I had almost forgotten about Kathryn Harrison and her book, or infamous book, The Kiss, until I came across it during some research for a recent project—The Kiss, the book about Harrison's incestuous relationship with her father, a book for which, surprisingly or not, Harrison took much flack and some pretty harsh media attacks.
The story, simply put, is this: Harrison had a long and not-so-great relationship with her mother; she at least had some kind of contact with her, which although it was not good, and the mother was self-absorbed to say the least, and obviously still in love with the father, seemed better than nothing at all; the two lived with the grandparents for a while. As for the mother, even though she does date other men, she remains as "true and as loyal" to the father as one can be under the circumstances, as Harrison writes,"Romantically fixated" on him, the absent and almost-ghostly figure. She is true in her heart, in so many words and, for whatever reason, perhaps his charmisma or charm, none other can take his place.
Harrison is raised by her mother's parents, she writes, and lives in their house until she is seventeen. For whatever reason, it is essentially verboten to even mention her father's name. Her parents divorce when she is six months old, leaving Kathryn with few memories of her father and only a few vague photographs to go on, and what she is told by her family, which isn't so great and will prove to be prophetic.
Her father is absent, ghostly, almost mythical in some sense, in that not being able to discuss or talk about him necessarily lends him a strange power, and though this is inadvertent, no doubt, it creates in Harrison’s mind a natural curiosity about who this man is; and more, she develops that curiosity as any child would about a missing or absent father.
When asked what she looks like by a family friend, Harrison says, I don’t know, to which the family friend responds, "Ahh, a Guardian Angel." But the mother must break the spell: "Surely angels don’t wear suits," she says snippily and almost snidely, as it sounds from what is written.
The fact of his being so forbidden only lends the father that "book on the top shelf" temptation that children have when you tell them they cannot have something; it only serves to make them yearn and become yet more curious, and surely this is what happened to young Kathryn. To compound the issue, the mother has literally censored family albums, editing out the father whenever possible and even editing out unflattering pictures of herself (this much is not so unusual, the rest seems more than odd), though she notes, the mother does save a few photographs of herself, and there remain some photographs of the father in the album, though he is "always alone in the frame."