Driving With Dvořák

Driving With Dvořák
University of Nebraska Press 2010

All our lives are made of moments, both simple and sublime, all of which in some way partake of the cultural moment. Fleda Brown is that rare writer who, in narrating the incidents and observations of her life, turns her story, by wit and insight and a poet’s gift, into something more. Driving With Dvořák is an unconventional memoir. A series of lyrical essays about life in a maddeningly complex family during the even more maddeningly complex fifties and sixties, it adds up to one woman’s story while simultaneously reflecting the story of her times.

A strange and erratic father, a resigned and helpless mother, a mentally disabled brother, a sister with a brain tumor: folded into Brown’s reflections are the intimacies and ambivalences of family and marriage, girlhood and adolescence, identity and self-knowledge. Whether reflecting on the automobile industry or a wrenching parting from beloved pets or the process of aging, Brown’s telling rings with great humor, profound perception, and a lyricism that makes even the most commonplace moment uncommonly good reading.


“Throughout this stunning book of essays, we journey into memory through a ‘music made of accumulation.’ Fleda Brown’s voice is edgy, direct, yet surprisingly tender. A decrepit summer cottage, a brain-damaged brother, even an exhaustingly difficult father are all part of the symphony she offers her lucky readers.”

—Rebecca McClanahan, author of The Riddle Song and Other Rememberings

“In these elegant, associative essays, Fleda Brown writes movingly of her metamorphosis in spirit, body, and mind from her hoop-skirted childhood to the present. Her essays are often elegiac, always tender and compassionate, her language a poet’s, her memory a composer’s.”

—Robin Hemley, director of the Nonfiction Writing Program at the University of Iowa