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Greetings from Bury Park: A Memoir Paperback – April 8, 2008

3.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this uneven memoir, British TV and radio journalist Manzoor describes growing up in Britain in the '70s and '80s by way of his love affair with the music of Bruce Springsteen. Only two years old when he emigrated from Pakistan, Manzoor was torn between the demands of his traditional family and the seductions of mainstream culture. His discovery of Springsteen at age 16 gave Manzoor a personal muse who allowed him to bridge the gulf separating the two worlds. For Manzoor, Springsteen's lyrics about alienation, isolation and generational misunderstandings addressed perfectly his inchoate feelings of rebellion and guilt. In Springsteen Nation, Manzoor found a culture that transcended his own divided loyalties and accepted him as just another fan. It's an intriguing hook, but one Manzoor handles awkwardly. Springsteen barely appears in the first 90 pages or so, which cover the family leaving Pakistan, Manzoor's father's death and his siblings' marriages. The early material seems rushed and is standard immigrant memoir fare—tales of suffering in the old country and shame in the new; antipathy toward the stern, workaholic father and the too-late realization of all they had in common. Some of the later episodes such as Manzoor's first trip to America—where he sells encyclopedias door-to-door—show real energy, but they're a long time coming. The division of the book into semi-discrete essays also tends to rob the narrative of unity and impact, and the 9/11 coda feels tacked on. (Apr.)
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From Booklist

This outstanding piece of scholarship and clear writing will answer most questions and lay to rest most legends about the famous Confederate submarine, the first of its kind to sink an enemy warship. The man Hunley, it appears, was more entrepreneur than engineer, and all three of his submarines were intended to be privateers. The most sophisticated and his namesake was, however, taken over by the Confederate army at the behest of General Beauregard. It eventually drowned its inventor and finally disappeared off Charleston while sinking a Union blockader. Located in 1995 and salvaged in 2000, the Hunley is now undergoing an exhaustive examination by marine archeologists that suggests it was made with considerably more technical sophistication than had been believed. The research that went into this book was also exhaustive (it is also unbiased), but it doesn’t make the book exhausting. Altogether, “the secret hope of the Confederacy” is now a good deal less secret, and Civil War collections can fill many gaps with a single purchase. --Roland Green

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (April 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307388026
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307388025
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,272,838 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Bury Park is a neighborhood in Luton, a rough suburb of London that has been the home to many Pakistanis who immigranted to Britain. It was to this suburb that Sarfraz Manzoor's father brought his wife and family when he had saved enough money to have them come from their Pakistani village and join him in 1974. Sarfraz was only two years old, so his memories of life in Pakistan are not vivid, but he has written with great clarity about the issues surrounding a Pakistani son growing up in England.

Sarfraz Manzoor is now a journalist who can competently describe his feelings as a boy who didn't quite fit in either with his white schoolmates or his Pakistani family. Where he found his niche, however, was as a devoted fan of Bruce Springsteen and his music. He was introduced to Springsteen's songs by a Sikh friend from school, and almost immediately fell under the Boss's spell. Throughout the book he refers to ways that particular songs seem to capture his situation in life. He also made a concerted effort to attend Springsteen concerts whenever he could - including traveling to the U.S. for one shortly after the 9/11 attacks.

The other main focus of Manzoor's memoir is his father. As a first-generation immigrant, Manzoor's father worked very hard his entire life to try to make a better life than he would have had in Pakistan. Yet he was a traditional Pakistani in his views of all things British - seeing them as too liberal, thus there was near constant conflict with his children about Muslin values versus white attitudes and actions.

This memoir gives an excellent picture of the lives of Pakistanis in Britain as well as an interesting documentary on how one man's music can affect another's life.
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By FateJacketX on November 28, 2008
Format: Paperback
I was interested in picking up this book because I'm from Asbury Park and I like Springsteen's music. I didn't really expect much from the piece, so my expectations weren't very high. With that said, I was pretty satisfied by the last page.

It's about a young bloke from London who is torn between his strict Pakistani upbringing and his love for rock music, particularly anything by Bruce Springsteen. Gradually he musters the strength and gumption to tear away from his parents more and more, dressing rebeliously and eventually even flying to America on whims just to see Springsteen concerts. The young man is not only fixated but obsessed and Bruce is often likened to a messiah of sorts. The entire book is about seperating oneself from his/her culture for the sake of personal identity. Interesting...

However, what wasn't so interesting was the main character. He came off as a constant complainer, selfishly abandoning his important duties to his family just so that he could indulge in his gluttonous love for self-expression. Seldom did he ever sacrifice himself for those who took care of him, even after the tragic death of his father through circumstance I can well identify with. He was constantly whining about how bad he had it when all the while he was the only person in his family who got to have it his way. His father, God rest his soul, worked his tail off to make enough money in England for his family to migrate over and lead better lives. His sisters, being female, were already done in through cultural demands and thus were expected to shoot low in life's grand plan. His brother, strictly adhering to the beliefs of his upbringing, took on all of the responsibilities that the main character chose to forsake.
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Format: Paperback
Sarfraz Manzoors' autobiography Greetings from Bury Park" is a book that left me in two minds. On the one hand, it is the lovely told story of a young Pakistani, who finds meaning in his life through the music of Bruce Springsteen and learns to value the ties that bind him to his family and culture as an essential part of his life. On the other hand, the book itself is at some points really hard to read, since the author uses a not only repetitive, but in some parts of the book also boring way of telling this remarkable story.
The story of "Greetings from Bury Park" leads through the life of the author Sarfraz Manzoor, from his early childhood to the breakthrough as writer. On this way, Manzoor does not proceed strictly chronologically, but concentrates each chapter on a different topic that played a role in his life, like the relationship to his father or his unbelievable passion for "The Boss" Bruce Springsteen. Like it or not, it is without doubt this stylistic device that makes "Greetings from Bury Park" unique and sets it aside from other autobiographies of immigrants in the UK.
In my personal opinion, although making the book special, this device leads to a too high level of repetition throughout the story, since all the issues that the author encounters in his life are heavily linked. Discussing each of them for its own does certainly lower the readers' interest in the book when hearing the same aspect about the relationship between father and son the third time in an only slight variation.
But apart from this annoying detail, the book gives the reader a thorough and deep portrait of a generation that had to find its place between the cultural roots of their families and the liberal western lifestyle they encounter in their everyday life.
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