Book Review: “Dad Problems: Love and Hate in the Age of Patriarchy” by Katherine Angel

DADDY ISSUES: Love and Hate in the Age of Patriarchy, by Katherine Angel


It’s not that I want to go out with my dad, I just want him to want to go out with me. He thinks I’m the most beautiful girl in the world. She also told me, when I was 15, that she would never have a boyfriend who didn’t cheat on me. What if I cheated first? “Deny! Deny! Deny!” he advised my dad, and I listened because he reminded me of Winston Churchill when he slammed his hand down like that.

Daddy Issues, Katherine Angel’s third collection of essays, presents the sexual nature of a father-daughter dynamic so effortlessly that at first I couldn’t help but see it as a self-help manual: the mannequin guide I’ve been waiting for a long time. . Instead, this is an examination of our often prurient fascination with the dynamics and inherent misogyny of that fascination. It is also something like a recovery. “You can, at least in principle, leave a husband, but you can’t leave a father,” says Angel. Unless, she suggests, you write about him.

His thought-provoking approach is to argue that our society has overlooked dads’ place in “dad stuff.” To prove it, he deftly analyzes a variety of literary works, historical figures like Virginia Woolf’s father Leslie Stephen, and contemporary tabloid examples like Meghan Markle and Ivanka Trump. “A father’s love reveals itself in jealousy,” she writes. “But if there is a father-daughter romance, however repressed and culturally determined it may be, why are we so interested in it being the daughter’s romance? We are attentive to the problems of the daughter’s father; What about the problems of the father’s daughter?

Angel, who heads the MA writing program at Birkbeck College, University of London, can be a skilled interpreter of art and, when she lets us see it, a sensitive thinker in her own right. I wanted to copy Angel’s (sometimes too long) arguments and try out his best one-liners at dinner parties. (“Don’t you think ‘abuse is part of seducing someone, making them feel special and loved’?”) She succeeds admirably in her ambitious project of emphasizing the father figure and, as a result, lessening historical scrutiny. of the daughter However, I found myself missing the point of view of the daughter, that is, Angel’s.

I want to know what made Angel write about “parenting issues,” especially given his very personal statement that “writing is how I live my experience.” I wouldn’t expect a writer as accomplished as Angel to dole out personal information if the subject at hand was, say, astrophysics. But to truly “create a father” out of writing that, as Angel says, “doesn’t demand my false self,” creates a need for revelation in the reader and then withholds it; yes, we are obsessed with this dynamic, but what attracted you to the topic?

One of the best and most personal moments is his account of a trip to the Tate Modern to see “Squash.” The exhibit revolved around a “human figure” dressed in a flashy, “floating” costume, its head covered by a “bulging, obscene, gourd-like structure.” Angel can’t look away from her. She watches unashamedly, which fills her with both power and relief. “How wonderful it would be not to have to see people’s faces, with all their needs and desires and projections!”

But we women have to look at men, and we have to bear our excited terror when they look at us. It is impossible to get rid of our parents, and they are, inevitably, engraved forever in our guts. The title of Angel’s book not only refers to our disdainful cultural shorthand, but also to its universality. Is it an inherently bad “problem”? Comparing my own father to Winston Churchill felt good, if only in the moment.


Annie Hamilton is a writer and performer from New York.


DAD MATTERS: Love and Hate in the Age of Patriarchy, by Katherine Angel | 81 pages | verse | Paper, $12.95

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