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.
Meandering merrily along in the footsteps of the great classical essayists Montaigne and William Hazlitt, acclaimed cultural critic Lopate traipses breezily through family life and literary, cultural, social, and political matters in this collection of mostly previously published essays. With his typical elegance and peripatetic curiosity, Lopate ranges over topics from the adventures of parenting, his enduring love of baseball, and changing one's mind about a movie to a thoughtful mediation on the conflict between city planner Robert Moses and city champion Jane Jacobs along with meditations on James Agee, Thomas Bernhard, and Allen Ginsberg, among others. In a hilarious and tender essay, he describes taking his young daughter to tea at the Plaza Hotel, simply because he and his wife wanted to provide their daughter with a quintessential Manhattan event: "We were bound and determined to give her all the social graces and sophisticated experiences that befit her, if not our, station in life." Lopate describes the terror and despair of their daughter's unexplainable illness and their relentless stays in the hospital, and he affirms the beleaguered sense of gratitude that shines through the fear: "If because of her I was obliged to enter the Kingdom of Anxiety, such is the lot of all parents, and a small price to pay for the plenitude of her being." Lopate praises the design of the High Line park in New York "as good as things get these days," and he expresses his happiness with "any new public space that worked, in this era of relentless privatization." Throughout these essays, Lopate admits jauntily and gracefully that he writes to exist and that taking "the most provocative positions that clash with conventional morality is child's play next to the difficulty of getting through daily domestic life."