”)
Horowitz’s humility in lauding his sons’ remarkable achievements (in life, as well as in their respective entrepreneurial trajectories, captivating stories in themselves) is touching: “I didn’t have the breadth of vision of either of my sons, and consequently, unlike them, did repeat my mistakes and paid the price.”
For readers of a certain age – likely to be his most receptive constituency – Horowitz’s articulate recognition of the mutability in parent-children relations will prove the most interesting aspect of his memoir, and his stoic acceptance of his diminishing tide in their lives the most admirable. His insights, simply expressed, are perhaps not entirely original, but they ring true in a memorable way, as for example, “our children’s successes become a measure of our own decline as their exciting steps lead to a future without us.”
Quite late in the memoir, Horowitz reveals that because of hormone treatments he is undergoing to counter elevated PSA levels, this was “the first book I have written without any testosterone in my system.” This certainly helps to explain his melancholy around his sense of general diminishment, but also the preoccupation with relationships, the tenderly sketched biographies of the family animals and his deepened empathy with April’s emotional peaks and lows. “Sometimes I grow misty in my walks,” he writes. To understand in the body what it can feel like to be the opposite sex is a late-life gift, and that is the spirit in which Horowitz takes it.
You Will Be Dead One Day has the feel of a “last things” summing-up of his personal life. Knowing Horowitz, we should not make any such assumption. But if it is, we leave him in a wholesome place, proud of the “good work” he has done and proud too of the fact that he has lived “as fully as I was able.” If not always the “charmed life” of his father’s imagination, David Horowitz’s has been and continues to be a life in full, still very much in influential progress, and this memoir a charming glimpse into previously unexplored nooks and crannies therein.
Barbara Kay is a weekly columnist with Canada’s National Post newspaper.