Portrait Inside My Head: Essaysby Phillip Lopate
From the distinguished essayist and undisputed master of the form, a lively, tender, and provocative new collection celebrating the life of the mind, from challenges of a Brooklyn childhood to the pleasures of baseball, movies, sex, books, friendship, and more.
In this stunning compilation of personal essays, celebrated author, film critic, poet, and/b>
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“Portraits Inside My Head” is everything a collection of essays should be: intelligent, compelling, unique, reflective and most importantly, varied. Phillip Lopate moves through family, literature, locations and a variety of other topics I assume he had floating around in that incredible mind of his. He covers topics like the Little Leagues and empathy in a way that expertly conveys his opinions and thoughts, while tying in a mixture of personal experience and family history in a way that creates almost a series of stories rather than essays. His work becomes particularly interesting when Lopate works in his Jewish history and culture, especially in the first section of the collection, entitled “The Family Romance.” He gives the reader an insight into the life of a Jewish New Yorker boy in a time when children were less supervised and prejudices against Jews were high. His family struggled in a way that is both interesting and purely American. Lopate’s essay collection hits another key aspect of non-fiction: honesty. The last thing you want to read about is someone’s artificial life, full of self-preservation and lies of omission. Phillip Lopate is self-aware and honest about himself, notably in the essay entitled “My Brother the Radio Host.” He analyzes the situation as it is, in this instance being his family dynamics, and doesn’t hesitate to portray himself truthfully - strengths AND weaknesses. “Portraits Inside My Head” is exactly what the title would suggest. Lopate’s intellect shines as he shares his mind with readers, both new and old.
Phillip Lopate’s essays were a joy to read. He is a skilled author and I appreciated his work. Due to some language and profanity within his essays they may not be appropriate for all audiences. Near the beginning of “Portrait inside my head”, Lopate shares experiences from his childhood. He explained that “the focus of (his) family life was the kitchen table.” He recalls running around the house with his siblings in a chaotic manner making the neighbors anxious. He commented, “There is no question that the table’s chaotic clutter expressed something about our family’s character, but what, you might be asking, other than our being slobs? It was our Noah’s ark, our survival raft, our environmental artwork; an overcompensation for our being poor, a visual refutation of material deprivation.” Most of Lopate’s essays were centered on his familial experiences. One that touched me the most was when he was speaking of his daughter Lily and her health complications from birth. This essay was titled “The Lake of Suffering”. His words were powerful and there was much emotion woven into the story. He did not mince words and was very open with his feelings. I am sure this essay could touch many who have suffered from similar situations. He openly explained how his daughter, as well as his wife eventually were able to leave behind the struggles Lily had. But he, he could not. He stated, “It is only I—to their eyes the one who was the least involved, and hence the least entitled to claim the experience—who cannot seem to let it go. Is it because it shook me to my very core? Or is it because I am too proud of having survived that ordeal to stop dwelling on it? All I know is that a part of me continues to haunt those wards, those corridors, those nurses’ stations, while seeming to attend to my ordinary daily life.”