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The Boy Detective: A New York Childhoodby Roger Rosenblatt
Synopses & Reviews
The Washington Post hailed Roger Rosenblatt's Making Toast as "a textbook on what constitutes perfect writing," and People lauded Kayak Morning as "intimate, expansive and profoundly moving." Classic tales of love and grief, the New York Times bestselling memoirs are also original literary works that carve out new territory at the intersection of poetry and prose. Now comes The Boy Detective, a story of the author's childhood in New York City, suffused with the same mixture of acute observation and bracing humor, lyricism and wit.
Resisting the deadening silence of his family home in the elegant yet stiflingly safe neighborhood of Gramercy Park, nine-year-old Roger imagines himself a private eye in pursuit of criminals. With the dreamlike mystery of the city before him, he sets off alone, out into the streets of Manhattan, thrilling to a life of unsolved cases.
Six decades later, Rosenblatt finds himself again patrolling the territory of his youth: The writing class he teaches has just wrapped up, releasing him into the winter night and the very neighborhood in which he grew up. A grown man now, he investigates his own life and the life of the city as he walks, exploring the New York of the 1950s; the lives of the writers who walked these streets before him, such as Poe and Melville; the great detectives of fiction and the essence of detective work; and the monuments of his childhood, such as the New York Public Library, once the site of an immense reservoir that nourished the city with water before it nourished it with books, and the Empire State Building, which, in Rosenblatt's imagination, vibrates sympathetically with the oversize loneliness of King Kong: "If you must fall, fall from me."
As he walks, he is returned to himself, the boy detective on the case. Just as Rosenblatt invented a world for himself as a child, he creates one on this night — the writer a detective still, the chief suspect in the case of his own life, a case that discloses the shared mysteries of all our lives. A masterly evocation of the city and a meditation on memory as an act of faith, The Boy Detective treads the line between a novel and a poem, displaying a world at once dangerous and beautiful.
"In the vein of his other recent works, Rosenblatt (Making Toast) has taken memoir writing — a subject he teaches at State University of New York at Stony Brook — and turned it on its head once again. Walking the Manhattan streets of his childhood, Rosenblatt uses the city landscape to delve into eclectic ruminations on the nature of time and space, the slipperiness of reality and memory. By mixing in history, literary references, geography, philosophy, and poetry, he is somehow able to create a 14th Street where (or when) Luchow, a 19th-century restaurant, sits side by side with a modern Trader's Joe's store. Rosenblatt's writing is honest, yet it produces a magical world unto itself, as when he describes his writing process ('Why do I have to produce an ocean in the morning, much less paint the sun-streaks on it, much less the plaster clouds or the goddam sun itself?'). The title refers to the author's childhood desire to be a detective on par with Holmes and Marlow, and the idea of controlling the uncontrollable comes into play throughout the book. But Rosenblatt isn't out to uncover the meaning of life — he is celebrating the fact that 'life calls for nothing but itself.' Agent: Gloria Loomis, Watkins/Loomis Agency" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“With the beautiful, lyrical writing and thoughtful reflection for which he is known, Rosenblatt offers beautifully rendered memories of childhood and ongoing curiosity about the city he so obviously loves.” Booklist
“Rosenblatt's writing is honest, yet it produces a magical world unto itself…” Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Memoir, urban travelogue or summing up of a career grounded in the written word, Roger Rosenblatt's The Boy Detective is an elegant and wise journey through an incomparable city and a meaning-filled life.” Shelf Awareness
“[T]he memoir is, at its heart, a valentine to the New York City of the ‘50s and today, and to the author's favorite detective stories and films....No matter where you're from, his story resonates.” People (4 stars)
“A hallmark of memoir is the self now reflecting on the self then. This book pulls off the high wire feat of illuminating that double identity and giving readers the mental atmospheres of both narrators, the rascal back then and the reflective adult today…deliciously satisfying. New York Journal of Books
“Funny, intelligent, page-turning, this memoir doesnt just describe a 1940s childhood in New York City; rather, it ruminates on the life of an artist born in and shaped by its streets.” Daily Beast
“The Boy Detective is filled with curves and knuckleballs and the occasional spitter. Hey, pal, have fun catching.” USA Today
“That Roger Rosenblatt's The Boy Detective has no table of contents will make perfect sense to readers who follow the meandering path that constitutes his charming memoir of growing up around Gramercy Park. Categorizing his musings would be too confining.” New York Times
About the Author
Roger Rosenblatt's essays for Time and The NewsHour on PBS have won two George Polk Awards, the Peabody, and an Emmy. He is the author of six off-Broadway plays and sixteen books, including the national bestsellers Kayak Morning, Making Toast, Unless It Moves the Human Heart, Rules for Aging, the novel Lapham Rising, and Children of War, which won the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. He has held the Briggs-Copeland appointment in the teaching of writing at Harvard, and is currently Distinguished Professor of English and Writing at Stony Brook University.
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