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The Mighty Franks: A Memoir

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A psychologically acute memoir about an unusual and eccentric Hollywood family. My feeling for Mike is something out of the ordinary, Michael Frank overhears his aunt say to his mother when he is a boy. I wish he were mine. Michael's childless Auntie Hankie and Uncle Irving, glamorous Hollywood screenwriters, are doubly his aunt and uncle brother and sister married sister an A psychologically acute memoir about an unusual and eccentric Hollywood family. My feeling for Mike is something out of the ordinary, Michael Frank overhears his aunt say to his mother when he is a boy. I wish he were mine. Michael's childless Auntie Hankie and Uncle Irving, glamorous Hollywood screenwriters, are doubly his aunt and uncle brother and sister married sister and brother. The two families live just blocks away from each other in Laurel Canyon. In this strangely intertwined family, even the author's two grandmothers share an apartment together. Talented, sparkling, and lavish with her money, attention, and love, Auntie Hankie takes charge of Michael's education, showing him which books to read, which painters to admire, which houses to like, which people to adore. She literally trains his eye until that eye wants to see on its own. As his aunt's moods begin to darken, it becomes apparent that beneath her magical exterior there lies a dangerous rage. His aunt stages a series of tumultuous scenes that devastate Michael, forcing him to reconstruct both himself and his family narrative as he tries to reconcile the woman he once cherished with the troubled figure he discovers her to be. The Mighty Franks is a psychologically acute memoir that asks each of us where the boundaries of family life should be drawn, and who should draw them.


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A psychologically acute memoir about an unusual and eccentric Hollywood family. My feeling for Mike is something out of the ordinary, Michael Frank overhears his aunt say to his mother when he is a boy. I wish he were mine. Michael's childless Auntie Hankie and Uncle Irving, glamorous Hollywood screenwriters, are doubly his aunt and uncle brother and sister married sister an A psychologically acute memoir about an unusual and eccentric Hollywood family. My feeling for Mike is something out of the ordinary, Michael Frank overhears his aunt say to his mother when he is a boy. I wish he were mine. Michael's childless Auntie Hankie and Uncle Irving, glamorous Hollywood screenwriters, are doubly his aunt and uncle brother and sister married sister and brother. The two families live just blocks away from each other in Laurel Canyon. In this strangely intertwined family, even the author's two grandmothers share an apartment together. Talented, sparkling, and lavish with her money, attention, and love, Auntie Hankie takes charge of Michael's education, showing him which books to read, which painters to admire, which houses to like, which people to adore. She literally trains his eye until that eye wants to see on its own. As his aunt's moods begin to darken, it becomes apparent that beneath her magical exterior there lies a dangerous rage. His aunt stages a series of tumultuous scenes that devastate Michael, forcing him to reconstruct both himself and his family narrative as he tries to reconcile the woman he once cherished with the troubled figure he discovers her to be. The Mighty Franks is a psychologically acute memoir that asks each of us where the boundaries of family life should be drawn, and who should draw them.

30 review for The Mighty Franks: A Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Schmeder

    How do I know when my banana cupcake is THAT delicious or a drinks party is THAT entertaining or a new book is THAT enjoyable?..... I ration it, yep I savor and ration, that's also how I knew I was enjoying "The Mighty Franks" because I rationed it. Just because Michael Frank interprets family life as extreme sports does NOT mean it's all blustery Agustin Burroughs empty calories. These are 1970s Laurel Canyon memories gently held hostage and displayed by one the most objective memoirists since How do I know when my banana cupcake is THAT delicious or a drinks party is THAT entertaining or a new book is THAT enjoyable?..... I ration it, yep I savor and ration, that's also how I knew I was enjoying "The Mighty Franks" because I rationed it. Just because Michael Frank interprets family life as extreme sports does NOT mean it's all blustery Agustin Burroughs empty calories. These are 1970s Laurel Canyon memories gently held hostage and displayed by one the most objective memoirists since Katherine Graham. The Mighty Franks is subtle and exciting at the same time. Only someone who is certain of what they are doing can achieve such thrilling balance. This antihero, a gloriously malignant Auntie Mame is no cookie cutter villain. Her brand of Narcissism is alluring, sexy and feral. She makes Trump look like a rank amateur. And unlike Trump you crave every page she appears on. The Mighty Franks, right outta the gate, is engaging, powerful and redemptive for anyone who was one of ... "those who's names were never called when choosing sides for basketball" Y'all can thank me later for the recommendation D

  2. 4 out of 5

    Daisy

    I wish there were photographs. And maybe a family tree.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jill Meyer

    In a memoir, the author's most personal thoughts and recollections are on offer and the result can be very difficult to read. This seems true with Michael Frank's "The Mighty Franks: A Memoir". But what is difficult to read must have been excruciating to actually live through. Frank grew up in Los Angeles in a family so marked by the malevolence of one family member, his aunt Harriet Frank, Jr, whose lifetime of narcissistic behavior terrorised the family for sixty years. Michael Frank doesn't u In a memoir, the author's most personal thoughts and recollections are on offer and the result can be very difficult to read. This seems true with Michael Frank's "The Mighty Franks: A Memoir". But what is difficult to read must have been excruciating to actually live through. Frank grew up in Los Angeles in a family so marked by the malevolence of one family member, his aunt Harriet Frank, Jr, whose lifetime of narcissistic behavior terrorised the family for sixty years. Michael Frank doesn't use the word "narcissist" to describe his aunt, but her behavior mimics the narcisstic behavior of several people I know. If you read the book, you may use a different term to describe "Hanky", depending on your experience with such a malevolent person. Michael Frank's aunt and uncle are real people, who have Wikipedia entries. His uncle, Irving Ravetch, and his aunt, Harriet Frank, Jr,(known as "Hanky") were noted screenwriters in the 1950's to 1980's. They worked primarily with director Martin Ritt. (You should read their Wiki entries before reading the book.) Michael was their nephew - a double nephew, at that, because his mother was Irving Ravetch's sister and his father was Harriet Frank's brother. A cozy combination which made for a cozy family unit, whose members lived a few blocks from each other in the Hollywood hills. To make matters even cozier, the two grandmothers shared an apartment after their respective husbands died. Both couples lived in and out of the other's homes, and the Frank's three sons were thought of a surrogate sons for Irving and Hanky, who had no children. However, the Ravetch's, particularly Hanky, seemed to prefer young Michael to his brothers, and, indeed, to anyone other than her husband. She was the "Auntie Mame" to his Patrick and showered him with gifts and attention. But the attention was that of his place in Hanky's world. She was the sun, he was planet circling. He finally rebelled in his late teens but by then Hanky's malevolence to him and the rest of the family continued unabated. Michael Frank's memoir begins when he was a child and continued up through Irving's death in 2010 and to Hanky's continued existence. He spares little of the "true" Hanky Ravetch and her wretched influence in his book. It's a fascinating book, as memoirs often are.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Shelagh Herzog

    Be ready to stay up all night, because you won’t be able to put down The Mighty Franks. Set in the Laurel Canyon of the 1970’s, and all that goes with that, this is a portrait of a memorable (to say the least) family of screenwriters. And through Frank’s beautiful crafted and vulnerably honest prose, he exposes the best and worst of each of them. You will laugh and you will cry, but mostly you will question whether it was good luck or bad luck to be born into this family. Given the love on these Be ready to stay up all night, because you won’t be able to put down The Mighty Franks. Set in the Laurel Canyon of the 1970’s, and all that goes with that, this is a portrait of a memorable (to say the least) family of screenwriters. And through Frank’s beautiful crafted and vulnerably honest prose, he exposes the best and worst of each of them. You will laugh and you will cry, but mostly you will question whether it was good luck or bad luck to be born into this family. Given the love on these pages, that can’t help but come through even in its most excruciatingly painful and jarring moments, I finished the book surprised that I was feeling slightly envious of the mighty Franks. And wanting more.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    Auntie Mame goes even crazier. As nutty and tortured as Grey Gardens. Unimaginable.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sally T

    This is a beautifully written and very moving account of a man looking back and tracing his intense relationship with his aunt, the screenwriter Harriet Frank. It starts with Michael the boy worshipping his dramatic, impressive aunt, living for her attention and praise. As he matures and is increasingly able to see her clearly, his view of her gradually becomes rooted in reality. He sees her as the flawed human being she is, and in so doing is able to separate himself from her and grow up. This i This is a beautifully written and very moving account of a man looking back and tracing his intense relationship with his aunt, the screenwriter Harriet Frank. It starts with Michael the boy worshipping his dramatic, impressive aunt, living for her attention and praise. As he matures and is increasingly able to see her clearly, his view of her gradually becomes rooted in reality. He sees her as the flawed human being she is, and in so doing is able to separate himself from her and grow up. This is a path many of us have had to tread, in one form or another (perhaps all of us do, with our parents), but Micheal Frank’s aunt was such an extreme character, so self-absorbed, so dramatic, that his story is unique. Frank tells his tale in open, honest prose, and is a master of showing-not-telling (somewhat ironically, as this was one of Harriet’s early injunctions): he manages to write an entire book about a hyper-critical, self-absorbed, self-regarding, solipsistic woman without once using the word narcissist. There are other Franks in the Mighty Franks — Michael’s parents, brothers, and his uncle Irving (Harriet’s husband, a Frank by marriage) — but they play supporting, though important, roles. The story is really about the one Mightiest Frank, Harriet. Her influence was so powerful, and so poisonous, that Michael’s ultimate success in extricating himself from her web is remarkable. That his is able to tell the story without discernible bitterness is extraordinary. In the end, it is Michael himself who is the mighty one.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Goldenberg

    This starts well - a fascinating memoir of growing up in a very eccentric, extraordinarily close knit Hollywood family where sisters and brothers from different families marry each other and parents-in-law live together. But it’s mainly a portrait of Michael Franks aunt and uncle, a screenwriter duo, who, having no children of their own, semi-adopt him. In particular, the book is dominated by his auntie Hank, who becomes a Svengali like figure in his upbringing. However, over the years she becom This starts well - a fascinating memoir of growing up in a very eccentric, extraordinarily close knit Hollywood family where sisters and brothers from different families marry each other and parents-in-law live together. But it’s mainly a portrait of Michael Franks aunt and uncle, a screenwriter duo, who, having no children of their own, semi-adopt him. In particular, the book is dominated by his auntie Hank, who becomes a Svengali like figure in his upbringing. However, over the years she becomes less of a charming eccentric and more of a monster. My only problem with the book is that it becomes somewhat stifling and overwhelming to be trapped in the world of this controlling, possessive, probably insane woman - even more trapped than the author himself.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Giulia (moonrise.bookdom)

    *3.5/5 stars. A good memoir that provides a description of the history and dynamics of the author's family in a vivid way; each character leaves an impression on the reader. Sometimes the writing gets too wordy in my opinion, or gets lost in dramatic thoughts that don't add much insight. Still I was able to feel invested in this over-the-top family, there a couple of touching moments and some decisive scenes that glued me to the page. Also the Californian setting/atmosphere is conveyed very well. *3.5/5 stars. A good memoir that provides a description of the history and dynamics of the author's family in a vivid way; each character leaves an impression on the reader. Sometimes the writing gets too wordy in my opinion, or gets lost in dramatic thoughts that don't add much insight. Still I was able to feel invested in this over-the-top family, there a couple of touching moments and some decisive scenes that glued me to the page. Also the Californian setting/atmosphere is conveyed very well. Not a very powerful or life-changing memoir for me, but still a very enjoyable and unique one.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Eileen

    I won this book from Goodreads giveaway. It was not my favorite.. Aunt "Hank" was the most annoying person I had ever read about. This is a true story and I can honestly say if she was my aunt I would have run far far away from her. I won this book from Goodreads giveaway. It was not my favorite.. Aunt "Hank" was the most annoying person I had ever read about. This is a true story and I can honestly say if she was my aunt I would have run far far away from her.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    3.5 rounded down I've read a lot of memoirs this year, but this has to be up there with the oddest and most uncomfortable-making of them all. That said - it isn't that far from a conventional memoir, and perhaps it is a compliment to the author that he was able to convey the feelings his relationship with his aunt brought up. The main focus of The Mighty Franks is Michael's aunt and uncle, Hollywood screenwriters Harriet Frank Jr. and Irving Ravetch. Michael, his parents and siblings live nearby ( 3.5 rounded down I've read a lot of memoirs this year, but this has to be up there with the oddest and most uncomfortable-making of them all. That said - it isn't that far from a conventional memoir, and perhaps it is a compliment to the author that he was able to convey the feelings his relationship with his aunt brought up. The main focus of The Mighty Franks is Michael's aunt and uncle, Hollywood screenwriters Harriet Frank Jr. and Irving Ravetch. Michael, his parents and siblings live nearby (and are inextricably linked - Michael's mother is Irving's sister; and his father is Harriet's brother), and his childless aunt lavishes attention on him from a young age, and they spend a lot of time together - eventually against his parents wishes. Much of the book focuses on their relationship when Michael was a child, but does go up until the present day. As mentioned before, reading about "Hankie" (so many people have nicknames, it got a little confusing at times), her obsession with Michael and her personality and actions in general made me feel pretty uncomfortable, and I can't imagine what it would have been like to live through. At times I wanted to put the book down, but ultimately persisted as I wanted to find out if Michael managed to escape her and grow up and become a relatively well-balanced adult. A solid and well written memoir, though definitely not a light read.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    One of the best books (out of all the fiction & non-fiction and memoirs) I've read in years - as others have said Auntie Mame meets Grey Gardens (without the house-decrepitude aspects) with the wit, honesty, balance and insight of a Mary Karr memoir. Instead of my summarizing/reviewing - I'll encourage you to go read this GoodReads reviewer, instead - (Feb 20, 2017) by Daniel Schmeder - I was so impressed with his pithy, witty and insightful assessment - much better than anything I have to say. One of the best books (out of all the fiction & non-fiction and memoirs) I've read in years - as others have said Auntie Mame meets Grey Gardens (without the house-decrepitude aspects) with the wit, honesty, balance and insight of a Mary Karr memoir. Instead of my summarizing/reviewing - I'll encourage you to go read this GoodReads reviewer, instead - (Feb 20, 2017) by Daniel Schmeder - I was so impressed with his pithy, witty and insightful assessment - much better than anything I have to say.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Robin

    I loved the beginning of this book. Very interesting, entertaining, captivating, but it bogged down for me about half-way through, as it seemed to go nowhere new and to repeat itself over and over again. I kept thinking there was going to be a surprise or something new revealed, but there wasn't. It also would have been more interesting to me if the author had written more about himself and about his parents. Everyone seemed interesting in their own way, but the story seemed to dwell only on the I loved the beginning of this book. Very interesting, entertaining, captivating, but it bogged down for me about half-way through, as it seemed to go nowhere new and to repeat itself over and over again. I kept thinking there was going to be a surprise or something new revealed, but there wasn't. It also would have been more interesting to me if the author had written more about himself and about his parents. Everyone seemed interesting in their own way, but the story seemed to dwell only on the aunt.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Julie Rothenfluh

    dysfunctional families are interesting; makes me doubly appreciate my own fairly functional family

  14. 4 out of 5

    Heidi

    My guess is that some readers will resist the idea that such extraordinary family relationships could even be possible. I won’t be among them. Page after page shook with echo after echo. Such a masterful telling of how narcissism likes to hide behind eccentricity. How easily the narcissist will falsely ascribe motives to another to deny that person’s identity. How the narcissist’s occasional dip into sanity creates both hope and confusion. Fascinating, the way vulnerability of age and temperament My guess is that some readers will resist the idea that such extraordinary family relationships could even be possible. I won’t be among them. Page after page shook with echo after echo. Such a masterful telling of how narcissism likes to hide behind eccentricity. How easily the narcissist will falsely ascribe motives to another to deny that person’s identity. How the narcissist’s occasional dip into sanity creates both hope and confusion. Fascinating, the way vulnerability of age and temperament can slide into blind and dangerous hero worship. The ubiquity of end-of-life apologies for failing to provide protection. The eventual, hard-won lifting out of the swamp and into self. Most of all I loved the tribute to paradox, and the freedom that sweeps through like a gust of spring when it is recognized and embraced. Freedom (some call it forgiveness) means giving up any hope for change—the “essential lesson” for family life, as Michael Frank describes it, is that “…you learn to carry on, no matter what, and not wait for people to become what they are incapable of becoming…” I learned so much and took such courage and comfort from this beautifully written memoir. Thank you, Michael.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Cherise Wolas

    Actually a 4.5. I was fascinated and intrigued by this beautifully written memoir. And interested on a personal basis since I grew up where the author grew up, and there were other connections as well. Every character is given their due and treated with clear-eyed respect and honesty. It's both a love letter and an indictment of family, handled with such care. Actually a 4.5. I was fascinated and intrigued by this beautifully written memoir. And interested on a personal basis since I grew up where the author grew up, and there were other connections as well. Every character is given their due and treated with clear-eyed respect and honesty. It's both a love letter and an indictment of family, handled with such care.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    A story about a boy and his aunt and their sort of dysfunctional relationship. Now I would not have thought you could write a whole book about that. But it works. Maybe it's the setting-Laurel Canyon in the 70's or the fact that his aunt and uncle are well known screenwriters. But he takes it from his childhood years until his aunt and uncle are elderly. Very well written. A story about a boy and his aunt and their sort of dysfunctional relationship. Now I would not have thought you could write a whole book about that. But it works. Maybe it's the setting-Laurel Canyon in the 70's or the fact that his aunt and uncle are well known screenwriters. But he takes it from his childhood years until his aunt and uncle are elderly. Very well written.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jo Anne

    This is an incredible ride through one man's 70's childhood, growing up in an unusual, and unusually sparkly, LA family with Hollywood ties. It's a compelling story about the courage it takes to grow up, and about the complexities of family love and loyalty. I couldn't put it down! This is an incredible ride through one man's 70's childhood, growing up in an unusual, and unusually sparkly, LA family with Hollywood ties. It's a compelling story about the courage it takes to grow up, and about the complexities of family love and loyalty. I couldn't put it down!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    3.8 stars. Author is about my age and it’s about him growing up in Los Angeles with somewhat famous screen writer aunt and uncle and their odd family life. Fun memoir with Hollywood touches.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Marla

    What a great book by an excellent writer. His life...there were parts that really got me crying. Story of a young boy whose Aunt decides she is taking over his raising, yet his parents live very close by. At times you are ready to smack Aunt Hankie silly. Could not put the book down.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Leslie

    2 Stars I listened to this book on audio. I found parts to be interesting, but it seemed like the author (Dude, we all have “crazy” relatives🤷‍♀️) had an axe to grind and his memories of his aunt and uncle were not really that interesting. This book was just okay for me.

  21. 5 out of 5

    M. Sarki

    https://rogueliterarysociety.com/f/th... The last one hundred pages of this wonderful book make pale the prior two hundred. As well-written and interesting as the first two-thirds were by the time the last third arrives an empty feeling occurs that signals too soon this book will end. And there is no slowing down your skis. Like a downhill racer the story of Hank and company is ultimately altered just as life proves to be in its determined and unforgiving mode. The Mighty Franks is a smart and eng https://rogueliterarysociety.com/f/th... The last one hundred pages of this wonderful book make pale the prior two hundred. As well-written and interesting as the first two-thirds were by the time the last third arrives an empty feeling occurs that signals too soon this book will end. And there is no slowing down your skis. Like a downhill racer the story of Hank and company is ultimately altered just as life proves to be in its determined and unforgiving mode. The Mighty Franks is a smart and engaging memoir that asks where the lines in the sand of family relationships should be drawn. This particular clan brings to mind the mother and daughter combo portrayed in the eccentric and dysfunctional iconic film titled Grey Gardens. Except in The Mighty Franks it involves almost everyone. In describing the many get-togethers, Sunday dinners, holidays and travel, decorative homes, hidden closets, and summer vacations I have never read a better or more enjoyable memoir of chronic family dysfunction. For fear of ruining this book for others I must refrain in even explaining why this memoir is so delightful and important. This is a must-read for everybody, even a person seemingly raised in a normal family. Birth, as well as death, and everything in between must be navigated in all families carefully, and it is hoped, done so in the spirit of love. Hat’s off to Michael Frank who captivates anyone lucky enough to indulge in this tasty memoir.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sara Morelli

    3.5? I have such mixed feelings about this book, and I can't isolate my disappointment for it not meeting my expectations. I thought it was going to be a fun, crazy, lighthearted book (much in the vein of Patrick Dennis' "Auntie Mame"), but I was wrong. The story mainly focuses on the protagonist's experience of growing up in a dysfunctional family (and when I say 'dysfunctional' I mean it). While I usually love reading about complicated family relationships and dynamics, things got pretty heavy 3.5? I have such mixed feelings about this book, and I can't isolate my disappointment for it not meeting my expectations. I thought it was going to be a fun, crazy, lighthearted book (much in the vein of Patrick Dennis' "Auntie Mame"), but I was wrong. The story mainly focuses on the protagonist's experience of growing up in a dysfunctional family (and when I say 'dysfunctional' I mean it). While I usually love reading about complicated family relationships and dynamics, things got pretty heavy and bleak at times, and I was not in the mood for that. However, that is not the reason why I couldn't fall in love with this book. I would say that the main problem for me was how the author decided to structure and plot the memoir. Certain scenes felt disconnected and scattered; I don't expect a memoir to be extremely linear, but something about the development and deterioration of certain relationships didn't feel very organic. Overall, this book was a ride and a true rollercoaster of emotions, so much that it's hard to consider it a memoir at some point. [Trigger warnings for the depictions of death and loss]

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jillwilson

    "Interviewer: “Interwoven.” Good word for a family that fits together like a Rubik’s cube.” Michael Frank: “Or a straightjacket. . . For starters, my father’s older sister was married to my mother’s older brother. That is: brother and sister married sister and brother. My aunt and uncle had no children. They lived two blocks away from us in Laurel Canyon, California, and were very—you might say unreasonably—involved in our lives. Even my grandmothers, the mothers of these pairs of siblings, share "Interviewer: “Interwoven.” Good word for a family that fits together like a Rubik’s cube.” Michael Frank: “Or a straightjacket. . . For starters, my father’s older sister was married to my mother’s older brother. That is: brother and sister married sister and brother. My aunt and uncle had no children. They lived two blocks away from us in Laurel Canyon, California, and were very—you might say unreasonably—involved in our lives. Even my grandmothers, the mothers of these pairs of siblings, shared an apartment together for twelve years, though they disliked each other.” (https://fsgworkinprogress.com/2017/05...) This tight structure encircles the core story of this book – which is about the relationship between the writer of this memoir, Michael Frank and his Aunt Harriet or Hank, as the family called her. “I’m sure that you will be an artist one day, Mike. I’m convinced of it. Everything you do has such style,” Auntie Hankie told the nephew she adored “beyond life itself.” She also told him: “Fitting in is death. Remember that. You want to stand apart from your peers. Always.” “After school or on Saturday mornings, she pilots her Buick Riviera into his parents’ driveway, sounds the horn and, in a cloud of men’s cologne from I. Magnin, whisks her nephew off on “larky” adventures. She takes him to his grandmothers’ apartment in Hollywood, or on antiquing expeditions, or to her own home nearby, a French-style manse obsessively decorated with her cannily scavenged treasures (“period, not mo-derne”).” (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/31/fa...) Hank and her husband could not have children; so Michael became the son they did not have, causing friction with his own parents and brothers. As he grew into his teens, he became increasingly uncomfortable with the relationship and yet it was hard to shake. It is initially seductive; he is treated as being special and his aunt lavishes many gifts on him. I remember from my own childhood how special you feel when an adult takes a particular interest in you. I don’t think it happened to me a lot, but I remember particular adults who made an effort to recall things about me, to ask me what I thought about things, to treat me like my views mattered. It’s beguiling. “I considered her quite simply to be the most magical human being I knew,” he writes. “Everything she touched, everything she did, was golden, infused with a special knowledge and a teeming vitality.” The beginning of the book is filled with this allure; they go on special shopping trips, Hank goes to some lengths to inculcate him with high culture. At the age of about 10, she is pressing ‘Sons and Lovers’ and Somerset Maugham on him but he falls back on Anne of Green Gables instead. The specialness created difficulties for Michael Frank with his peers. He was bullied mightily at school and one of the passages that I enjoyed most is when he fought back. There’s a kind of universal pleasure in the ‘Vanquishing of the Bully’ narrative that is certainly present in this narrative; the image of Frank with a powerful garden hose in hand will stay with me for quite a while. Of course, the uber-bully painted into the story is Hank – she has a monstrous presence in Michael’s life. In her other life, she was a screen-writer of some note. Along with her husband, they received an Academy Award for writing Norma Rae amongst other films. The book includes some nice descriptions of Los Angeles in the 60s and 70s but pays little attention to the working life of Hank and her husband. Some reviews are critical of what they see as the narrow focus of the book, this might be a valid critique. But I think this review nails the attraction of the book: “The glory of this book is its richly evoked world, from the descriptions of the once wild California land steadily encroached on over the course of the 70s – as mountain lions are driven out and replaced by swimming pools – to the intense psychodramas of an extraordinary family. Michael is an Isherwood camera. He stops to listen before entering a room, as if to assess its potential, gathering information in advance like a dog sniffing the air. He is filled with his own vibrating awareness, his outsiderdom.” (https://www.theguardian.com/books/201...)

  24. 4 out of 5

    Saige

    Reading through the eyes of Michael Frank is like reading while being delicately sliced into small pieces by a razor blade. And yet it is bearable. It is bearable because the author bore it and he survived this heinous character to write about her. So the razor hovers and it never descends onto the open vein. The writer uses the pen and lives. "Everything is writeable if you have the outgoing guts to write about it" said Sylvia Plath. And this is exactly what Michael has done. Does our knowledge Reading through the eyes of Michael Frank is like reading while being delicately sliced into small pieces by a razor blade. And yet it is bearable. It is bearable because the author bore it and he survived this heinous character to write about her. So the razor hovers and it never descends onto the open vein. The writer uses the pen and lives. "Everything is writeable if you have the outgoing guts to write about it" said Sylvia Plath. And this is exactly what Michael has done. Does our knowledge that we can write help us to survive? I often wish that it had in Sylvia's case. The survival of an author is two-fold. Obviously, they live but beyond their own life, they bring us the lives of others. This is their gift. The memoir gives us insight into Michaels Aunt foremost and his Uncle. Irv the Uncle is a clever docile man but his ability to transcend, to be himself, is buried by his conceited driven (to build and wreck) wife. I sometimes want to shake Irv for being that much of a victim but often victims do not see that they are so. Victims are fearful, their courage vanquished by punishments. Michael Frank, the author of this memoir, found his own guts. That his Aunt and Uncle were screenwriters is interesting. Beyond the scope of the memoir but teased into my mind by the memoir is the question about screenwriters now, about the Netflix Series writers and the HBO writers - are they as driven less or more so? Are their personal lives in decay as they try to build even as they are creating and even as everything around them is descending into ruin? What after all can Trump Trump? And for me personally, as the product of relationships with narcissists, as the child of a mother who never wanted to look too long in the mirror and who was appalled at the notion of seeing a counselor ('there is nothing wrong with ME!') the book touched me on another, deeper, personal level. I have some measure of sympathy for narcissists but only in regards to the fact that they were born into toxic shame and pain and their coping skill - their way of surviving is to act like a mole scurrying upwards for the light while leaving the damage in their wake. They can never look back, never look down, it is too dangerous. (And as the reader, as a survivor too, part of me wishes I could take away that pain the narcissist avoids but to rescue a narcissist is to become the victim - a vicious neverending cycle). I also wonder whether the book would be read as widely or be as popular if the author was not famous, not well connected? Do the poor, the middling among us ever get read if we write about what enabled us to survive - the writing forming our stories so our self can rise in spite of those who press us down? And if so do we get published or are our networks too limited, too normal college rather than Princeton, Weill Cornell or Yale? I am glad Michael survived and that his writing can be turned inwards and outwards. I am gladdened too by his acknowledgments to a wife and daughter. Surviving is also about how we relate to others, how we go forward differently, how we make peace with ourselves. This book sparkles and it causes us to examine the jewel that gave us the spark. It shines a light on how unhappy people accumulate and reject and accumulate again. Like the society its characters embody, they gather, they tear and they shred.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Belinda

    5 stars means a book is amazing, flawless, but 4 to 4 and a half seems more accurate here. Certainly the writing was terrific. Michael Franks is a truly capable author, which means Auntie Hankie gets to be entirely accessible for the reader. You may not understand how she thinks, but you get every nuance of her. Perhaps I need to outline this memoir briefly. Mike (author) grows up in an extended family. There's Mum, Dad, two brothers, there's two grandmothers who share a house, and there's Auntie 5 stars means a book is amazing, flawless, but 4 to 4 and a half seems more accurate here. Certainly the writing was terrific. Michael Franks is a truly capable author, which means Auntie Hankie gets to be entirely accessible for the reader. You may not understand how she thinks, but you get every nuance of her. Perhaps I need to outline this memoir briefly. Mike (author) grows up in an extended family. There's Mum, Dad, two brothers, there's two grandmothers who share a house, and there's Auntie Hank and Uncle Irving up the road in their glamorous home. Across the road is Uncle Peter and his wife and children. Could've all been idyllic if Auntie Hankie hadn't been a raging narcissist/psychopath/sociopath who needed to suck energy and mould lives in order to feel relevant. She latches onto Mike while he's very young. Irving and Hank have no kids, her endometriosis was untreatable back then. Her dream about a daughter called Agatha was another one of her well polished fantasies. She bought gifts for Mike, took him shopping, totally influenced his taste in literature and furniture, interiors and acceptable behaviour. Mike absorbed it like some gently expanding sea sponge. It makes life wonderful at times, but ruins his relationships with schoolmates (he's relentlessly bullied) and even his own small family as the brothers were not asked out like Mike was and his parents struggled with this inequity. Of course Mike grows up. When kids become teens they start to question. Mike doesn't always want to jump when Hank clicks her needy fingers. He gets the full force of Hanks displeasure, which means she is personally critical of him, abusive, breaks contact, all the things a highly insecure, spoilt, and mentally fragile person can do to another person if she feels rejected. No more explanations needed, right? I loved this book, but I really hated Hank in the end. She screwed people over mentally, she transferred her own psychological issues onto others and they ended up ill, arguing with others, struggling with themselves, ostracised, pleasing her rather than taking care of themselves and other loved ones. She was like a big black hole. I also felt that, while not overwritten, it took a bit too long to get to the end. I knew who and what Hank was by about page 200 so it wasn't really necessary to keep on with the memoir in such blow-by-blow detail. I think I was hoping for a stand up row that sorted Hank out once and for all, but everyone was too polite - so frustrating!!!! I would've loved to find out more about Mum and the brothers instead. Great read, though. Hope Hank's got a copy.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Pam Coon

    This is the true story of an interesting and terribly psychologically flawed family who live in an area called the "Valley" in Los Angeles, during the 1960's and beyond. Michael, the son, reflects back on his childhood and his family. He grows up in a very tightly woven family. His childless Aunt Hankie and Uncle Irving are very successful screenwriters in Hollywood who embrace Michael as their surrogate son. The two families are additionally close because Hankie is Michael's father's sister, an This is the true story of an interesting and terribly psychologically flawed family who live in an area called the "Valley" in Los Angeles, during the 1960's and beyond. Michael, the son, reflects back on his childhood and his family. He grows up in a very tightly woven family. His childless Aunt Hankie and Uncle Irving are very successful screenwriters in Hollywood who embrace Michael as their surrogate son. The two families are additionally close because Hankie is Michael's father's sister, and Irving is his mother's brother. The families live near each other in Laurel Canyon, even the author's grandmothers - who are not compatible, share a nearby apartment. As the memoir unfolds, it is clear that Aunt Hankie's domineering and unreasonable personality affect Michael profoundly. She wants him to be "extraordinary" - and indulges him in his love of art and encourages him to read advanced and sophisticated novels. In her eyes, she wants him to be singular and unlike other children. She invites him constantly to her home - just a few doors down - so they can jaunt together, go shopping, and, in her words, "k-nock, k-nock, k-nock" around. This separates Michael from a normal childhood and, in addition, it separates his two younger brothers from all of this lavish attention. And although his parents intervene to insist that this "isolation" is not good for Michael, nor a good example for their other two sons, their opinions are put aside in the relentless hold the aunt and uncle have over Michael. Michael struggles throughout elementary school and beyond, being horribly bullied for his eccentricities. Yet, the attention from Aunt Hankie and Uncle Irving continues, until Michael reaches his late teens and begins to naturally turn away from them. That is when the book takes a turn. Aunt Hankie, missing the devoted Michael that she forcefully created, begins to become dark in her moods and attitude. This is when Michael tries to reconcile the double images of Aunt Hankie that he has grown up with. He was enthralled with her as a youngster, but now sees that she is unreasonable and self-centered. By the book's end, Michael is married with a young daughter and comes to realize that his Aunt Hankie is so flawed that any normal relationship is impossible. He is a marvelous writer with a great story to tell, so much so that it is a hard book to put down. All of us have experienced family struggles but this one will likely put your personal struggles to the pale. Michael writes well of the turbulence this singularly strong and dominant force had on his life.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    I mistakenly thought this book was about Michael Frank but really it was about his aunt, Harriet Frank Revetch. She was involved in the movie industry, though I had not heard of her prior to this book. However, the book isn’t about hob-knobbing with the rich and famous. The book chronicles Hankie’s difficult relationships with her family members and friends. She was extremely magnanimous and loving when it served her purposes and then would place heavy burdens on the people around her using her I mistakenly thought this book was about Michael Frank but really it was about his aunt, Harriet Frank Revetch. She was involved in the movie industry, though I had not heard of her prior to this book. However, the book isn’t about hob-knobbing with the rich and famous. The book chronicles Hankie’s difficult relationships with her family members and friends. She was extremely magnanimous and loving when it served her purposes and then would place heavy burdens on the people around her using her previous benevolence as leverage. It was very hard to read how the people around her let her harm them over and over again without protecting themselves or each other. Many times I wondered why Mr. Franks was willing to share this dark side of his childhood with us. I know writing out what happened was probably extremely cathartic for him but he was very brave to let the world know that life wasn’t always so beautiful for Hollywood’s beautiful families. A copy of this book was provided by NetGalley and Farrar, Straus and Giroux in exchange for an honest review.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. A memoir that provides a description of the history and dynamics of the author's family in a vivid way; each character leaves an impression on the reader. Sometimes the writing gets too wordy or drawn out and it is confusing to follow all of the individuals and their nicknames. The main focus of The Mighty Franks is Michael Frank's aunt and uncle, Hollywood screenwriters Harriet Frank Jr. and Irving Ravetc (HUD, The Sound and Fury, Norma Rae) Michael, his parents and siblings live nearby in Laure A memoir that provides a description of the history and dynamics of the author's family in a vivid way; each character leaves an impression on the reader. Sometimes the writing gets too wordy or drawn out and it is confusing to follow all of the individuals and their nicknames. The main focus of The Mighty Franks is Michael Frank's aunt and uncle, Hollywood screenwriters Harriet Frank Jr. and Irving Ravetc (HUD, The Sound and Fury, Norma Rae) Michael, his parents and siblings live nearby in Laurel Canyon(and are inextricably linked - Michael's mother is Irving's sister; and his father is Harriet's brother), his childless aunt lavishes attention on him from a young age, and they spend a lot of time together - eventually against his parents wishes. Much of the book focuses on their relationship when Michael was a child, and later reveals him returning and bringing his own daughter. Solid and well written, however not a light read.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Virginia Van

    In his complex, intertwined family, to a young Michael the stars were his childless Auntie Hankie and Uncle Irving, glamorous Hollywood screenwriters. "Talented, sparkling, and lavish with her money, attention, and love, Auntie Hankie takes charge of Michael’s education, showing him which books to read, which painters to admire, which houses to like, which people to adore. She literally trains his eye—until that eye wants to see on its own. As his aunt’s moods begin to darken, it becomes apparen In his complex, intertwined family, to a young Michael the stars were his childless Auntie Hankie and Uncle Irving, glamorous Hollywood screenwriters. "Talented, sparkling, and lavish with her money, attention, and love, Auntie Hankie takes charge of Michael’s education, showing him which books to read, which painters to admire, which houses to like, which people to adore. She literally trains his eye—until that eye wants to see on its own. As his aunt’s moods begin to darken, it becomes apparent that beneath her magical exterior there lies a dangerous rage." Frank's vivid memory and penetrating insights allows him to write a psychologically acute memoir looking at the complex inter-relationships within a family and where the boundaries should be drawn. The past is re-created so vividly I had read 30 pages before I realized the work was non-fiction.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey Ravetch

    Michael Frank has achieved something extraordinary in this poignant and gripping memoir, a personal tale that resonates beyond the limits of one intertwined family. He has touched upon the questions that torment us all, the questions that tug at our essence for which we struggle to find answers. His story, fascinating in its own right, dominated by larger than life characters whose accomplishments elevate them to the realm of the mighty, speaks to a larger truth for which there are no simple ans Michael Frank has achieved something extraordinary in this poignant and gripping memoir, a personal tale that resonates beyond the limits of one intertwined family. He has touched upon the questions that torment us all, the questions that tug at our essence for which we struggle to find answers. His story, fascinating in its own right, dominated by larger than life characters whose accomplishments elevate them to the realm of the mighty, speaks to a larger truth for which there are no simple answers. Perhaps fittingly for its subjects, the work has a cinematic quality, building in intensity as the plot unfolds, revealing itself in vignettes that build to a climactic finale that raise more questions then it answers.

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