Duane Michals is a son of McKeesport, Pennsylvania, born to a steel mill, blue collar family. That he escaped to become a stellar name in art photography is staggering. That he became a writer of beautiful prose is doubly staggering. Of his family home he wrote in The House I Once Called Home, “This house is built of wood cut from my family tree.”
He has authored/created a number of photographic art books, all of which will tell you something about him; but the two that combine to reveal him as author are The House I Once Called Home, published in 2003, and The Lieutenant Who Loved His Platoon A Military Memoir, published in 2011. Each enriches the other.
In the older book especially but also in the most recent book, you read the polished mature author. In the recent book he reproduced two sets of letters he wrote as a young officer in the Army from ’53 to ’55. The letters he wrote to his “father confessor” are unguarded, self-pitying, depression ladened, and show nothing of what he would become as a writer. The letters he wrote to a female former classmate were written with a persona in mind he did not want to lose. Under this pressure his writing is disciplined and begins to show his latent talent as a writer.
Both books are works of art you will want to shield from light, dust, and greasy hands. Charles Marlin