Manhattan, When I Was Young

Mary Cantwell, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $21.95 (214p) ISBN 978-0-395-74441-3
With every address in this wonderful memoir, Cantwell examines her voyage through a life filled with gifts and hurts that twist and weave as recklessly as a Greenwich Village street. Our trip begins in 1953 at 148 Waverly Place, where new college graduate Cantwell lives in a dilapidated town house and launches her career in publishing as a secretary at Mademoiselle. We witness Cantwell's blossoming relationship with her bohemian, Jewish future husband, identified here only as B., and the terrors that bear down on her from her Irish-Catholic upbringing, such as the mortal-sin guilt she felt at the prospect of using a diaphragm. The only home she ever had outside the Village was 301 East 21st Street, where Cantwell's married life got off to a stumbling start, her dislike of sex became apparent and her migraines began. The couple moved to 224 West 11th Street, where B. started a successful publishing career. The couple's next flat was at 21 Perry Street, where B.'s ``certainties fed my nothingness,'' but soon, Cantwell writes, she became pregnant and ``God loved me.'' She writes wonderful pages on pregnancy and the birth of her daughter Katherine. She speaks of her fear of injuring the baby and admits ``that once upon a time I was crazy.'' But with Katherine's birth, Cantwell found that ``sex was okay now, because now I knew what it was for.'' And with the arrival of their second child, Margaret, there was the move to 44 Jane Street. Here Cantwell's career at Mademoiselle took off and her husband started to have affairs. Sickness in her daughters was traced to her husband's genes, and she knew she had ``married a killer.'' The heart-wrenching disintegration of the marriage began: the silences, the threats and the anticlimactic divorce, out of which a new woman was born. With this paean to Village life and the maturation of her own self, Cantwell (American Girl) has written such an intimate book that the reader will feel like a joyful voyeur peeking into the window of her life. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/04/1995
Release date: 09/01/1995
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 214 pages - 978-0-547-72826-1
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