The oldest child in a middle-class household in Ridgefield, Connecticut, the son of a piano teacher and a social worker, the author was, from the age of six, an eccentric with enormous aspirations - none of them ever fulfilled, of course - who stood out not only from his more conventional parents and brother and sister but from everyone else in the neighborhood. In the tradition of Russell Baker's Growing Up and Spalding Gray's Sex and Death to the Age 14, Mark Salzman recalls his tortured years so fondly, so ...
The oldest child in a middle-class household in Ridgefield, Connecticut, the son of a piano teacher and a social worker, the author was, from the age of six, an eccentric with enormous aspirations - none of them ever fulfilled, of course - who stood out not only from his more conventional parents and brother and sister but from everyone else in the neighborhood. In the tradition of Russell Baker's Growing Up and Spalding Gray's Sex and Death to the Age 14, Mark Salzman recalls his tortured years so fondly, so self-deprecatingly and so humorously that readers will devour this delightful look backward with smiles on their faces.
Salzman's memoir of his Connecticut childhood tells of his early adolescent devotion to Zen and Kung Fu. (July)
Salzman (The Soloist, LJ 10/15/93) pens the memoir of the childhood and adolescence of an unconventional person growing up in a conventional family in a conventional suburban neighborhood. His refreshing, readable story follows the narrator through a number of unusual experiences as he tries kung-fu, Chinese art and language, Zen writings, playing classical and jazz cello, Indian music, and marijuana. He uses these experiences and the many people he meets to seek the answers to the ultimate questions of life. He finally comes to grips with the idea that no one he has met nor any of his consciousness-raising experiences has been able to provide him with the ultimate answers. He does learn that people seem to be able to live happily with the knowledge that some answers are unattainable. In the end, he is even able to accept his curmudgeonly father, to whom he dedicated the book. The reader will smile and nod in agreement at these wonderful descriptions. Recommended for all public libraries.David Schau, Kanawha Cty. P.L., Charleston, W.Va.
School Library Journal
YA-As a youth, Salzman was remarkably self-directed and came from a loving and supportive family. At 13, he saw his first kung fu movie with actor Bruce Lee and decided on the spot to become a ``wandering Zen monk.'' His parents allowed him the freedom to pursue this new interest. After much meditating and practicing at home, he enrolled in a martial-arts school. Soon the boy's interest in Asian philosophy and mysticism led him to study the Chinese language, which in turn led to practicing and learning the art of Chinese brush painting. All of these interests are described as adventures, some of which are frightening; others are simply wonderful fun. All are interesting. Readers come away from this memoir refreshed and inspired by this young person's quest to become ``someone'' and to discover himself. This very different journey through adolescence is a delight to read, and is one that many YAs will relate to and enjoy.-Helen Lazar, Kings Park Library, Fairfax County, VA
Salzman, critically acclaimed author of "The Soloist" (1994), here pens a gentle memoir of his teenage years that is also a loving tribute to his gloomy father. Salzman humorously describes his tortured attempts to adopt the lifestyle of a Zen monk as an eccentric adolescent growing up in Ridgefield, Connecticut. To that end, he rigged up a homemade kung fu outfit consisting of purple pajamas and a bald wig (his younger brother's withering comments on this getup are priceless), took martial arts lessons from a sadist, and walked to school barefoot in the snow to instill fortitude. In between describing his obsession with things Chinese (he learned to speak Chinese as well as to do Chinese brush painting and calligraphy), Salzman also relays his efforts to become a jazz cellist and his larky attempt to gain early admission to Yale. But the highlights of this book are Salzman's conversations with his father, a pessimistic social worker who was also an avid amateur astronomer. No Cosby clone, his dad often dispensed rather acerbic advice. When Salzman once asked him how cosmic dust could drift in space forever, he replied, "Nobody knows. But you'll have a better idea once you get a job." Almost old-fashioned in its depiction of a good-natured kid with loving parents, this delightful memoir will easily win your heart.