A BOY’S STORY OF SEXUAL TRESPASS, A MAN’S JOURNEY TO FORGIVENESS.
You can rage against the bastard. You can name the pervert’s name, unloading years of hurt and secrecy and disgust, and dredge up the feelings of righteous anger stored in your gut. Or you can wallow in self-pity and depression and indulge in the painful realization that you’re damaged goods now, that your childhood can never be recovered, that you’re no longer young enough to be deemed so beautiful and desirable. You can try to build up your own self-worth, uttering self-affirmations that claim you grew up okay (though a part of you refuses to believe it), that you’ve grown past forgetting (though the memories of sexual abuse flicker in your mind at the most inopportune times), and that you’ve grown into some form of self-awareness about what happened to you—until you commit or think about committing that next self-destructive act, a pale reminder that you’re fooling no one but yourself, baby.
Those who’ve experienced what Martin Moran went through as a 12-year-old boy—sexual molestation by a man almost two decades his senior—know, no, feel, precisely the welter of conflicted emotions and chaos of impressions that come with the territory. The perpetrator of this crime against Moran was a 30-year-old counselor he met at a Catholic boy’s camp near Denver. The creep later went to prison for abusing another boy, but for three years he held the young, insecure Moran under his sexual thrall. He taught Moran whitewater rafting, how to milk cows and how to survive in the wilderness. The cover picture of The Tricky Part shows little Marty standing up in a kayak, wearing a life preserver, holding a paddle above his head and smiling. It would be a gesture of triumph, except it was taken by his abuser while they were on an outing that Moran’s parents approved.
If you’ve seen the haunting, award-winning solo play, also called The Tricky Part, which Moran has performed across the country since 2004, you can appreciate the courage and the maddening thoughtfulness that this actor evinces while exposing and reliving nightly this secret part of his life in front of strangers. With poetic vigor and devastating explicitness, this memoir goes farther and deeper, chronicling how sexual abuse at a young age warped the adult Moran’s psychological wiring (he became a sex addict) and how the theatre (as well as analysis) helped pull the actor out of the dark by offering the necessity of community. (First published in 2005, the novel is still available on paperback, no doubt kept alive by Moran’s performances which continue to this day.)
For those of us who have relished Moran’s always-sterling performances—from A Man of No Importance at Lincoln Center Theater, to The Cider House Rules at Atlantic Theatre Company, to Floyd Collins at Playwrights Horizons, to Cabaret and Titanic and Monty Python’s Spamalot! on Broadway—it’s unnerving to learn about and share the real-life demons that plagued this sweet angel of an actor/singer. The radiance of this memoir is almost too much to bear. But that’s the tricky part of a confessional as scrupulously re-remembered as it is unflinching. It forces you look at the world with compassionate eyes. It also calls for the necessity of renewed vigilance for all the young people whose innocence must be spared from the hands of pedophiles.
Martin is lucky he finally got to confront his abuser in the spring of 2002. He’s right not to name names. This book is not a cheerless tale about a criminal and a victim. It’s a song of liberation that a brave man sings for himself. —Randy Gener