The Boy He Left Behind

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Mark Matousek has always considered himself a seeker. His best-selling memoir, Sex Death Enlightenment (1997), traced his six-year search for the sort of deeper understandings that he hoped would illuminate his life and make meaningful his death. Weary with the high-pitched, fast-paced world of New York publishing and confronted with the specter of his own mortality, Matousek abandoned the giddy dance of celebrity and careerism for a gutsy journey of spiritual discovery that took him great distances, geographically and psychologically, and led him, oddly enough, to this second memoir, this second quest.

In The Boy He Left Behind, Matousek in a sense goes back and fills in the crucial gaps only hinted at in the earlier book, pivotal moments that he had failed to confront and refused to explore. The most obvious hole in his life was the absence of a father, the figure of mystery, anger, and desire looming over the abandoned son ever since the day in 1961 when Big Jim Matousek drove off, leaving four-year-old Mark sobbing at the window. Yet in spite of this haunting paternal figure in the background, Matousek had never tried to find or contact his father. Not, that is, until an editor challenged him to do so by suggesting that all of his heroic spiritual seeking was in fact a kind of cowardly emotional running—running from the very thing that could hold the key to the enlightenment he sought. And so, reluctantly but doggedly, he begins...

(The entire section is 514 words.)