OMAHA BLUES: A Memory Loop

Joseph Lelyveld, Author . Farrar, Straus & Giroux $22 (226p) ISBN 978-0-374-22590-2

Although his parents nicknamed him "the memory boy," former New York Times executive editor Lelyveld can't remember how he earned such a moniker. In this memoir, the author reflects on this detail as well as other familial eccentricities as he sorts through his dying father's belongings. He recalls not just his own past, but that of his rabbi father and Shakespearean scholar mother, as well as political events of their time, like the Scottsboro trials and the Zionist movement. With a reporter's skepticism, Lelyveld investigates his personal history and ponders the nature of memory even as he relates the events of his own life. Although the book's title implies a sweep back into his past and then forward again, Lelyveld actually supplies more fragments than a single, continuous loop. He tends to double back, change subjects, introduce characters that aren't seen again and flip between present and past tense even when dwelling primarily on childhood events. The effect is usually charming, producing a jazzy, stream-of-consciousness atmosphere. But occasionally such time travel provokes a kind of literary motion sickness, as Lelyveld veers from adult feelings to childhood events, and ruminations on whether memory is even trustworthy. On the whole, though, readers will appreciate and connect with the way he tries to unravel his past and examine its details almost as they present themselves—as one would for the paper of record. Photos. Agent, Andrew Wylie. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 02/28/2005
Release date: 04/01/2005
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 240 pages - 978-1-4299-3162-5
Paperback - 230 pages - 978-0-312-42510-4
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