Portrait of My Body

Phillip Lopate, Author Doubleday Books $22.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-385-47710-9
Veteran essayist Lopate (Bachelorhood) is known as a deft and honest delver into the self, and most of the 13 essays in this collection display those virtues. A remembrance of his former colleague, Donald Barthelme, whose ""physical solidity"" contrasted with his writing's ""filigreed drollness,"" leads Lopate to worry about the unbridged distances in their friendship. Lopate acknowledges that his insecure writer's ego once precluded acceptance of mentors; now, in middle age, he can write feelingly about his closemouthed, melancholy father and affectionately about his friend, the late critic Anatole Broyard. While some efforts that stray from the familial are ephemeral (e.g., on ""shushing"" at theaters), this Jew's qualms at the brook-no-questions cultural rhetoric of the Holocaust are thought-provoking. But the book's most satisfying chapters reveal Lopate, the longtime bachelor, settling into domesticity. He finds himself musing, more fondly than ever, on an ex-lover with whom his relationship equalized after they parted and then reflects on the delighted surprise of finally finding his partner for life. With the wryly analytical eye that permits distance, he goes on to describe his ""unwilling empathy"" when attending his daughter's birth. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 07/29/1996
Release date: 08/01/1996
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