Author(s): Michael Frank
WINNER OF THE 2018 JG-WINGATE PRIZE
A psychologically acute memoir about an unusual Hollywood family by Michael Frank, who "brings Proustian acuity and razor-sharp prose to family dramas as primal, and eccentrically insular, as they come" (The Atlantic)
"My feeling for Mike is something out of the ordi - nary," Michael Frank overhears his aunt telling his mother when he is a boy of eight. "It's stronger than I am. I cannot explain it . . . I love him beyond life itself." With this indelible bit of eavesdropping, we fall into the spellbinding world of The Mighty Franks.
The family is uncommonly close: Michael's childless Auntie Hankie and Uncle Irving, glamorous Hollywood screenwriters, are doubly related-- Hankie is his father's sister, and Irving is his mother's brother. The two families live near each other in Laurel Canyon. In this strangely intertwined world, even the author's grandmothers--who dislike each other--share a nearby apartment.
Strangest of all is the way Auntie Hankie, with her extravagant personality, comes to bend the wider family to her will. Talented, mercurial, and lavish with her love, she divides Michael from his parents and his two younger brothers as she takes charge of his education, guiding him to the right books to read (Proust, not Zola), the right painters to admire (Matisse, not Pollock), the right architectural styles to embrace (period, not modern--or mo-derne, as she pronounces the word, with palpable disdain). She trains his mind and his eye--until that eye begins to see on its own. When this "son" Hankie longs for grows up and begins to turn away from her, her moods darken, and a series of shattering scenes compel Michael to reconstruct both himself and his family narrative as he tries to reconcile the woman he once adored with the troubled figure he discovers her to be.
In its portrayal of this fascinating, singularly polarizing figure, the boy in her thrall, and the man that boy becomes, The Mighty Franks will speak to any reader who has ever struggled to find an independent voice amid the turbulence of family life.
`The glory of this book is its richly evoked world ... Michael is an Isherwood camera ... I doubt you'll read a better memoir this year. The Mighty Franks is full of humour and brittle irony. In Aunt Hankie, Frank has created a great new nonfictional character: an indelible wonder of dark depths and hypnotic high style' Guardian `A witty, moving account ... beautifully written and timely ' TLS `There is a lastingly sane quality to his riveting memoir, The Mighty Franks, that's reminiscent of To Kill A Mockingbird' The Telegraph `Move Over, Royal Tenenbaums: Meet The Mighty Franks ... probing and radiantly polished' New York Times `An utterly magical book. Michael Frank inherits Truman Capote's glorious ability to recreate the past in an act of exquisite, knowing retrieval ... I hung on every word, spying through his child's eyes. This is intense and lyrical prose: I never wanted it to stop.' Philip Hoare 'P.G. Wodehouse could not have invented Michael Frank's aunt. An astonishing story of a relationship and a family that ends up the wrong side up and inside-out. Beautiful, strange and true.' Ian Sansom `Entertainingly, and sometimes beautifully, told. Frank, as his aunt once told him, can write' Observer `The Mighty Franks is very easy to love and very hard to put down.' George Hodgman `To paraphrase Tolstoy, interesting families are unhappy in mysterious ways, and in this subtle memoir full of hard-won wisdom, Michael Frank gives us an indelible portrait of his own.' Judith Thurman `Crackling with sorrow and wit, Michael Frank has written a gorgeous, moving and intensely compassionate memoir that will stay with me for a long, long time.' Molly Antopol `Be careful when you start reading The Mighty Franks since you won't be able to stop. This portrait of an extraordinary family is a work of art.' Jean Strouse `Frank does a subtle job of evoking his larger-than life aunt Hankie, who both adored and isolated him' Gaby Wood, Telegraph, Books of the Year
Michael Frank's short fiction and essays have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Yale Review, Salmagundi, Glimmer Train, and Tablet, among other publications. His fiction has been presented at Symphony Space's Selected Shorts: A Celebration of the Short Story, and his travel writing has been collected in Italy: The Best Travel Writing from The New York Times. He served as a Los Angeles Times book critic for nearly ten years. He lives in New York City and Liguria, Italy.