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Cutty, One Rock: Low Characters and Strange Places, Gently Explained Hardcover – October 14, 2004


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (October 14, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374133778
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374133771
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,194,807 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In these nine autobiographical essays, most of which first appeared in the London Review of Books, poet Kleinzahler (A Calendar of Airs, etc.) writes from the perspective that an "unfriendly room" is a "sanctuary." Kleinzahler was the youngest of three children growing up in a Mafia-ridden New Jersey neighborhood in the 1950s. His father had an "unpredictable disposition" and his mother "didn't like children, least of all her own"; thus young Augie was raised, "in lieu of parents," by the family dog. Such challenging beginnings have forged a complex voice, both bitter ("The entire nation sucking from the same teat, a teat with a Nike swoosh and dripping Diet Coke") and lyrically meditative ("the morning's first streetcar comes out of the tunnel before dawn... this is my rough carillon"). A few of the book's early essays wander, failing to strike a balance between topic and tone, but Kleinzahler saves his strongest essays for the end. In "Eros & Poetry," he uses stunning examples, from Chaucer to Dylan Thomas, to prove how love and passion "awaken us to the pulse of poetry and dance...." And the final, eponymous piece is a moving elegy to Kleinzahler's older brother, a gambling homosexual gangster, who, in the 1970s, shared his secret life with the author as if to gain witness to—and record—his brief but extraordinary life.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Kleinzahler's poetry, most recently collected in The Strange Hours Travelers Keep [BKL N 15 03], is kinetic, flinty, sly, and pierced by longing. But its edgy energy provides few clues to the stunning vehemence, caustic wit, and gruff pathos of his autobiographical essays. Here Kleinzahler strips bare his comfortless New Jersey childhood as the son of a mother who disliked children and one of few Jews among many Italians. Astute, audacious, and adept, Kleinzahler is devastating in his characterizations and lyrical in his evocation of place as he tells painfully frank and hilarious tales of family, Jersey machismo, and the Mob; reports on adventures in his adopted home, San Francisco; recounts various journeys; and dissects the concept of Eros. Each bravado essay is breathtakingly provocative, but the collection's soul resides in the title piece, a lancing portrait of his late "born wild" older brother, who by day was a financial analyst and at night was a high-stakes gambler and bar-cruising gay partyer. Kleinzahler's unsparing essays glow with the threat and promise of the neon signs of all-night dives. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Meyers on January 13, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Being a native from Fort Lee New Jersey I can only say that this fine writer has captured the essence of life here atop the rocky cliffs of the Palisades. Fort Lee and Jersey in general is not just a place but a place of mind and once in your blood it becomes a part of you no matter where you dwell or travel. Of course, this work is about a family and a life and covers much ground so there is more to it than just Fort Lee. This is a book that speaks to all of us no matter where we live since it, in the end, is about human nature and the sense of humor we need to survive. All I can add is that I hope Auggie comes home again to Fort Lee so we can buy him a Cutty, one rock at In Napoli's or JD's on Main Street, or maybe the Villa Amalfi since it was once Joe's Elbow Room.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Bohdan Kot on April 26, 2005
Format: Hardcover
"Cutty, One Rock" by poet August Kleinzahler is a memoir that begins with his childhood in Fort Lee, New Jersey. "It was the dog who raised me. Oh, the others came and went with their nurturing gestures and concerns, but it was the dog on whose ear I teethed and who watched me through countless hours with sagacity and bearing of a Ugandan tribal chief." Yes these recollections are often quirky, but also contain many laugh-out loud passages. Kleinzahler describes his Mafia-dominated suburb as, "a theme park for Tourette's syndrome." And with deadpan humor he complains about one Mafia neighbor, "It wasn't very considerate of him to kill our plumber, Mr. Ferri. Reliable plumbers are hard to come by."

However, the essay about the myth of Eros seems out of place among this collection. The scholarly take is often pedantic; the author cites classic love poems and knowledge as if to fulfill a page requirement for a class paper. The reader is handed a bouquet of flowery facts that look nice, but add no real depth to understand the notion of Eros.

Kleinzahler's title piece, "Cutty, One Rock," is easily his best work. The author recalls the double life of his older brother, a banker by day and gay hustler by night. "He was born wild, born troubled." Humor and sadness commingle in a stellar, brutally honest essay.

Overall, the memoir, "Cutty, One Rock," will move the coldest of hearts as unconventional lives are examined with dignity.

Bohdan Kot
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By John Daley on April 27, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I met August Kleinzahler many years ago at a party in San Francisco. He seemed unassuming, straightforward and curiously shy, the exchange was polite and seemingly ephemeral. Over the years since, his poems appear occasionally in print and one is always left with the sense that he is unassuming, straightforward, shy and interested. Cutty, One Rock, the title piece, is a short memoir of the author's older brother, who died fairly young but who lived very intensely, the sentiments have pain, humor and truth to them. His prose portraits of other poets are sensible, often funny and he doesn't pull any punches.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Robert Gorchov on July 20, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've read articles and poetry by August Kleinzahler in the London Review of Books, and so I was interested in reading this collection of essays which also includes memoir pieces. His writing is descriptive, at times poignant, and often very funny.
A lot of what he writes about is aptly described in the collection's title: low characters and strange places that are explained and described in a gentle manner that nonetheless has an edge to it. I recommend this book.
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By T-Rex in Htown on July 7, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great service. Product was just as advertised.
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