Clifton Fadiman was an essayist and critic, but he found his widest audience on the radio. “At one point, more than a tenth of the population of the United States tuned in every Tuesday night to ‘Information Please,’ ” said his daughter, the writer Anne Fadiman. “He was a public figure, exceptionally famous in his day and exceptionally unknown now.”
In “The Wine-Lover’s Daughter,” just out in paperback, Anne writes about her father and their relationship. “I knew I wanted to write about him sometime,” Fadiman said. “I finally got to the point in my life where I didn’t feel I was still in his shadow. I had to emerge from it completely to feel ready to write about him, and that time finally came.”
In addition to his sophistication, erudition, and literary perspicacity, her father had some less appealing qualities, Fadiman said, citing “his condescension toward women, his insecurities, his wish that he could cut off his Jewishness at the root.” Although the book is loving and affectionate, she added, “there certainly were some things in there that he would have hated; I could never have written it when he was alive because I wouldn’t have wanted to hurt him.”
Fadiman wrote some of the book in a tiny one-room cabin, a New England hideaway lacking Internet, landline, and cell service. “All I had there was his books, and my notes, and my computer. It focused my mind like a magnifying glass.”
Fadiman hopes the book will speak to any daughter who seeks to understand her father. “That’s what a memoir should do,” she said. “It’s that your life intersects with the author’s life, that you feel them touching each other, and in some way have something to say to each other.”
Fadiman will read 7 p.m. Monday at Porter Square Books.Kate Tuttle, president of the National Book Critics Circle, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.