I Want to Thank My Brain for Remembering Me


Call it a miracle, fate, pure luck, or just another day in the city where nothing is usual, but in 1991 Jimmy Breslin narrowly escaped death - which inspired him to write this book about his life. Two years ago, Breslin was having trouble getting his left eyelid to open and close. This was too peculiar to ignore, so Breslin decided to pay a rare visit to his doctor. As it turned out, the eyelid was a matter of nerves. But extensive testing revealed something unrelated and life-threatening: he had an aneurysm in ...

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Call it a miracle, fate, pure luck, or just another day in the city where nothing is usual, but in 1991 Jimmy Breslin narrowly escaped death - which inspired him to write this book about his life. Two years ago, Breslin was having trouble getting his left eyelid to open and close. This was too peculiar to ignore, so Breslin decided to pay a rare visit to his doctor. As it turned out, the eyelid was a matter of nerves. But extensive testing revealed something unrelated and life-threatening: he had an aneurysm in his brain - a thin, ballooned artery wall that could burst and kill him at any moment unless he opted for a risky surgical procedure. Breslin agreed to the surgery and at age sixty-five, grateful for this miracle (what else could you call it?), began taking stock of his remarkable life.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Breslin's confrontation with his mortality began with double vision in his left eye. He had an MRI, which revealed an aneurysm in his brain. He was referred to Robert Spetzler in Arizona, who is considered the best aneurysm neurosurgeon in the world. Thus begins Breslin's odyssey from New York City to Phoenix, which takes readers on a wonderful whirlwind tour of his life.He starts with his childhood in working-class Queens, where his father "left the arena early," abandoning the family. He became a journalist when he was 16 and unabashedly informs his readers: "I invented the news column form and other papers immediately went out and hired imitators with Irish names." He recalls JFK's assassination; while other reporters hung around the White House waiting for press releases, he interviewed the $3.01-an-hour gravedigger at the President's grave.Breslin insists that New York "is the healthiest city in the world" and shows us the sights and sounds, which here include serial killer Son of Sam; Casey Stengel of the 1962 Mets; Malcolm X's murder in 1965, which he witnessed; Norman Mailer's unsuccessful 1969 mayoral campaign; and subway shooter Bernhard Goetz playing out his fantasies with a gun. Breslin discusses the great loves of his life: his late first wife, Rosemary, his present wife, New York City councilwoman Ronnie Eldridge, and their combined nine children.What is most stunning, however, is his rock-hard Catholicism. "There is no such thing as an ex-Catholic," Breslin admonishes as he continually invokes pre-Vatican II phrases such as "state of Grace," "sins of Omission" and an "examination of conscience." We also see Breslin the Luddite railing against the computers "that took the verve out of the whole newsroom and the charm out of the stories" and Breslin the nostalgist looking back on friends like Fat Thomas, Marvin the Torch and Klein the Lawyer.Breslin's brain operation is a success, and with stream-of-consciousness remembrances, he takes us through the procedure. His memoir is as tough as the streets of New York, and as sensitive as a poet in search of the truth. Major ad/promo; BOMC selection; author tour. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Readers of this marvelous memoir should thank Breslin's brain for saving his life. For if a case of severe eye pain had not driven Breslin, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and a notorious avoider of doctors, to his opthamologist, the aneurysm hidden in his brain would have remained undiscovered and eventually burst, killing him. Preparing for a risky surgery that could either cure him or leave him a vegetable, Breslin meditates in a series of candid and witty flashbacks on his extraordinary 65 years of lifehis childhood in Queens "My family were people with winter emotions who could not use warm, affectionate words", the death of his first wife, his second marriage to New York City councilwoman Ronnie Eldridge, and the colorful eccentric characters he has encountered in his career as a reporter and columnist. Breslin has a true writer's passion for words and language; his graphic description of his surgery definitely not for the squeamish is as sharp and clean as a surgeon's knife "My brain sits like a chalice on an altar of clean blue cloth". Highly recommended for all collections.Wilda Williams, "Library Journal"
Kirkus Reviews
Prototypical ink-in-the-veins journalist Breslin (Damon Runyon, 1991; The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight, 1969; etc.) now reports on a matter that concentrated his mind wonderfully, a matter for which his experience never prepared him: the opening of his skull to release an aneurysm.

The burly columnist has fully recovered from a "right pterinonal craniotomy with unruptured anterior communication artery aneurysm." A blood vessel in his brain was set to burst, quicker than a thought, at any time it chose. If not death, the event could have, for Breslin, triggered something worse. He could have lost all vocabulary and the ability to communicate. Happily, all is well inside the newsman's head. The evidence is this street-smart report from the purgatory of patienthood. On the armature of the life- threatening aneurysm, Breslin fleshes out a distinctive, funny memoir in the tones and syntax of the courtrooms and saloons of Brooklyn and Queens. It's a sage and cagey stream-of-consciousness flowing at extraordinary velocity. Here are family members as well as the likes of Lenny Bruce, Casey Stengel, and Marvin the Torch ("I build empty lots," said Marvin). In extremis, the remembrances of things past—the unhappy childhood, the stalking by Son of Sam, the bookmakers, gangsters, and ward heelers, the penury and proud achievements and the wonderment of life and love, no less—are covered in kaleidoscopic flashbacks. If it's occasionally disorderly, prideful, and cocky, it's always distinctive and often affecting. And the explicit depiction of the surgery, performed to the strains of Schubert's "Trout Quintet," is simply harrowing.

The Bard of the Boroughs is back with his accustomed wit in a chiaroscuro text that is more felicitous than the awkward title would hint.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316118798
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 3/15/2005
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 0.51 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 6.00 (d)

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 13, 2001

    For anyone even contemplating a visit to an 'ologist

    Every 'ologist should prescribe this book to any patient facing any major surgery. Breslin journeys from denial through deep fear of possibly ending up brain damaged to his eventual visit to the leading aneurysm surgeon of the day. This journey is funny and honest and frightening. Quite by coincidence, two years after buying this book, I was given a taste of the fear when I needed an MRI. Re-reading this book has strengthened me. It's not just for the afflicted however - as a memoir of his extraordinary life in newspapers it is highly entertaining. The characters and events which are meant only as the side show to the medical narrative are powerful, hilarious, poignant betimes.

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