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The Boy Detective: A New York Childhood Hardcover – November 5, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Teaching a class on memoir writing, Rosenblatt is struck by his own powerful memories of a childhood in Manhattan with fantasies of being a boy detective, focused then on clues, now on significant moments. Snatches of conversations with students are interspersed with remembrances of growing up as Rosenblatt recalls longing for but knowing he lacked what he admired in great literary detectives, “Holmes’s powers of observation, Hercule Poirot’s powers of deduction, Sam Spade’s straight talk, Miss Marple’s stick-to-itiveness, and Philip Marlowe’s courage and sense of honor.” The amateur sleuth searched for intriguing clues to a hardware store break-in but had no interest in solving the mystery of a teacher’s suicide at a local school. Rosenblatt shares poignant memories of the landscape of his childhood: the New York Public Library, Gramercy Park, Union Square, Madison Square Garden, and long-gone tenements and movie theaters. With the beautiful, lyrical writing and thoughtful reflection for which he is known, Rosenblatt offers beautifully rendered memories of childhood and ongoing curiosity about the city he so obviously loves. --Vanessa Bush

Review

“With the beautiful, lyrical writing and thoughtful reflection for which he is known, Rosenblatt offers beautifully rendered memories of childhood and ongoing curiosity about the city he so obviously loves.” (Booklist)

“Memoir, urban travelogue or summing up of a career grounded in the written word, Roger Rosenblatt’s The Boy Detective is an elegant and wise journey through an incomparable city and a meaning-filled life.” (Shelf Awareness)

“… the memoir is, at its heart, a valentine to the New York City of the ‘50s and today, and to the author’s favorite detective stories and films. . . No matter where you’re from, his story resonates.” (People (4 stars))

“A hallmark of memoir is the self now reflecting on the self then. This book pulls off the high wire feat of illuminating that double identity and giving readers the mental atmospheres of both narrators, the rascal back then and the reflective adult today…deliciously satisfying. (New York Journal of Books)

“Funny, intelligent, page-turning, this memoir doesn’t just describe a 1940s childhood in New York City; rather, it ruminates on the life of an artist born in and shaped by its streets.” (Daily Beast)

“Rosenblatt’s writing is honest, yet it produces a magical world unto itself…” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

“THE BOY DETECTIVE is filled with curves and knuckleballs and the occasional spitter. Hey, pal, have fun catching.” (USA Today)

“That Roger Rosenblatt’s THE BOY DETECTIVE has no table of contents will make perfect sense to readers who follow the meandering path that constitutes his charming memoir of growing up around Gramercy Park. Categorizing his musings would be too confining.” (New York Times)

“The book is rich with recollections and with the lush wanderings of memory and imagination. In combination they draw the reader into one of the most entertaining, thoughtful and deeply moving minds among nonfiction writers today… [a] quiet, triumphant ambulation, a characteristically eloquent and multiply rewarding book.” (Washington Post)

The Boy Detective: A New York Childhood is different, impressionistic, whimsical, and deliciously stuffed with description, commentary, asides about books, religion, movies, friendship.” (East Hampton Star)

“Roger Rosenblatt’s evocative memoir, The Boy Detective, also challenges easy categorization. His book combines a walking tour around vanished Manhattan with a meditation, not only on the classic mystery fiction he loves, but also on those larger metaphysical mysteries that defy even the shrewdest detective’s reasoning.” (NPR's Fresh Air)

“Readers who believe a journey is worth more than the destination will find a kindred spirit in Rosenblatt, who is generous company during his wanderings.” (Christian Science Monitor)

“…beautifully evocative essay - at once a memoir and a meditation on the form itself.” (New York Times Book Review, Paperback Row)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco (November 5, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062241338
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062241337
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.9 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #484,194 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

ROGER ROSENBLATT is the winner of a Robert F. Kennedy Book Prize, a Peabody Award, an Emmy, and two George Polk awards. He writes essays for Time magazine and for The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. He lives in Manhattan and Quogue, Long Island.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Anjelica Whitehorne on November 30, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Boy Detective is a unique read: part detective story, part memoir, part walk, the book, called a memoir for lack of a better term, is not only a walk through Rosenblatt's personal history but also through the history of literature and the history of Manhattan. Rosenblatt walks with his past through Manhattan, seeing himself as a boy detective, and as an adult writer who writes to order the world around him, and this book is as much a walk through the mind as it is a walk through Manhattan, and through time.
Like his previous books, Making Toast and Kayak Morning, The Boy Detective is not ordered by linear time, which I find makes it easier to read. Especially when dealing with memory, time is not linear; the mind links memories together based on a connection between two or more memories, not by their sequential order.
This is a wonderful read, and it will make you think about how you see yourself in the world around you, which is an immensely valuable gift.
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Format: Hardcover
In his memoir of his childhood in the Gramercy Park neighborhood of New York City (18th – 22nd Streets between Park Ave. South and 3rd Ave.), award-winning journalist/essayist Roger Rosenblatt uses the conceit of man’s having separate souls – one for the senses and one for the intellect – as the basis of a memoir about growing up in New York City during the 1950s and afterward. Rosenblatt, now seventy-two, is teaching a course in memoir writing at Stony Brook’s Manhattan campus in February, 2011, when he begins his own memoir. Walking the streets he walked as a boy, he remembers what businesses used to occupy the premises of various buildings, the people who lived there, and the many writers and actors who also shared the same neighborhood at different times in history.

Delightful, filled with insights into how a “real” writer thinks as he lives his childhood, and thoughtful about how our early lives affect not only our (learned) ways of thinking but also our ways of acting, this memoir is a must for those who love writing, think they might want to become writers, or just want a wonderful, complete reading experience created by a writer who started as a devout reader. Giving structure and charm to this memoir, he introduces himself as a boy of eight who fancies himself a detective.

A detective, he explains from his adult/teacher/writer vantage point, “builds his case on hard facts, ballistics and prints, types of weapons, eyewitnesses…and things that are real and really said.” The writer, by contrast, works primarily with feeling, and “the one thing they both require – the writer and detective – is the desire to see what is not there, and to make it at once orderly and beautiful, as in a flower or the answer to a math problem.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Carlander on November 27, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This memoir from Roger Rosenblatt is a wonderful read, especially if you love stories about New York City; stories with a lot of literary allusions; mysteries; and just plain entertaining books. You don't have to be a huge fan of the detective genre--I'm not especially--but you'll probably want to pick up something by Hammet, Arthur Conan Doyle, Raymond Chandler or even Edgar Allan Poe, after reading Rosenblatt's homage to detectives. And yet that is only part of what this book is about; Rosenblatt is up to a lot more here. Solve the mystery--read the book!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By R. Lyn Rousian on December 9, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Never in all my years of reading books have I ever come across something with so much heart & intelligence as The Boy Detective-A New York Childhood by Roger Rosenblatt. My favorite books to read have always been biographies, so I wasn't surprised that this was a memoir about the author & that it would be good. What I was surprised about was how different & fresh it would be told,which not only fascinated & moved me, but it made me wish I was his Watson or sidekick to his tiny Sherlock Holmes & living in that time, so to speak! Instead of the regular 'when I was a child I... etc...' thing which isn't bad depending on how it's told, & the recent trend of starting with the most recent part of the person's life & then going back to their childhood in every other chapter, Mr. Rosenblatt decides to instead tell his story from a completely new perspective as if he were a detective trying to figure out how to solve his life. In doing so, you are left with not only the hope that he solves his 'case' or cases as there are throughout, but to speak of how New York once was & has changed is nothing short of brilliant. With Bloomberg's silly bikes & sugar rules sending NY down the strange waterhole of today, this book only makes you long for the days when films were made in the street and payphones were the only way to reach anyone. It's hard to believe that some of his old stomping grounds may not be there anymore, but you do rejoice in the beauty that is still left of old Manhattan, such as Madison Square Park, with the statue of William Seward which he depicts as 'neglected', yet the beauty of that statue stands to this day for all to see as well as the rest of the remaining monuments around there & Gramercy Park, where he grew up.Read more ›
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