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The Body of Brooklyn

David Lazar

Publication Year: 2005

In The Body of Brooklyn David Lazar, an acclaimed essayist and prose stylist, offers a vividly detailed, hilarious, and touching recollection of his Brooklyn upbringing in the 1960s and 70s. His immigrant Jewish heritage and his bodily history—from the travails of childhood obesity to the sexual triumphs of post-adolescent leanness—form the core of this series of essays, all of which will win the interest and admiration of readers. Moreover, this film-flavored confection is so infused with Lazar's fascinating turn of mind and memory, forever digressing and reflecting upon his digressions, without ever losing the thread of his story, that his essays will give the reader the distinctive pleasure of witnessing an extraordinary mental performance.

Published by: University of Iowa Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. iii-iv


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pp. vii

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pp. ix

I wish to thank and acknowledge the following publications, in which some of these essays first appeared: Southwest Review, “Movies Are a Mother to Me,” “Further Father: Remembering John Waterman” (reprinted in...

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pp. xi-xii

I experienced the autobiographical imperative early. When I was in sixth grade, I began an autobiography that I recall getting thirty pages of written (writ large, of course, with crayon). It was called “Who, Me?” and its thematic center was the proposition that...

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White Car

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pp. 1-8

If I could stop that car, see what was inside it. When I was young, I used to indulge in a fantasy borrowed from The Twilight Zone (or was it The Outer Limits?). I still go into it involuntarily sometimes, but shake it off guiltily. I am in a room full of people, a party, an auditorium, on the street. I can stop time, and...

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Melon Man

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pp. 9-15

I remember the melon man in terms so impossibly caricatured that his image is indelible. In childhood, not yet jaundiced by experience, our visual taste buds not yet dulled, we see with a clarity that seems exaggerated to the older, larger, more worldly....

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Grottoes: Memories of Christaphobia

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pp. 16-20

I think I know where, if not precisely when, I first discovered landscape: two grottoes in Brooklyn, by (with? in?) Our Lady of Grace and St. Joseph’s Catholic churches. I walked by each frequently. They were always so quiet, well tended, with pine trees and distant statuary on the lawn, forbidden...

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The Body of Brooklyn

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pp. 21-61

This is what I thought the lyrics were when I was a boy, when I was an adolescent. This is what I heard. The words made sense, a mysterious kind of sense, no doubt, but I understood why the body should be so far...

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Distant Voice

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pp. 62-65

I remember waking with a start, noticing the time on my digital clock—7:14—and standing up on my platform bed. I stepped lively over my sleeping lover and bounded to the table where the ringing phone lay. I expected to be told that my mother was dead; she had been degenerating for....

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Further Father: Remembering John Waterman

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pp. 66-85

A paradox: when I try to think of the most generic name imaginable, I think past John Smith (a tiny graduate student I served with somewhere in the disarmed forces of academia), Tom Brown (whose...

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Movies Are a Mother to Me

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pp. 86-97

It’s a hot summer afternoon in Brooklyn, circa 1965, and my mother and I have just been to the hardware store, Doody’s, which never failed to charm me both with its variety of products— everything from lumber and...

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On Three Fraternal Aphorisms

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pp. 98-112

Writing aphorisms is a dangerous game: you’d better be interesting and pithy, or you lose credibility, badly. So, I may be throwing down three gauntlets (which I’ve always thought sounded...

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Last Exit to Brooklyn

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pp. 113-119

Last exit to Brooklyn, / Last chance to turn around”: the refrain of Gene Pitney’s “Last Exit to Brooklyn,” one of my favorite New York songs; and the title of Hubert Selby’s novel, a most horrifying urban...

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Season of Love

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pp. 120-122

In my excursions into memory, those times when I will myself into the past, frequently I find myself at the door of the incipient. Those just-about-to-happen memories, whether they happened or not, pull me to an excruciating point of truth, demand that I try to arrange and rearrange details...

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Rear Window

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pp. 123-126

I imagined Raymond Burr stalking my stairway, a quick cut to the doorknob turning. Lights out; I reach for my flash camera in a clever but only temporary gambit to save my life. Grace Kelly pulls Raymond Burr off me, and...

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My Little Heroes

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pp. 127-133

One of my first memories of the movies is somewhat incestuous. I remember walking into my parents’ bedroom in our row house in Brooklyn, the black-and-white TV screen throwing light from a corner. My parents were supine, each on his and her sides of...

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Family Snaps [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 134-146

I first began thinking of family photographs as a genre when I noticed how intolerant I had become of their literary use. More specifically, it seems that twenty-five years ago, more or less, American poets started writing family...

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Some Images: Towards a Photographic Mishnah [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 147-164

We confuse the habitation of two or more people in a photographic frame with the idea that a moment, having become iconicized, is also communally experienced. Photographic coupling, however, is nothing more than divergent contiguities bedfellowed by a movement of the finger, ending with a click. “Do you remember...

Sightline Books

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pp. 165

E-ISBN-13: 9781587294358

Page Count: 179
Publication Year: 2005