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“A love song to a lost New York” (New York magazine) from novelist, essayist, and critic Frederic Tuten as he recalls his personal and artistic coming-of-age in 1950s New York City, a defining period that would set him on the course to becoming a writer.
Born in the Bronx to a Sicilian mother and Southern father, Frederic Tuten always dreamed of being an artist. Determined to trade his neighborhood streets for the romantic avenues of Paris, he learned to paint and draw, falling in love with the process of putting a brush to canvas and the feeling it gave him. At fifteen, he decided to leave high school and pursue the bohemian life he’d read about in books. But, before he could, he would receive an extraordinary education right in his own backyard.
“A stirring portrait…and a wonderfully raw story of city boy’s transformation into a writer” (Publishers Weekly), My Young Life reveals Tuten’s early formative years where he would discover the kind of life he wanted to lead. As he travels downtown for classes at the Art Students League, spends afternoons reading in Union Square, and discovers the vibrant scenes of downtown galleries and Lower East Side bars, Frederic finds himself a member of a new community of artists, gathering friends, influences—and many girlfriends—along the way.
Frederic Tuten has had a remarkable life, writing books, traveling around the world, acting in and creating films, and even conducting summer workshops with Paul Bowles in Tangiers. Spanning two decades and bringing us from his family’s kitchen table in the Bronx to the cafes of Greenwich Village and back again, My Young Life is an intimate and enchanting portrait of an artist’s coming-of-age, set against one of the most exciting creative periods of our time—“so thrilling…so precise in presenting a young man’s preoccupation and occupation” (Steve Martin).
Novelist Tuten (Tintin in the New World) delivers a stirring portrait of himself as a poor, young man growing up in the Bronx of the 1940s through the '60s, striving to become an artist. From age 10, he dreamed simply of eating apple pie, going to Yankee Stadium, and having a father who hadn't left the family. When those hopes of having an ordinary childhood didn't come to fruition, he turned to literature, girls, and art, and imagined living as a painter and a writer in Paris. Though smart and creative, he continually sidelined his academic and writing goals in favor of love affairs, dead-end jobs, and drinking binges. He became part of the Greenwich Village literary scene, meeting such writers as Ernest Hemingway and various beat poets, whose writing he tried to emulate. His description of the bars and cafes he frequented in order to "live intently" bring to life the city that shaped him, though at the time they mostly served as excuses to once again put off writing. He vividly recalls memories from his 20s, especially the crushes he developed, such as one on a fellow student named Sandra ("She lived in my morning coffee.... She lived deep in my guts, where no reason sounded"). Ultimately, he gave up trying to write like his idols and developed his own style, which at first is "a mess," but also, as he acknowledges, "my mess, imitative of no other." This is a wonderfully raw story of city boy's transformation into a writer.