Review: Gathering Noise from My Life, a Camouflaged Memoir by Donald Anderson

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cover of gathering noise from my life by donald anderson

University of Iowa Press, Sept. 2012.

Gathering Noise from My Life, a Camouflaged Memoir by Donald Anderson is an eclectic array of memories starting in Butte, Montana, where Anderson was raised and schooled. The book is a simple progression of a mixture of stories, beginning with the author recalling his family working in the coal mines of Montana, or his recollection of famous boxing matches, or him being a soldier in a war zone, not thrilled at the time with the Army General of his outfit. The book is written in short paragraphs. Sometimes the theme follows through to the next paragraph, and sometimes it doesn’t.

Anderson also adds into this memoir his belief about what people should know about certain subjects, for instance, Gary Powers, Oliver North, or even Beatles-famed Paul McCartney. He’s a powerhouse of knowledge, whether the reader finds his wisdom important or not. Sometimes a paragraph consists of one word, like polio, Chernobyl, or clusterfuck.

Throughout his story, Anderson asks the reader questions: “Are all barns red? Why?” He recalls certain quotations from his past, like that of General Curtis E. LeMay:  “I’ll tell you what war is about. You’ve got to kill people, and when you’ve killed enough they stop fighting.” 

Anderson delves in further and gives outrageous statics: “1918. Two years before my father was born, 650,000 Americans died from influenza, four times the number of U.S. troops who died in World War I.  A feature of this flu was that its victim could awaken feeling well, fall ill by noon, and be dead by nightfall.”

Readers who are interested in facts, trivia, quotations, and other irrelevant chitchat may enjoy reading this book. I found it fascinating, even though he broke many of the rules of memoir writing.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

pat florio headshotPatricia Florio, author of My Two Mothers, completed her MFA from Wilkes University January of 2011. Her work can be found online at a travel magazine and under the heading of “So you want to cook Italian.” She has published five short fiction stories. She’s lives in the historic town of Ocean Grove, N.J., 50 steps from the ocean, with her husband Ralph. She says seeing the ocean every day inspires her work. They are both planning to retire soon and spend time traveling, writing, and playing golf.

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