Saturday, January 23, 2010

My hero / My father John Gross by Philip Gross

My hero, my father John Gross, by Philip Gross

Philip Gross
Saturday 23 January 2010

ere's an old man, older than he ever reckoned to be. He doesn't look much like a hero – hair and beard a bit unkempt, and you can tell his eyesight's not up to the job of catching a food stain here and there. But he's got his walking stick and his eccentric beret, and he strides through the backstreets, rain or shine. Don't ask him where he's going; he'll just see your lips moving, your look of slight impatience or concern . . . because his hearing has crumbled, from the top registers downwards: birdsong went first; now there's mainly the confusing growl of traffic. Bang a car door and he'll startle, as if it's a gunshot. For him that isn't a figure of speech; 65 years ago he was ducking and weaving his way across Europe in the awful closing movements of the war.

But that's another story, one he won't tell now, because words have deserted him – the three or four languages he had at his command gone with a series of small strokes, the attrition of age, aphasia . . . Can you imagine: cut off from the sound of human voices, and from your own voice? You can read just, inch by inch, up close, and your fine motor control isn't up to more than two or three words before it goes haywire.
Now, look up. Address the world fairly in whatever phonemes you can muster. Put a bold foot forward. In the words of early Quaker George Fox, "Walk cheerfully over the world . . ."
We have never been a family for filial piety, still less for hero-worship. I have no idea whether he was a brave man in that war, or simply human. But looking at my father now, the way he bears his old age . . . I call that a bit heroic.

001 My hero / Oscar Wilde by Michael Holroyd
002 My hero / Harley Granville-Barker by Richard Eyre
003 My hero / Edward Goldsmith by Zac Goldsmith
004 My hero / Fridtjof Nansen by Sara Wheeler 
005 My hero / Mother Mercedes Lawler IBVM by Antonia Fraser

007 My hero / Ernest Shepard by Richard Holmes
008 My hero / JG Ballard by Will Self
009 My hero / Alan Ross by William Boyd
010 My hero / Ben the labrador by John Banville

011 My hero / Vicent van Gogh by Margaret Drabble
012 My hero / Franz Marek by Eric Hobsbawm


017 My hero / Jack Yeats by Colm Tóibín
018 My hero / Francisco Goya by Diana Athill
019 My hero / Max Stafford-Clark by Sebastian Barry
020 My hero / Arthur Holmes by Richard Fortey

036 My hero / Robert Lowell by Jonathan Raban
037 My hero / Beryl Bainbridge by Michael Holroyd
038 My hero / Charles Schulz by Jenny Colgan
039 My hero / Oliver Knussen by Adam Foulds
040 My hero / Annie Proulx by Alan Warner

041 My hero / David Lynch by Paul Murray
042 My hero / Edwin Morgan by Robert Crawford
043 My hero / Anne Lister by Emma Donoghue
044 My hero / Jane Helen Harrinson by Mary Beard
045 My hero / Edmund Burke by David Marquand
046 My hero / Shelagh Deleaney by Jeanette Winterson
047 My hero / Christopher Marlowe by Val McDermid
048 My hero / Gwen John by Anne Enright
049 My hero / Michael Mayne by Susan Hill
050 My hero / Stanley Spencer by Howard Jacobson

051 My hero / William Beveridge by Will Hutton
052 My hero / Jean McConville by Amanda Foreman
053 My hero / Alexander Pushkin by Elaine Feinstein
058 My hero / Cy Twombly by Edmund de Waal

079 My hero / Gene Wolfe by Neil Gaiman
087 My hero / Alberto Moravia by John Burnside
096 My hero / Isaac Babel by AD Miller
097 Lucian Freud by Esi Edugyan
100 Thomas Tranströmer by Robin Robertson
102 My hero / David Hockney by Susan Hill


190 My hero / Iris Murdoch by Charlotte Mendelson
194 My hero / René Descartes by James Kelman
199 My hero / Albert Camus by Geoff Dyer


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