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  1. Book ImageTruth Comes in Blows: A Memoir

    Ted Solotaroff

    Winner of the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for the Art of the Memoir and finalist for the National Jewish Book Award, Truth Comes in Blows is renowned editor and critic Ted Solotaroff's prize-winning account of a coming of age at once quintessentially American and especially vexed.

From the Author

“When we want to find out about someone, we often ask, ‘What is his or her story?’ Through this we’re asking our informant to cut through a lot of extraneous information and get to the plot line: the essential or at least characteristic experiences that tell who he is and one or two of the basic continuities that make her cohere. At any rate, that’s how I came to understand my purpose in writing this book. In fact, I ended up pasting a little sign over my computer that read, ‘It’s a story, stupid.’ By telling it, I hoped to discover the early, basic part of how I came to be who I am.

“I began to write what became Truth Comes in Blows the day after my father’s funeral, to find out the answers to the questions I pose to myself at the end of Part One. To put these questions another way, what had given my father his power over me and how had I resisted it? This, in turn, led me to think about my allies along the way, beginning with my mother and her family, and also about the culture of sports and schools and books that became major refuges and led into the wider culture of the Depression and World War II, of which I was also a child.

“One of the reasons I kept writing and revising this book was that I kept discovering things. Perhaps the main one was the truth of a paradox that Proust had observed: the more one becomes individual, the more family traits emerge.”

Discussion Questions

  1. Ted Solotaroff claims, near the beginning of the book, that “character is fate.” How would you interpret this dictum in terms of the events narrated in Truth Comes in Blows? To what extent is it a true statement about Ben Solotaroff? About Ted Solotaroff?
  2. Ted Solotaroff’s Jewishness becomes a persistent theme throughout the book, one to which his reaction shifts at different stages in his life. Examine how this part of Ted’s identity develops. Do you feel that Ted’s relationship to his Jewishness is a simple or a conflicted one?
  3. Did being the firstborn son make Ted’s experience with his father and mother different from the experiences of his brother or sister? If so, in what ways?
  4. To what extent is Ted’s story a universal story?
  5. To what extent is Truth Comes in Blows a “fathers and sons” story? Was it intended to be one?
  6. “Little Benny” and “the Weiss boy” present two different sides of Ted Solotaroff’s identity. What does each represent? Are the two identities always in conflict, or is there a more complicated relationship between these two?
  7. What do you think Ted Solotaroff begins this book with his father’s old age and death?
  8. Hayden Carruth remarks that Ted Solotaroff’s memoir “says uncommonly important things about life in America.” Do you agree? What are some of these “uncommonly important things”?
  9. Do you think that Ted Solotaroff has achieved an understanding of his father through wriring this book? Do you think he was able to forgive him?
  10. How do you interpret the book’s title? What is the “truth” that Solotaroff talks about?
  11. What is Ted’s concept of maleness? Who or what provides him with this concept?
  12. Throughout his childhood, Ted finds activities and people that allow him to escape from his father’s reality into a world where he can exist on his own terms. What are these activities and who are some of the people? How are they instrumental in allowing Ted to rebel and pursue his own path in life?

About Ted Solotaroff

Ted Solotaroff lives in East Quogue, Long Island, and in Paris

Books by Ted Solotaroff

  1. Book CoverTruth Comes in Blows: A Memoir

    Winner of the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for the Art of the Memoir and finalist for the National Jewish Book Award, Truth Comes in Blows is renowned editor and critic Ted Solotaroff's prize-winning account of a coming of age at once quintessentially American and especially vexed.More