Marco Roth at Bookforum:
AMONG THE MANY ENTRIES in Edwin Frank’s increasingly encyclopedic New York Review Books Classics series is a genre of postwar European memoir: informed by psychoanalysis, ironic in tone or form, and of subject matter that’s both bourgeois and aristocratic—or at the intersections where upwardly moving middle classes and downwardly mobile inherited scions most resemble each other. Gregor von Rezzori’s Memoirs of an Anti-Semite, J. R. Ackerley’s My Father and Myself, Jessica Mitford’s Hons and Rebels: these books record their authors’ efforts to collect the pieces and resolve mysteries of their childhoods and adolescence—a task often complicated by the shattering impact of the Second World War—and have also become documents in their own right, testaments not only to a bygone world but to a bygone way of reckoning with privilege, secrets, desire, belonging, and money. Richard Wollheim’s Germs, first published posthumously in 2004, hits all these notes: his parents’ somewhat open marriage, his lower-class granny, his immersion in a milieu of genuine artists, appreciators, and pompous hucksters and hustlers, sometimes united in the same person. Wollheim was still fine-tuning the manuscript when he died in 2003, at eighty, and what we have is mostly organized around the childhood and adolescent years before he arrived at Oxford, though with occasional associative leaps forward and backward in time.