By Budd Schulberg
BETWEEN ME AND
my childhood is a wall. I struggle with some half-rememberedincident, and it is like a loose stone in the wall. The loose stone may be a chance word or a dimly remembered face, the faintest fragment of a memory. I work at that fragmentwith the fingers of my mind, until I am able to pull it out and hold it in my hands. Now itis a little easier to loosen another stone, and another, until I have made a hole largeenough to crawl through. On one side of the wall is a man in his sixties who has seenalmost everything—marvelous days when life cries out
Yes Yes Yes
with Molly Bloom,and days so dark that I begin to question Faulkner’s Nobel confidence that man willendure. On the other side of the wall is the infant who has seen almost nothing exceptfingers and toes and the dim boundaries of an airless room.To tell my story from the point of view of the infant who becomes the child, theyouth, and the adult is to employ a familiar literary device but one that has never seemedaltogether scrupulous to me. But to write it from the hindsight, the so-called wisdomwhich is really that of the navigator making corrections for errors, is equallyunsatisfactory. The one-year-old lives on in the man of sixty-odd and the sixty-odd wasthere in the frightened one-year-old who didn’t know where he was or why he was; themind is the same one, merely battered, challenged, and improved. This is not thecomplete story, the accurate replay, this is only what the one-year-old, and all the progressive years that inhabited the body identified as
have been able to piece together. I am my own team of archeologists digging down in time, and thememories are scattered shards, a haphazard collection until they are assembled. If sometimes the four-year-old thinks or talks like a man of sixty, or the sexagenariansounds more like a child of four, you may charge that to the inevitable failures in themethods of personal archeology. Or to the failure of this sort of dichotomouscollaboration.