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Getting Personal: Selected Writings

Overview

From the man who is practically synonymous with the form of the modern personal essay comes a delightful collection of prose, poems, and never-before-published pieces that span his career as an essayist, novelist, poet, film critic, father, son, and husband.Organized in six parts (Childhood; Youth; Early Marriage and Bachelorhood; Teaching and Work; Fiction; Politics, Religion, Movies, Books, Cities; The Style of Middle Age) Getting Personal tells two stories: the development of Lopate's career as a writer and ...

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Overview

From the man who is practically synonymous with the form of the modern personal essay comes a delightful collection of prose, poems, and never-before-published pieces that span his career as an essayist, novelist, poet, film critic, father, son, and husband.Organized in six parts (Childhood; Youth; Early Marriage and Bachelorhood; Teaching and Work; Fiction; Politics, Religion, Movies, Books, Cities; The Style of Middle Age) Getting Personal tells two stories: the development of Lopate's career as a writer and the story of his life.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
Lopate's slightly ironic tone flavors an easygoing, good-humored, conversational style. — Diane Cole
Publishers Weekly
Essayist, poet and cultural critic Lopate gleans from his previous works a selection representing various interests and illuminating his life. The essays form a discontinuous but satisfying whole. The first three sections center on his personal life and resemble fictional narratives, with fully drawn characters (e.g., Osao, a romantic interest whose love was "like the bonsai tree, perfect in its own limited way... doomed to grow no higher than one's knee," and a landlord who thinks typing will bring the ceiling down). Lopate captures speech so believably, it's easy to trust his memory for long-ago conversations. Craftily etched scenes draw readers into his second-grade classroom, onto a subway ride, along streets and into watching Samson and Delilah. The emphasis in the latter three sections, on Lopate's public life, veers toward the journalistic. Lopate revisits his experiences as a poet in residence and creative writing teacher at a New York City elementary school, recalling teaching writing with examples from student work, putting on Chekhov's Uncle Vanya and dealing with the disruptions wrought by the 1968 school strike. Lopate's political analyst voice emerges in his provocative essay "Resistance to the Holocaust." He also displays his prowess as a movie critic, sharing a close analysis of Godard's Contempt. The final section closes the circle with a return to the private, with the witty "Portrait of My Body," an evocative tribute to Donald Barthelme and a moving account of his father's last days. Having edited the popular The Art of the Personal Essay (1994), Lopate is both legatee and guardian of the genre. Photos. (Nov.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Lopate, a consummate poet, novelist, editor, film critic, and essayist (Being with Children; The Art of the Personal Essay), has collected 29 previously published personal essays in this superb literary account of his life as a son, teacher, husband, and father. Retrospective glimpses of the precocious Lopate's childhood in racially mixed Brooklyn neighborhoods and observations of his parents' tempestuous relationship give the reader a cinematic view of life in the 1950s. Lopate includes essays on his career as a writer who taught streetwise children in New York's inner-city schools, interspersing references to the Bible and classic literature throughout. Reflections on a man's body at middle age, cat ownership, the art of friendship, and being a self-appointed movie shusher round out this robust collection. Highly recommended for creative nonfiction fans and literary collections in public and academic libraries.-Joyce Sparrow, Juvenile Welfare Board of Pinellas Cty., Pinellas Park, FL Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In a motley collection of previously published pieces, novelist and essayist Lopate examines with unique intelligence and an unforgiving eye everything from the smell of his navel to a film by Godard. The volume begins playfully with "Notes Toward an Introduction," which the author never completed due to an untimely death (fear not: he lives). Fortunately, Lopate (Totally, Tenderly, Tragically, 1998, etc.) quickly abandons this unnecessary inanity and proceeds to offer evidence why he is one of America's most admired essayists. The 29 pieces form a sort of rough memoir, beginning with a reminiscence of his early years of school (his first grade teacher had a glass eye) and concluding with a wrenching description of the death of his father in 1995, followed by a brief mediation on love serving as a sort of encore. Some of these essays are-or soon will be-classics of the genre. "Samson and Delilah and the Kids," which considers the impact on his own life of both the biblical and Cecil B. DeMille versions of this classic battle of the sexes, is a brilliant instance of how research and scholarship can illuminate the most intimate of concerns. A piece about his infatuation with a Korean woman appears in some ways to be a transcript of everyman's imagination. Lopate can wax silly (he writes about shaving a beard and buying a cat and shushing noisy people in movie theaters), somber (he tells about the deaths of colleagues, one by suicide, another by cancer), bemused (he wonders why a relationship with a woman named Claire never seemed to ignite), and (fortunately not often) a tad self-righteous. One of his longest, most tedious narratives tells about a production of Uncle Vanya he once mountedwith elementary-school children: it turned out wonderfully, and everyone learned ever so much. Thank goodness this is not typical. Displays in abundance the author's astonishing ability to listen to-and record in prose that approaches perfect-the music of his own thoughts as he sometimes stumbles, sometimes glides through life.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780641645549
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 11/4/2003
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 6.54 (w) x 9.24 (h) x 1.37 (d)

Meet the Author

Phillip Lopate

Currently the John Cranford Adams Chair of the English Department at Hofstra University, Phillip Lopate is the author of five works of nonfiction, two novels, and two books of poems, as well as serving as editor of the best-selling collections Writing New York and The Art of the Personal Essay. The recipient of two Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts grants, he lives in Brooklyn with his wife and daughter.

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Table of Contents

Introduction
1 My Early Days at School 3
2 Willy 7
3 Samson and Delilah and the Kids 25
4 The Countess's Tutor 47
5 Anticipation of La Notte 67
6 Washington Heights and Inwood 85
7 My Drawer 91
8 Osao 95
9 Never Live Above Your Landlord 119
10 On Shaving a Beard 130
11 Getting a Cat 133
12 Against Joie de Vivre 142
13 The Brunch 157
14 Modern Friendships 159
15 Hanging Out 169
16 Chekhov for Children 189
17 Suicide of a Schoolteacher 220
18 Resistance to the Holocaust 263
19 The Movies and Spiritual Life 280
20 Detachment and Passion 288
21 Contempt: The Story of a Marriage 302
22 Confessions of a Shusher 311
23 Reflections on Subletting 316
24 Portrait of My Body 327
25 The Moody Traveler 335
26 The Dead Father 339
27 The Story of My Father 358
28 First Love 397
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