Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Myfanwy on Famous Builder
I don't know when it started exactly, but I've developed, over time, a resistance to looking at the Amazon sites for my books. Part of it's about the irrational fear of coming across the one thing that's going to hurt my feelings--though I can only think of one or two instances when that's been the case. Part of it's about being fixed on sales rankings, which inevitably dip to the lower rungs of the ladder after a literary book's been out in the world for some years. Maybe it's also because I'm not the greatest lover of Amazon, but that's a story for another time. Lately I've been ordering books from bn.com, or better yet, directly from the publisher.
But who knew what I'd missed? My brother Bobby (who's known to practically everyone else in the world as either Rob or Robert) sent me the loveliest customer review of Famous Builder by Myfanwy Collins, whose own work I've come to admire and seek out in literary magazines. I'm reprinting it below. How rare it is when someone gets what you do, and says it so succinctly and convincingly, in generous voice. I especially love what she has to say about home pulling out of your reach just as you know it's there. Thank you, Myfanwy!
I should note that Bobby, while quite the fan of the book, was especially impressed that Myfanwy referenced Mrs. Fox, our childhood next door neighbor. The late Mrs. Fox's sense of style continues to influence Bobby, who works as both an interior designer and architect. Above are a few pictures of Bobby's apartment on Belle Isle, in Miami Beach, featuring Mrs. Fox's rescued swag light over the dining room table.
I guess in more ways than one Famous Builder wants to be my version of Bobby's apartment.
Here's Myfanwy's review. You can check out her blog at read by myfanwy.
If I press a book into your hand and beg you to read it, you will know that I am doing so because I love the book and I want to share that love with you. When you examine the beloved book, you will note how many pages I've dog eared. The more dog ears, the deeper my love.
Paul Lisicky's gorgeous, tender book of essays, Famous Builder, has a dog ear about every other page. I loved it that much.
If you start off your book, very first thing, having to spell your name in a classroom--you've got me. Right there. Welcome to every first day of my life.
But then if you carry on with wonderful, evocative, empathetic renderings of your family and childhood neighbors and relatives (Mrs. Fox! I picture her as Anne Bancroft playing Mrs. Robinson) and your own place within this world and your own childhood longings (to become a famous builder of all the wondrous and geeky things), you've got me even further.
Lisicky pages through his life and opens old wounds and examines them, but never once paints himself or his family the victim. His parents are human beings and he is a son who tries hard and sometimes fails and sometimes lets go. He is a son who yearns, just as they want him to yearn.
While this is partly a book of coming of age, mostly this is a book of home, and what Lisicky (and his brothers) knows is that home is moving away from you just as you know it is there--home could be a department store on its way out or waterfront homes built on dredge and fill or a hotel room.
Home is in the moment:
"I turn back toward the room. If it were mine to do such a thing, I'd secure this moment with the heaviest anchor: Arden taking up all the space he needs; Beau resting a thick paw on Mark's forearm; Mark touching my leg as I walk by, just to let me know he's thinking of me."
A beautiful, touching book. Read it.