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Lasting City: The Anatomy of Nostalgia Hardcover – October 21, 2013
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In this virtuosic meta-memoir, author McCourt (Mawrdew Czgowchwz, Queer Street) careens along the course of his life while exposing the voluble convolutions of his troubled Irish-Catholic family and documenting several long-lost New Yorks. Raised in Queens in a religious family—albeit one with liberal leanings—McCourt didn&'t so much wrestle with his identity as he did embrace the subterranean antics needed to be a sexually active gay adolescent in the 1950s. His explorations took him to the cruising spots of his time—from the Ramble in Central Park to the West Side piers—while he also indulged his interests in musical theater and high culture. The book opens with the death of McCourt&'s mother, but the structure is anything but linear. Rather, it develops, or drifts, through a series of motifs that include reconstructed key events, fantasy sequences, and imagined interlocutors such as an Indian cabbie and a fellow named Moriarity. McCourt spends as much time reminiscing about family dynamics as he does about his sexual adventuring, in an age when such adventures could leave you beaten, imprisoned, or dead; but the allure of this book is McCourt&'s dynamic prose and high-brow erudition that has gone the way of the dodo. McCourt has preserved on paper the intellectual climate that helped to make New York City the edgy capital of the 20th Century. (Oct.)
In this lucid, lyrical memoir, McCourt blends the cosmopolitan facticity of Queer Street (2003) with the campy, theatrical swagger of his Mawrdew Czgowchwz novels. Here, McCourt recounts his youth, marked by fabulous Irish Catholics and haunted by the legacy of atomic apocalypse. In challenging, disjointed passages of fiercely inspiriting prose, McCourt laments the death of his mother, recalls hilarious family dynamics, and supplements his recollections with a fictional, Jiminy Cricket–like guide, Moriarty. McCourt writes with Technicolor verve, channeling demure Hollywood starlets and over-the-top burlesque in the same breath. The most memorable exchanges take place in gossipy dialogue packed with deadpan puns and sharp repartee. For all his light humor and stylistic innovation, McCourt does not skirt the hard facts of growing up gay in 1950s New York. The result is less autobiography than a powerful work of creative nonfiction, indebted as much to the New York of McCourt’s youth as to his honed artistic talent, reminiscent of both Woody Allen and Richard McCann’s Mother of Sorrows (2005). Intensely personal, unabashedly playful, and brilliantly inventive in its own gorgeous spotlight. --Diego Báez
Top customer reviews
Now, I am a slow and pensive reader -- always have been -- yet the tremendous energy of McCourt's prose was not at all jarring or incompatible with my reading habits. Rather, I found I was buoyed along through the story faster than I would be otherwise due to the narration's strong pacing. I should also note that the rhythmic (this seems a particularly apt description as I write it), forcefully paced narration did not undermine the poignancy or any other substantive effect of the story during my reading. I found a number of McCourt's reflections uniquely moving in fact.
In addition to its unique & exciting narrative technique and the moving moments in stories and reflections that are shared in this memoir, the sheer wit of the author is a significant draw for this book. I recommend it highly to any reader who finds herself attracted to the work based on what she has read of the memoir's particular storyline.
Because of the blurb on the back cover from John Waters that referenced old school gay culture, I though there would be more of a history of McCourt's life as a gay man, and the different meanings that has had as culture changed around him. However, while there is some brief discussions of this sprinkled throughout the book, a surprising majority of it focuses on his early childhood and adolescence, including his terrifying, formative childhood experience hearing about the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
I am a true lover of New York City and so any book that offers a new way to look at the city, which this book does, will hold my interest. However, the author's dreamy style does take some patience.
This book reads a lot like if the Marx Brothers wrote down their dialogue in a beat poetry format and all of the self-talk and footnotes were typed up into the body of the book willynilly. It makes for what I see as being a very glittering story, much like how it might be to Scubadive in an oversized fishbowl and have a seabed of multicolored gravel and glass beads dazzling back up at you. So, if you gird yourself for random two-person dialogue and description of movies, opera, French phrases, Broadway theater, and antiquated pop culture, you should do just fine.
An engaging juxtaposing of familiar references that influenced both our lives; an amusing free flow of thoughts triggering surprising associations. As the author and I are close in age with similar backgrounds, there are many experiences that resonate with special meaning. It is an intense read, richly embued with a provocative use of language for which McCourt has long been admired for.