The Death of Fred Astaire: And Other Essays from a Life outside the Lines

The Death of Fred Astaire: And Other Essays from a Life outside the Lines

by Leslie Lawrence


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The Death of Fred Astaire: And Other Essays from a Life outside the Lines by Leslie Lawrence

When, in the late eighties, the author chooses to raise a child with her lesbian partner, she embraces a life outside the lines—one full of curious adventures as well as the usual catastrophes and everyday pleasures.

As a child of the sixties, Leslie Lawrence knew she didn’t want to duplicate her parents’ lives, yet she never imagined she’d stray so far outside the lines of their—and her own—expectations.The Death of Fred Astaire opens with the story, both wrenching and funny, of how Lawrence says her goodbyes to the iconic images she’s held since her youth; she then proceeds to bear a child and raise him with her lesbian partner. Some essays in this debut collection reflect on legacies Lawrence inherited from her Jewish family and culture. In others, she searches gamely for a rich, authentic life—a voice, a vocation, a community, even a “god” she can call her own.

Always a seeker, an adventurer resisting fear, Lawrence, a city girl, creates a summer home in the back woods of the “Live Free or Die” state. She attempts the flying trapeze and takes part in a cross-dressing workshop. Traveling alone to Morocco, she assists a veterinarian tending to an ailing donkey. Teaching in a vocational high school in Boston, she questions her methods and assumptions about race and class. With rare honesty, she confronts the complexities of motherhood, of caring for her ill partner, and of widowhood. In “Wonderlust,” the collection’s most ambitious piece, she explores the role of beauty and creativity in our spiritual lives, revealing how lifelong learning in dance, music, and the visual arts can make us all more alive even as we age.

Ranging widely in length, subject, and style, these personal essays place Lawrence among today’s most vital writers of creative nonfiction. Her warmth and wisdom, her distinctive blend of humor and pathos, her reverence for what sustains us—food and family, community and beauty—all make this a book you’ll want to share with those you love.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781438461045
Publisher: State University of New York Press
Publication date: 05/01/2016
Pages: 292
Sales rank: 860,552
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Leslie Lawrence is a recipient of fellowships from the Massachusetts Artists Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, and has published in a variety of venues, including Prairie Schooner, Fourth Genre, Witness, The Forward, and The Boston Globe Magazine. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix


The Death of Fred Astaire 3

Becoming Jennie 23

King for a Day 31

Fits and Starts: Notes on (Yet) Another Writer's Beginnings 39

Karl Will Bring a Picnic 55

Dogs and Children 69


Andee's Fiftieth and the Way We Live Now 87

Yard Sale 95

Always Someone! 101

Swinging 107

The Third Hottest Pepper in Honduras 113


On the Mowing 137

Enough Tupperware 157

Provincetown Breakfast 163

My June Wedding 167


What Can You Do? 175

Wonderlust: Excursions through an Aesthetic Education 187

1 Dancing Outside the Lines 188

2 Braking for Beauty 191

3 On Course(s) 193

4 A Want 194

5 Plank 199

6 Beauty, the Treacherous 204

7 Wired for Beauty? 205

8 A More Modest View of the Power of Teachers 208

9 Me and Georgia O'Keeffe 208

10 On Beauty and Justice and Becoming a Horse 212

11 The Good, the Bad, and the Pretty/Beautiful/Wild/Disgusting 216

12 Rediscovering the Goldbergs 221

13 Crisscrossing 224

14 How I Became an English Major 226

15 Consider the Float, the Glide, the Slash, Dab, Wring 227

16 Traveling in the Dark 230

17 Rooms to Dwell In 234

18 My Digital Age 238

19 Changing Course Course 239

20 My Story/Your Story 242

21 On Beauty and Dying 245

22 With Sam in Wonderland 247

23 Like Art, Like Life 250

At the Donkey Hotel 255

Selected Bibliography 269

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The Death of Fred Astaire: And Other Essays from a Life outside the Lines 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Khyber More than 1 year ago
True to her title, Leslie Lawrence has indeed lived a life outside the lines—and her memoir masterfully tells all. Heartwarming and heartbreaking, cerebral and accessible, serious and humorous, hers is a book that carried me away from the first essay to the last. I inhabited Lawrence's highs and lows and in-betweens and lived vicariously through them. These stories are rich with adventure, curiosity, insight and humanity. Their intimacy allowed me to easily tap in and feel like I was right there as a passenger on her journey. I also thought Lawrence's background as a poet and novelist really shined through in the beautiful language and compelling narrative arcs. Among my favorite essays here are "The Third Hottest Pepper in Honduras," "What Can You Do?" and "At the Donkey Hotel," all of which combined Lawrence's knack for wise commentary, emotional potency, sharp dialogue and pitch-perfect endings.