By Floyd Skloot (University of Nebraska Press, 2008)
At the age of forty-one, Floyd Skloot was stuck with static dementia, a virally induced brain disease. Unable to write, struggling to grasp simple sentences, not capable of remembering new facts, fitfully recalling old ones, he was in “neurological tatters.” Yet in a blessed irony, loss of memory led to memoir. Skloot was already the author of half a dozen collections of poetry and three novels, but now the holes in his cerebral cortex led him to return to his past and, in this volume, his fourth memoir, he recounts the experiences and habits which have made him into “the sort of person who could only deal with what happened to him by writing about it.”
In The Wink of the Zenith, Skloot revisits his childhood, his father’s poultry market, his parents’ unhappy marriage, the family’s move from Brooklyn to Long Island, and their subsequent move to Queens after his father’s death. Traveling the world in search of a new beau, his mother would leave young Floyd, now fifteen, at home for months. Enrolled in a cooking class (taught by his football coach) sophomore year, the rapidly maturing Skloot learns, through experience and failure, not to do things like throw all the food in the pot at the same time, and, more important, how to take care of himself.
Even better than the tales is the pitch in which Skloot sings them. His sensibility is stoic and gentle. The style is clear, supple, expressive, and, one can't help but get the feeling, wise as well. Skloot’s work has been unjustly neglected for years; this volume yet again insists that a little more recognition come his way.