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1185 Park Avenue: A Memoir Paperback – May 2, 2000


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 257 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; 1st Touchstone Ed edition (May 2, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684857324
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684857329
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,178,220 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"He married her because she was rich" is the author's bleak assessment of her handsome, unfaithful father's relationship with her unhappy, insecure mother. Anne Roiphe describes with equally brutal candor a childhood largely spent with the governess until she was old enough to mix her mother's drinks, light cigarettes, and listen to complaints about her father. In this grim environment, Roiphe and her sickly younger brother did not band together so much as coexist in mutual misery. She seems to find redemption in the trio of deaths that close the book. Her parents died from cancer; her father disinherited his children in favor of his second wife. Her brother, a doctor infected with AIDS from cutting himself in his lab, ordered a funeral without any words: "The God who would do this to him deserved only silence." So why read this angst fest? Because Roiphe is just as honest about her own efforts to escape her gilded cage on New York's Upper East Side, and because she captures the social and historical particulars of wealthy Jewish American life from the 1930s on in the same richly textured detail she brought to feminist classics like Up the Sandbox. "I am a writer, and burning bridges behind me is part of the cost of the work," she comments. She burns them with sorrowful panache in this chilling, engrossing memoir. --Wendy Smith --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

A noted author of fiction (her 1970 Up the Sandbox was a landmark portrayal of women's motherhood and career conflicts) as well as nonfiction (Fruitful was a 1996 National Book Award finalist), Roiphe recalls growing up in a loveless household marked by petty bitterness and fueled by murderous rage. Outwardly, it was a world of privilege, endowed by the fortune of Israel Phillips, her maternal grandfather, the founder of the Phillips Van Heusen shirt company. The family's wealth attracted a tall, handsome husband for Israel's daughter Blanche, but the union was miserable. Anne's mother was prey to neurotic insecurities that were resistant to lifelong psychiatric counseling, and she became a chain-smoking semi-invalid. Like her philandering husband, Blanche displayed little interest in the children, who were consigned to the care of a stern German governess. In this surprising and gripping memoir, Roiphe unflinchingly describes her savage jealousy at the birth of her brother and the anger that always underlay their relationship. Her extended family circle included Roy Cohn, whose attempt to fix Anne up for a blind date with his colleague David Schine's younger brother provides one of the book's lighter moments. She describes with telling detail her passage to adulthood, but the story of her inner journeyAhow she managed to escape the destructive atmosphere of her home and become a celebrated novelist and criticA remains a puzzle. Nevertheless Roiphe's devastating memoir fully engages the reader in her painful story of hatred and betrayal.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 19, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This is Anne Roiphe`s memoir of growing up in the 40's and 50's in a wealthy, squalid family.Roiphe has mined this territory in earlier books. Again she offers personal and political gossip (social history, if you will) against a background of local and world history. But here there is more: a cry from the heart. Father is savage and physically absent. Mother is self centered and incompetent. Treachery and betrayal abound. Attended by an army of maids, governesses, nurses, doctors, and psychoanalysts, she, her younger Brother and the others survive for a while but at a price. In the end, only she remains. This is a ruthless, forgiving, brilliant book.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By One Fancy Angel on July 23, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When I began the first few pages of this book, on a sleepless night, I prepared to be bored by what, at first glance, seemed to be flowery language with no sweat shed.
How wrong I was. Roiphe has written the best memoir I have ever encountered. Each character is so well described that I swear I could pick any one of them out in a crowd, regardless of whether they are now dead or alive. I normally have some distaste for changes in tense, but Roiphe achieves this so artfully, I rarely noticed.
Roiphe, though her descriptions are vivid and not in any sense concise, does not waste a word. I sometimes found myself unexpectedly laughing, and at one point, incredibly, weeping. Her analogies, her descriptions, her words....all are just remarkably brilliant. I will never be able to forget her family anymore than Roiphe herself will. Her talent is nearly incredible.
Even when Roiphe is at her most descriptive, the reader is so present in this memoir, as if we are standing slightly to the side of Roiphe,, at her elbow, throughout the entire book. We understand everything.
I couldn't recommend a memoir more highly than I do this one, and at that, I couldn't recommend any book more highly than I do this one. I've found a new favorite.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By JEG on July 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
This memoir got under my skin. I finished it a few days ago and I'm still thinking about it. Anne Roiphe's family seem monstrous and she doesn't always spare herself. I felt tremendous pity for her and her brother -- what could have become of such an intelligent, sensitive man if he hadn't been treated so badly as a child? I recently read Mary Karr's memoir of growing up in East Texas with poor and dysfunctional, but loving parents. It makes an interesting counterpoint to Anne Roiphe's rich, but cold family.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The name Anne Roiphe certainly evokes thoughts of feminism and this book gives a good indication of why the daughter, sister, and wife became the woman she has become. An interesting behind the scenes look at a dysfunctional & wealthy family in 1950's NYC...well-written and interesting not only for the historical perspective it gives us of 1950's wealthy Jewish NYC, but also for the heartbreaking story of a family that simply couldn't find one another.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 8, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I picked up "1185 Park Avenue" looking forward to insight on growing up Jewish on Park Avenue in the 1940's/1950's. Instead I found myself drawn into Anne Roiphe's remarkably dysfunctional family, where no individual escapes unscathed from this hellish home. I found the memoir to have no redeeming message or purpose, except to let Ms. Roiphe express her rancour at her unfortunate circumstances. What bothers me most is that in becoming so engaged in the sadness and anger of her family story, these negative vibes served to make me upset too. Another triumph of evil over redemption.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By HeyJudy VINE VOICE on July 19, 2001
Format: Paperback
As with all of Anne Roiphe's books, 1185 PARK AVENUE is powerfully written. The title refers to the address of the apartment building in which she was raised.
Still, as beautiful as her prose is to read, this is a difficult book. Her family was not a happy one, to say the least. And her personal history will not be of universal interest, appealing mostly to people of similar Jewish ancestry.
Yet there is no question but, that on a broader basis, 1185 PARK AVENUE offers a singular examination of a particular population. Inescapably, Roiphe had a sad childhood.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Laurel-Rain Snow TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 10, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Author Anne Roiphe explores the bonds of family and the tension of dysfunction that ultimately define the lives of those living at 1185 Park Avenue: A Memoir.

Her mother's money sets them up, while their father, dependent on it and upon the life it buys, displays his resentments in various ways. Anger, outbursts, disappearances--all could be described as symptoms of the symbiosis that ties them together.

Against this backdrop, the author and her brother, with whom she shares a difficult bond, grow to their adulthood, both fighting the connections they share while coming together frequently, almost as if the elasticity of the bonds is the strongest connection in their lives. Love/hate, push/pull--dysfunction at its most poignant follows them until, finally, the permanence of death changes the ties to memory and loss.

Roiphe's work is most memorable when she shares tidbits and insights about these original connections in our lives. Near the end of this book, she describes the relationship with her brother, who criticizes her frequently. "I was his sister. Who else had been there from the beginning, who else understood without saying, who would laugh at any joke, who would read the day's obituaries with him looking for friends of our parents who had at last bit the dust? Who else knew that his fair shake at this world wasn't so fair...."

The two of them were "witnesses to the same battles, children of the same parents, raised in the shadow of the Second World War before the winds of social change blew down on the country....
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