Family (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
Ian Frazier’s book, which bears the naïve title Family, is considerably more complex than its title suggests. It is neither a purely biographical study of family history, nor an overview of town life in the Midwest, nor an examination of technological growth in the United States, although it is partly all of these. Some readers may find its eclecticism disconcerting; its organization is prismatic rather than chronological, and the immediate effect upon a reader can be bewildering, akin to that of a guest who arrives late at a party of strangers. Names come in quick succession, as well as something of personalities, associations, and accomplishments, but it takes half the evening before the strangers acquire significance more meaningful than they had upon introduction.
Such diachronology has the advantage of highlighting patterns, however, and this is clearly what Frazier intends. None of his antecedents achieved exceptional fame, although several approached greatness. None attained vast wealth, although one named Fanny Benedict (Frazier’s great-great-great aunt) married Ohio oil magnate Louis Severance. Even so, the generational characteristics that apply in variation to every individual mentioned in this family album are those of earnest hard work, a predisposition to do what appeared to be the right thing, and a trust (sometimes pathetic) in institutions. Events in the larger world touch their lives, and prevailing social standards...
(The entire section is 2088 words.)
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Family (Magill Book Reviews)
Like most people, Ian Frazier is intrigued by family history. His book, FAMILY, introduces readers to the Frazier clan, although it does so against the historical circumstances in which each family member lived. The result is an evocation of life in southern Connecticut during the Revolutionary War and, in considerably more detail, of small-town life in Ohio from the Civil War era to the final decade of the twentieth century.
One meets various Fraziers, Wickhams, and Benedicts, some of the first Ohio pioneers who settled in the town they called Norwalk after the place from which they had come. They turned quickly from farming to law and prospered as the United States expanded westward. They fought for the Union during the Civil War, and though the author’s antecedents survived, many from Norwalk did not. Frazier’s narrative of the battle at Chancellorsville, Virginia, draws upon family letters as well as more familiar historiography to describe the engagement which decimated the Norwalk contingent.
From the maternal side of the author’s family readers meet the Bachmans and the Hurshes, German or German-Swiss, solidly Lutheran, and ministers or academics. They too were Ohioans, but from the predominately German-speaking town of Tifflin. Although no individual on either side of the family attained national celebrity or vast wealth, all were part of the ambitious, hard-working stock that built America.
Frazier’s parents were...
(The entire section is 387 words.)