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 new collection of personal essays, distinguished author Phillip Lopate weaves together the colorful threads of a life well lived and brings us on an invigorating and thoughtful journey through memory, culture, parenthood, the trials of marriage both young and old, and an extraordinary look at New York’s storied past and present.
Opening with his family life, Lopate invites us first into his rough-and-tumble childhood on the streets of Brooklyn, learning the all-important art of cowardice. From there, he takes us to the ball game to discuss the trouble with ex–baseball fans; to high tea at the Plaza; to the theater to dissect Virginia Woolf ’s opinion that film should keep its hands off literature; and to visit his brother, radio personality Leonard Lopate, offering a rare glimpse into the unique sibling rivalry between two men at the top of their fields.
Throughout this rich, ambitious, deliciously readable collection, Lopate’s easy, conversational style pushes his piercing insights to new depths, celebrating the life of the mind—its triumphs and limitations—and illuminating memories and feelings both distant and immediate. The result is a charming and spirited new book from the undisputed master of the form.
|Publisher:||Simon & Schuster|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Phillip Lopate is the author of more than a dozen books, including three personal essay collections, Bachelorhood, Against Joie de Vivre, Portrait of My Body, and Waterfront. He directs the graduate nonfiction program at Columbia University and lives in Brooklyn with his wife and daughter.
Table of Contents
Introduction: In Defense of the Miscellaneous Essay Collection 1
I The Family Romance 7
Tea at the Plaza 9
The Camera Shop 15
The Countess's Tutor 19
My Brother the Radio Host 47
Wife or Sister? 53
The Limits of Empathy 71
The Lake of Suffering 75
II The Consolations of Daily Life 93
Memoirs of a Wishy-Washy Left-Liberal 95
Why I Remain a Baseball Fan 101
Novels and Films 108
On Changing One s Mind About a Movie 124
Laws of Attraction 133
Duration, or, Going Long 139
Warren Sonbert 144
III City Spaces
Brooklyn the Unknowable 165
Robert Moses Rethought 178
City Hal and Its Park 183
Walking the High Line 189
Getting the South Wrong 202
IV Literary Matters 211
"Howl" and Me 213
The Poetry Years 221
The Stubborn Art of Charles Reznikoff 238
The Improbable Moralist 246
James Agee 253
On Not Reading Thomas Bernhard 262
Worldliness and Regret 270
Coda: The Life of the Mind 283
What People are Saying About This
“Phillip Lopate is one of the greatest essayists of our time, and Portrait Inside My Head proves it again. His writing is provocative, intimate, intellectually curious, clear-eyed, and funny as hell. He’s a fearless, exquisitely aware chronicler of thought and feeling. Being Phillip Lopate, he’d probably also be skeptical about so much praise, but in this case he’d be totally (tenderly, tragically) wrong.”
“The personal essay is one of the most intellectually satisfying and most entertaining literary forms that we have in our day and age and Phillip Lopate is its undisputed master.”
“Few living writers have done as much to shape the contemporary essay as Phillip Lopate, but he’s clearly not done. Portrait Inside My Head is a welcome reminder of how good he is as an essayist and how vital he makes the form, in all its miscellany, reverie, sparkle, and spectacle. Memoir is for suckers. The essay is—and these essays definitely are—where the jam’s at.”
“It’s impossible to overestimate how completely Phillip Lopate’s anthology The Art of the Personal Essay reframed and revivified the personal essay for contemporary American writers and readers. In his new collection of essays, Portrait Inside My Head, Lopate demonstrates his own immense virtues as an essayisthis ceaseless ability to “think against” himself.
“There’s something tremendously absorbent about Phillip Lopate’s essays. . . . The reading experience he assembles for us always commands my attention like the wise and mysterious shrug of someone smart.”
“Phillip Lopate's new collection of essays is refreshingly, delightfully, and justifiably acerbic, a miscellany that consistently delivers thoughtful and touching insights that sway from sadness to hilarity, to tenderness, grumpiness, exasperation, etcetera. The result is not only a portrait of what's going on inside Lopate's head, but of the mechanisms of essaying that have made this genre vibrant for millennia. "Essay" doesn't look as cool as some other words do on coffee mugs or tote bags, but its legacy is one that doesn't need a lot of bling. Pardon my potty mouth, but it takes balls to insist on eschewing the momentary fads that grab attention, and to vigorously align oneself instead with an art form that has fallen out of fashion. It's a risk that he's taken on behalf of the essay for more than thirty years. God bless Phillip Lopate's balls.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
“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.”