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"
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 pastthe 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 lessare 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.