Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Boy Detective by Roger Rosenblatt

Title: The Boy Detective: A New York Childhood
Author: Roger Rosenblatt
Enjoyment Rating: ***
Source: Audible
This book would be rated: PG-13 for some allusions to sex and language

In general, I tend to enjoy the books I listen to more than the books I read. I think this is because I tend to skim when I get bored when I'm reading, but when I'm listening, there's no option for skimming, and sometimes I skim so much that I miss some of the essence of a book. However, there are other books that require more concentration than I can give them during a morning run, and these are books I like to read closely (although, truth be told, I don't generally enjoy reading these kinds of books, even though I feel guilty about it and feel like I should be willing to put forth more effort). Anyway, when I first started reading The Boy Detective, I got hopelessly lost almost immediately. In the memoir, Rosenblatt takes a walk on a New York City street at night, visiting the stomping grounds from his childhood. He veered from the present, to 60 years in the past, to a dreamlike state, to a made-up story all in the first two minutes, and I was convinced I was missing something as a reader. But my hands were too cold to switch over to something less demanding, so I kept listening, and Rosenblatt kept up with these fanciful switches (in one episode he goes from talking about dogs in detective fiction to his son's dog to the dogs he once owned to a dog who is a hero in a story he's making up on the spot, all in about 30 seconds). It's very stream-of-consciousness, and once I stopped being worried that I was missing something and started just hanging on for the ride (and not worrying too much if I didn't follow the entire thread of the narrative), the story became much more enjoyable. Rosenblatt's voice is great, and over the course of seven or eight hours of listening, certain threads did emerge. The whole idea that the book was spawned on a single midnight walk is, of course, artifice, but I enjoyed the exercise, which he presents, in part, as an example of memoir to the students in a class he's teaching. This would be a great book to read in a Creative Writing class to look at craft.

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