Q and A with Catherine Gildiner

Back in February, I had the pleasure to read and review Catherine’s 2nd part of her  memoirs After The Falls.  This is the Q and A I did with her around the same time.  My apologies for posting it so late on the blog.

I see in the author’s note that you have taken care to protect the privacy of the people you have written about though I expect many of them see themselves on the page. Are there incidents where people have objected to the way their loves have been portrayed? I have changed the names of the people in the book and I have also changed some locations and dates. (BTW you made a Freudian slip in your question and said “loves” instead of “lives”– Freud says there are no accidents in Vienna!) I have no idea how people will react to reading about themselves. I guess I’ll know when the book comes out next fall in America through Penguin. It came out first in Canada.

Has there been any fallout from any of the people that Catherine wrote about? (Thinking of Skip, Jeff and Valerie) Did she have to get releases/permission from everyone? – I didn’t have to get any permission. I have tried to be true to the memory of my life and the people in it. Memory is not infallible. Just think of your own life and how your memory differs from your friends or relatives. I don’t expect everyone to remember things in the same way that I have. We all have a different perspective.

What was it that made you go and do the psychologist route and not follow in your mother’s footsteps and become a teacher? – My mother was only a teacher for a day. She said she had no idea she would “have to teach children.” Hardly a role model for teaching. If you have read my first memoir TOO CLOSE TO THE FALLS you will remember the chapter where I was sent to the psychiatrist, appropriately named Dr. Small. (I stabbed a bully at school with a compass) I liked the look of his job even at the age of seven. I also have always been interested in what makes people tick. When I worked in the drug store and delivered medicine I was fascinated by how we could all be from the same society and behave so differently.

Was what you experienced in the ’60’s moulded on how you feel and conduct your everyday life now, what has changed, what hasn’t? – That is an interesting question. I am pretty much the same person. I still participate in sports (rowing team) but I am no longer active in politics. Just like my mother, I never cook or sew or do much domestic activity. I still read a lot, and am very active. I am probably more ‘well adjusted’ now only because of the feminist movement. It actually ‘normalized’ my behaviour. I can work, not do housework, be assertive and I am much more acceptable to others. As a boy, or man, said to me at my high school reunion last year, “boy Cathy you are lucky that it is fifty years later and you are right in style now”.

When and where you the happiest? – Probably when I was a small child working in my father’s store at Christmas time with Roy the delivery car driver. We all worked together late every night delivering prescriptions and I felt like we were on a team. I didn’t have any of the complications of adult worries about romance and a career.

What is your greatest regret? – I regret being unkind to my father when I was a teenager. Before I had a chance to outgrow my adolescent rebellion he died and I had spent his last years shutting him out of my life.

What talent besides writing would you want to have and why? – I have lots of ‘talents’– more than I need. (Bright, athletic, witty–obviously not modesty) What I would like to have had is patience and more kindness. Those are probably not talents but virtues. Regardless of what they are called I could do with more of each.

Did you ever find out the reason why the FBI questioned you about the death of Splits? – I never found out directly why but I assume it was because he was involved in drugs and more importantly he and Laurie were involved in the Black Power movement– ultimately the black panthers and the FBI was committed to breaking it up. I had been seen with Splits and Laurie, both of whom had been under investigation for a long time.

In your private practice, do you have a specialty? Do you speak to whoever needs help, or are you specific in whom and what you treat? – I am no longer in private practice. I left it four years ago to write full time. I figured 25 years was long enough. I specialized in anxiety; however I saw all kinds of clients — ‘garden variety neurotic.’

Do you think that the ’60’s changed the world we now live in? What was the most prolific moment of your life living in the 60’s? – Yes I think the 60’s changed the world. Look at the civil rights legislation, and the human rights legislation, the pill, and the feminist movement. They all changed how we think about race, women and independence, marriage and role women play in society. I had many great moments in the 60’s. Most of them came from working with others for social change. I remember clapping when Johnson passed the civil Rights legislation in 1968.

Do you keep in touch with some or most of the friends you had made while living in Buffalo?
– I keep in close touch with lots of people from high school. I am still friends with the ‘wild girls’ and the ‘goody-two-shoes-girls. Strangely enough I am in close contact with a bunch of boys in my class that I skied with and went to Brunner’s with. We have a reunion every year in some state of the union and some of them have been to Canada to visit. I am in constant contact with the friend Leora in the book. She is still one of my closest friends and we e mail almost daily and talk on the phone at least once a week. It is a rare opportunity to have friends for 50 years– especially when I have lived outside of the country.

Whatever happened to your one friend’s brother that brought that girl down into the basement in the middle of a meeting? Did anything come of that while you and your friend were hiding? – I am not following the question. The chapter describes what happened while we were in the closet. If you are asking did anyone ever find out we were in the closet the answer is no. If you are asking what happened to that boy that brought the girl downstairs — the answer is I have no idea.

I know that in your forward that you mention that you had this uncontrollable desire to write down your memoirs. What was one of the reasons you had it published? – I had it published because I am a writer and that is what writers do. We publish our work. I wrote the book because after I wrote TOO CLOSE TO THE FALLS I had hundreds of people write me and ask, ‘what happened next?’ I figured if people were interested in the story I should probably write it. I wrote another book in between my two volumes of memoirs called SEDUCTION which is a mystery novel about Darwin and Freud. Then I returned to the memoir. I am now writing a third memoir which takes me up to age 25 and it covers my life in England and Toronto.


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