Peter Selgin was cursed/blessed with an unusual childhood. The son of Italian immigrants—his father an electronics inventor and a mother so good looking UPS drivers swerved off their routes to see her—Selgin spent his formative years scrambling among the hat factory ruins of a small Connecticut town, visiting doting—and dotty—relatives in the “old world,” watching mental giants clash at Mensa gatherings, enduring Pavlovian training sessions with a grandmother bent on “curing” his left-handedness, and competing savagely with his right-handed twin.
It’s no surprise, then, that Selgin went on from these peculiar beginnings to do . . . well, nearly everything. Confessions of a Left-Handed Man is a bold, unblushing journey down roads less traveled. Whether recounting his work driving a furniture delivery truck, his years as a caricaturist, his obsession with the Titanic that compelled him to complete seventy-five paintings of the ship(in sinking and nonsinking poses), or his daily life as a writer, from start to finish readers are treated to a vividly detailed, sometimes hilarious, often moving, but always memorable life.
In this modern-day picaresque, Selgin narrates an artist’s journey from unconventional roots through gritty experience to artistic achievement. With an elegant narrative voice that is, by turns, frank, witty, and acid-tongued, Selgin confronts his past while coming to terms with approaching middle age, reaching self-understanding tempered by reflection, regret, and a sharply self-deprecating sense of humor.
In the early 1970s, Frank Chin, the outspoken Chinese American author of such plays as The Chickencoop Chinaman and The Year of the Dragon, wrote a full-length novel that was never published and presumably lost. Nearly four decades later, Calvin McMillin, a literary scholar specializing in Asian American literature, would discover Chin’s original manuscripts and embark on an extensive restoration project. Meticulously reassembled from multiple extant drafts, Frank Chin’s “forgotten” novel is a sequel to The Chickencoop Chinaman and follows the further misadventures of Tam Lum, the original play’s witty protagonist.
Haunted by the bitter memories of a failed marriage and the untimely death of a beloved family member, Tam flees San Francisco’s Chinatown for a life of self-imposed exile on the Hawaiian island of Maui. After burning his sole copy of a manuscript he believed would someday be hailed as “The Great Chinese American Novel,” Tam stumbles into an unlikely romance with Lily, a former nun fresh out of the convent and looking for love. In the process, he also develops an unusual friendship with Lily’s father, a washed-up Hollywood actor once famous for portraying Charlie Chan on the big screen. Thanks in no small part to this bizarre father/daughter pair, not to mention an array of equally quirky locals, Tam soon discovers that his otherwise laidback island existence has been transformed into a farce of epic proportions.
Had it been published in the 1970s as originally intended, The Confessions of a Number One Son might have changed the face of Asian American literature as we know it. Written at the height of Frank Chin’s creative powers, this formerly “lost” novel ranks as the author’s funniest, most powerful, and most poignant work to date. Now, some forty years after its initial conception, The Confessions of a Number One Son is finally available to readers everywhere.
An avid high school debater and enthusiastic student body president, Craig Smith seemed destined for a life in public service from an early age. As a sought-after speechwriter, Smith had a front-row seat at some of the most important events of the twentieth century, meeting with Robert Kennedy and Richard Nixon, advising Governor Ronald Reagan, writing for President Ford, serving as a campaign manager for a major U.S. senator’s reelection campaign, and writing speeches for a contender for the Republican nomination for president. Life in the volatile world of politics wasn’t always easy, however, and as a closeted gay man, Smith struggled to reconcile his private and professional lives. In this revealing memoir, Smith sheds light on what it takes to make it as a speechwriter in a field where the only constant is change. While bouncing in and out of the academic world, Smith transitions from consultantships with George H. W. Bush and the Republican caucus of the U.S. Senate to a position with Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca. When Smith returns to Washington, D.C., as president and founder of the Freedom of Expression Foundation, he becomes a leading player on First Amendment issues in the nation’s capital. Returning at long last to academia, Smith finds happiness coming out of the closet and reaping the benefits of a dedicated and highly successful career.
More than Charles Lamb himself could ever know, the creation of Elia as his personal artistic voice was his way to endure the memories of September 22, 1796, a day of primal horror when his sister Mary in a fit of insanity killed their mother and destroyed the Lamb family. Throughout the rest of his life Lamb was faced with those memories , with deep-seated personal and career disillusionments. Yet through Elia he confronted his inner self to forge the essays that may be considered among the most brilliant and inimitable works in English letters.
Gerald Monsman in this study abandons the customary chronological approach to Lamb's life in favor of a more incisive, open-ended discussion of the Elia essays. By a close textual examination of Lamb's language, he relates the essayist's use of symbol and autobiographical concerns. Monsman contends and demonstrates that "as sharply and as pertinently as any artistic voice, Elia, the most celebrated persona in the nineteenth century, focuses the problems inherent in the modern literary imagination." Elia's "textual identity is a function of the author's actual life, of losses and imperfections artistically utilized and harmonized, employed against themselves to produce the rehabilitating symbol."
“Memory, of course, is sometimes like a bucking horse, sometimes a runaway one, and one must control the reins until finally it stops, snorting with exhausted relief,” writes Natalie L. M. Petesch in her haunting new collection, The Confessions of Señora Francesca Navarro and Other Stories.
Petesch immerses readers in the lives of people caught up in the 1936–39 Spanish Civil War, which left more than five hundred thousand dead. She captures the hand-to-mouth existence on the streets of Madrid of two war orphans; an old soldier’s memories of a fallen militiawoman; the dilemma of Franco’s laundress as she seeks to duplicate a stolen religious icon she finds in his home; and a man’s struggle to find his bride among thousands of Republican refugees waiting for ships to evacuate them before Franco’s Fascists arrive to kill them.
In the title novella, an elderly woman describes to her granddaughter how the families of Franco’s officers fighting against Republican militiamen endured hunger, filth, and danger in an underground fortress. Petesch conveys the humiliating details of war through the sensibility of a cultured woman who recalls only too vividly latrines made of laundry tubs, the smell of unwashed humans, and the stench of death.
Brilliant in its imaginative power and heartbreaking in its access to the bottomless well of human tears, The Confessions of Señora Francesca Navarro and Other Stories is the work of a mature artist able to convey a particular world so vividly that we know these people as our own.
By the beginning of the twentieth century, epistolary novels in Spain increasingly grappled with homoerotic and homosexual desire, treating it as a secret communicated through private letters from one reader to another. Patrick Paul Garlinger reveals how this confidential model persists in these fictions of letter writing from the early twentieth century to the present, framing expressions of queer desire in confessional terms: secrecy, guilt, morality, and shame.Confessions of the Letter Closet draws on queer theory and psychoanalysis, archival research on letter writing as a social practice and on the advent of the postal system in Spain, and historical insights into the impact of Spanish laws regarding the inviolability of correspondence on epistolary fiction. Garlinger examines how the epistolary novel represents - and is implicated in - the homophobia and psychic ambivalence around sexuality and identity with which Spanish gays and lesbians struggle, despite significant legal advances and increased social tolerance.Addressing both male and female desire and drawing links to epistolary traditions outside of Spain, Confessions of the Letter Closet goes beyond the specifics of Spanish literature to contribute more broadly to queer theory, the study of epistolary fiction, and an understanding of autobiography and confessional discourse.
Over the course of the nineteenth century, some 84,500 Jews in imperial Russia converted to Christianity. Confessions of the Shtetl explores the day-to-day world of these people, including the social, geographic, religious, and economic links among converts, Christians, and Jews. The book narrates converts' tales of love, desperation, and fear, tracing the uneasy contest between religious choice and collective Jewish identity in tsarist Russia. Rather than viewing the shtetl as the foundation myth for modern Jewish nationhood, this work reveals the shtetl's history of conversions and communal engagement with converts, which ultimately yielded a cultural hybridity that both challenged and fueled visions of Jewish separatism.
Drawing on extensive research with conversion files in imperial Russian archives, in addition to the mass press, novels, and memoirs, Ellie R. Schainker offers a sociocultural history of religious toleration and Jewish life that sees baptism not as the fundamental departure from Jewishness or the Jewish community, but as a conversion that marked the start of a complicated experiment with new forms of identity and belonging. Ultimately, she argues that the Jewish encounter with imperial Russia did not revolve around coercion and ghettoization but was a genuinely religious drama with a diverse, attractive, and aggressive Christianity.
Confessions is a spiritual autobiography of Augustine’s early life, family, associations, and explorations of alternative religious and theological viewpoints as he moved toward his conversion. Cast as a prayer addressed to God, it offers a gripping personal story and a philosophical exploration destined to have broad and lasting impact.
In airports and train stations it is not unusual for waiting passengers to be approached by a person who will hand out a brochure or trinket, then indicate that he or she is deaf and ask for payment, anything they can afford. In many instances, the travelers feel pity for the poor unfortunate and dole out a dollar or two, yet most are utterly unaware that these pitiful beggars earn hundred of dollars this way in a matter of a few hours. Dennis Buck knows this unique form of panhandling intimately because, despite holding a degree in computer science and receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), he was a deaf peddler for 11 years.
In Deaf Peddler: Confessions of an Inside Man, Buck unveils all of the ins and outs of exploiting his "disabilities" to earn easy money. Buck details the day-to-day life of a deaf peddler, including where to go to make the most money in the least time (airports with their constant transient clientele, malls on weekends, and fast food restaurants), how to live on the cheap (wait for people checking out to leave their motel rooms, then sneak in to use the shower), and how to live well when business is good. He also explains how he organized his rounds using a spreadsheet program.
Deaf Peddler also provides a historical perspective on deaf peddling as a way for under-educated deaf people to make a living when jobs were hard to find, wages were low, and Social Security did not exist. The "no good" life served as the rationale to many deaf people for peddling, but many more in the Deaf community deplored their actions, and the National Association of the Deaf campaigned to discourage this behavior that reinforced deaf stereotypes. Buck abandoned peddling himself for this reason, but he points out that deaf peddling survives today, frequently in the highly exploitative form of rings of deaf workers completely controlled by oppressive deaf and hearing overseers. Deaf Peddler presents in engaging fashion a little-known cultural phenomenon that offers a revealing turn on the general issue of panhandling in our society today.
Dennis Buck is a computer programmer in Longwood, FL.
In 1987, the city of Chicago hired a former radical college chaplain to clean up rampant corruption on the waterfront. R. J. Nelson thought he was used to the darker side of the law—he had been followed by federal agents and wiretapped due to his antiwar stances in the sixties—but nothing could prepare him for the wretched bog that constituted the world of a Harbor Boss.
Director of Harbors and Marine Services was a position so mired in corruption that its previous four directors ended up in federal prison. Nelson inherited angry constituents, prying journalists, shell-shocked employees, and a tobacco-stained office still bearing a busted door that had been smashed in by the FBI. Undeterred, Nelson made it his personal mission to become a “pneumacrat,” a public servant who, for the common good, always follows the spirit—if not always the letter—of the law.
Dirty Waters is a wry, no-holds-barred memoir of Nelson’s time controlling some of the city’s most beautiful spots while facing some of its ugliest traditions. A guide like no other, Nelson takes us through Chicago’s beloved “blue spaces” and deep into the city’s political morass. He reveals the different moralities underlining three mayoral administrations, from Harold Washington to Richard M. Daley, and navigates us through the gritty mechanisms of the Chicago machine. He also deciphers the sometimes insular world of boaters and their fraught relationship with their land-based neighbors.
Ultimately, Dirty Waters is a tale of morality, of what it takes to be a force for good in the world and what struggles come from trying to stay ethically afloat in a sea of corruption.
Who hasn’t fantasized about the unique thrill of working among charismatic and clever dolphins in the wild? Now we no longer have to rely solely on our imaginations . With Dolphin Confidential, Maddalena Bearzi invites all of us shore-bound dreamers to join her and travel alongside the dolphins. In this fascinating account, she takes us inside the world of a marine scientist and offers a firsthand understanding of marine mammal behavior, as well as the frustrations, delights, and creativity that make up dolphin research.
In this intimate narrative, Bearzi recounts her experiences at sea, tracing her own evolution as a woman and a scientist from her earliest travails to her transformation into an advocate for conservation and dolphin protection. These compelling, in-depth descriptions of her fieldwork also present a captivating look into dolphin social behavior and intelligence. The central part of the book is devoted to the metropolitan bottlenose dolphins of California, as Bearzi draws on her extensive experience to offer insights into the daily lives of these creatures—as well as the difficulties involved in collecting the data that transforms hunches into hypotheses and eventually scientific facts. The book closes by addressing the critical environmental and conservation problems facing these magnificent, socially complex, highly intelligent, and emotional beings.
An honest, down-to-earth analysis of what it means to be a marine biologist in the field today, Dolphin Confidential offers an entertaining, refreshingly candid, and always informative description of life among the dolphins.
"I don't know of any other book that deals with the hermeneutical problem of the relationship between Christianity and Judaism in the way this one does. Full of cunning and unpredictable turns, Prodigal Son/Elder Brother addresses the question of the elder brother's fate by opposing two sets of readings, Christian and Jewish, ancient and modern, figural and midrashic. No one, after reading this book, will any longer connect Judaism and Christianity with a hyphen."—Gerald L. Burns, University of Notre Dame
"Through a creative reading of the prodigal son parable, Jill Robbins demonstrates the hermeneutical impasse of the Christian exegete who must and yet cannot incorporate the Old Testament. Having disclosed the aporia at the heart of Christian hermeneutics, she proposes an alternative approach to the Hebrew Bible and new interpretations of Augustine, Petrarch, Kafka, and Levinas. Robbins brilliantly integrates the discourses of biblical texts, literary works, and critical analysis."—Mark C. Taylor, Williams College
The last traces of Australia's tropical rainforest, where the southeasterly winds bring rain to the coastal mountains, contain a unique assemblage of plants and animals, some primitive, many that are found nowhere else on earth. And fifteen years ago, they also contained Bill Laurance, a budding ecologist seduced by the nature of the landscape in north Queensland. Laurance isn't your typical scientist: he wears cut-offs instead of white coats, enjoys the occasional food fight, and isn't afraid to speak his mind, even if it gets him into trouble, as it often did in the Australian rainforest and as he recounts in his marvelous Queensland journal Stinging Trees and Wait-a-Whiles.
The book is his record of the time he spent in this remote area and his run-ins with plant, animal, and human species alike. Laurance lived in a tiny town of loggers and farmers, and he witnessed firsthand the impact of conservation issues on individual lives. He found himself at the center of a bitter battle over conservation strategies and became not only the subject of small-town gossip but also the object of many residents' hatred. Keeping ahead of his high-spirited young volunteers, hounded by the drug-sniffing local policeman, and all the while trying to further his own research amid natural and unnatural obstacles, Laurance offers us a personal and hilarious account of fieldwork and life in the Australian outpost of Millaa Millaa. Stinging Trees and Wait-a-Whiles is a biology lesson, a conservation primer, and an utterly energetic story about an impressionable young man who wound up at the epicenter of an issue that tore a small town apart.
An Argentine naval officer remorsefully admits that he killed thirty people during Argentina’s Dirty War. A member of General Augusto Pinochet’s intelligence service reveals on a television show that he took sadistic pleasure in the sexual torture of women in clandestine prisons. A Brazilian military officer draws on his own experiences to write a novel describing the military’s involvement in a massacre during the 1970s. The head of a police death squad refuses to become the scapegoat for apartheid-era violence in South Africa; he begins to name names and provide details of past atrocities to the Truth Commission. Focusing on these and other confessions to acts of authoritarian state violence, Leigh A. Payne asks what happens when perpetrators publicly admit or discuss their actions. While mechanisms such as South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission are touted as means of settling accounts with the past, Payne contends that public confessions do not settle the past. They are unsettling by nature. Rather than reconcile past violence, they catalyze contentious debate. She argues that this debate—and the public confessions that trigger it—are healthy for democratic processes of political participation, freedom of expression, and the contestation of political ideas.
Payne draws on interviews, unedited television film, newspaper archives, and books written by perpetrators to analyze confessions of state violence in Argentina, Chile, Brazil, and South Africa. Each of these four countries addressed its past through a different institutional form—from blanket amnesty, to conditional amnesty based on confessions, to judicial trials. Payne considers perpetrators’ confessions as performance, examining what they say and what they communicate nonverbally; the timing, setting, and reception of their confessions; and the different ways that they portray their pasts, whether in terms of remorse, heroism, denial, or sadism, or through lies or betrayal.
Andrew Motion brings all his lyricism and inventiveness to bear in this fictional autobiography of the great swindler, Thomas Griffiths Wainewright. A painter, writer, and friend of Blake, Byron, and Keats, Wainewright was almost certainly a murderer. When he died in a penal colony in Tasmania, he left behind fragments of documents and a beguiling legend which Motion uses to create an imagined confession laced with facts, telling the story as no straightforward history could.
"Thomas Griffiths Wainewright is a dream subject for either novelist or biographer. . . . Andrew Motion, Britain's poet laureate, clearly felt that neither straight biography nor pure fiction would do Wainewright's complexities justice, and so he combined the two genres. The result is stunning. The central voice is that of Wainewright himself, reflecting back on his life. After each chapter Mr. Motion has added detailed notes that inform and flesh out the narrative, giving not only his own informed opinion of Wainewright's actions but also those of Wainewright's contemporaries and the scholars and writers who have studied him over the past two centuries."—Lucy Moore, Washington Times
"Brilliantly innovative, gripping, intricately researched, Motion's biography does justice to its subject at last."—John Carey, The Sunday Times
"Engaging and convincing. . . . The trajectory of this character-from neglected and resentful child to arrogant and envious London dandy to sociopathic murderer on to an enfeebled, frightened prisoner-is indelibly imagined and drawn."—Edmund White, Financial Times
"[A] fascinating look at an evil artist, a charmer still having his way with us. We can hear him being economical with the truth, telling us and himself just what he wants to hear."—Michael Olmert, New Jersey Star Ledger
"Motion crafts a fascinating tale as complex and compelling as if Wainewright himself had written it."—Michael Spinella, Booklist
"Did he kill his servant, and possibly others as well? . . . The footnotes seem to say yes, but Wainewright adamantly argues his own case. Motion's prose is flawless, and Wainewright's voice is convincing. But in the long run, it's this ambiguity that makes Wainewright the Poisoner a fascinating and memorable read."—R.V. Schelde, Sacramento News and Review
"Who could as for a better Romantic villain than Thomas Griffiths Wainewright? . . . [The book] succeeds on many levels: as an act of ventriloquism, a work of scholarship, a psychological study, as a set of sharp portraits of famous men and an engrossing read. . . ."—Polly Shulman, Newsday
"Instead of a straightforward biography, Andrew Motion gives us Wainewright's first person, fictionalized "confession."—a document as circumspect, slyly reticent, and oeaginously smooth as the man himself. Splendid."—John Banville, Literary Review
"A genuine tour de force, and on a non-fictional level, a telling portrait of a strange, intriguing and repellant man."—Brian Fallon, Irish Times
"A marvelous literary hybrid that totters with one foot in the world of nonfiction, the other in the land of make-believe. One is alternatively swept up in Motion's dizzy imaginative pastiche, or sent crashing into a dusty stack of scholarly cogitations. . . ."—Philadelphia Inquirer
"As true a portrait of a liar as its subject could wish. Rich and strange. . . ."—Glasgow Herald