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Three of a Kind: A Satisfying Conclusion?
A Man Named Dave - Dave Pelzer
Member Name: happybunny75
A Man Named Dave - Dave Pelzer
Date: 08/11/01, updated on 08/11/01 (1997 review reads)
Advantages: Opens the eyes and ears of many
In the third book in the Pelzer trilogy the life of Dave is told from his late teens until the time of writing, and his self-confessed state of happiness and contentment with his self and his life.
Through his persistence in becoming an aircrew member of the U.S. Air Force, a failed marriage, a son he worships to his isolation from his peers and, his self-doubt, frustration and low self-esteem. He rises from the proverbial ashes to achieve what many of us fear to achieve or do not have the guts to do, with a perseverance, which I admire wholeheartedly.
One thing that Pelzer does well.
Two people in his life who abused him: his mother who amongst other things burnt his arm over the cooker, made him drink ammonia, stabbed him and on countless occasions beat him his father who ignored and did nothing about it. Would you forgive such people?
Now we get to the points that didn’t quite do it for me.
How do you forgive? Most of us after being hurt in any form by someone, or who abuses our trust, would find it hard to forgive. Pelzer forgives his tormentors. His ability to somehow excuse his mother’s actions as being down to treatment she received as a child is unlimited. As I’ve mentioned previously, I was never mistreated as a child, so maybe it is my ignorance that is lacking, but I find it almost saintly of Pelzer to forgive his mother. Doesn’t he realise that people can take responsibility for their own lives? Or maybe it was his only way of coming to terms with the abuse
he suffered, and as a cliché fits 'Let sleeping dogs lie'.
I found this saintly attitude of Pelzer somewhat annoying. But, I realised in this final book of his life what it is that doesn’t seem to hit home with me. Americanism.
The American’s have such a different way of expressing themselves than we do. The British reserve, as is always the case, seems to make me reluctant to involve myself in a story told in this way: Pelzer’s occasional reference to his faith in God; his sanctity in his profession to help other kids who have been through what he had been through. Is this a criticism? No, how could anyone criticise Pelzer’s dedication, perseverance and will to help, even if that meant sacrificing his own happiness and creature comforts (the break-up of his first marriage, the days of travelling with little sleep to give seminars on child abuse, the list goes on). I couldn’t criticise, but I can say what I feel what the Pelzer trilogy is to some who have read it (you cannot possibly comment if you haven’t read it), and that is Pelzer is, and was too subjective to write about his life.
Biographies are of course subjective (It’s ok, I haven’t quite lost my ability to forget definitions of literature). Pelzer’s account is subjective. Pelzer’s account is also told in story form: a narrative that could quite easily be passed off as fiction if you didn’t know when reading it that it was true. It’s hard to describe, but it doesn’t work. Maybe it is because the subject matter is so distressing, or maybe it is because we’re not used to so much forgiveness and nauseating 'niceness'. The main reason I believe is that the narrative doesn’t work. Firstly because I don’t believe Pelzer is a terribly good writer, for the way in which he chose to write his biography, and secondly because the events that he iterates only happened in recent years. In A Man Na
med Dave, it transpires that even after writing the first parts of his story he was still struggling and unhappy. Therefore, I feel that with the combination of his story-telling style and the fact that his biography is written so recently after the events, makes A Man Named Dave, not a particularly good biography read.
There are certain ideas of Pelzer’s philosophy that I don’t really agree with. In reassuring his son, in his future, he says:
'There are so many people who cave in at the first sign of trouble. They quit school, they act like they know it all, and develop a habit of quitting on everything. You’re better than that.'
Well, I am a quitter, and I know I don’t know it all. My apologies Dave, for my obvious ignorance and unworthiness. It’s this holier than thou, attitude that annoys me. People are different and handle things in different ways. What Dave Pelzer has come through and achieved is remarkable, but unfortunately I think he forgets that not everyone is made from the same mould.
This might sound like yet again another cynical opinion on the life of Dave Pelzer. Of course, in writing his biography Pelzer has achieved a lot. I hope for his sake that many people have been informed and educated about child abuse, the 'system' that fails many (even in the UK recently we have heard more than one tragic story in the news, where this was the case); the psychological impact that the abused and, in many cases the abusers have faced: in many cases abuse his a perpetual cycle that needs to be broken.
And in reading Dave Pelzer’s memoirs, we can all learn something. Without being cynical, I can say, 'If he can do it, then surely I can.' Many of us can wake up to the reality of our own lives and help others by recognising that child abuse exists. Surely, that’s something that every one of us can do.
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