I, Wabenzi

Rafi Zabor, Author . Farrar, Straus & Giroux $26 (472p) ISBN 978-0-86547-583-0

One third On the Road , one third Remembrance of Things Past , one third Sufi mysticism, this dense, heady memoir, the first in a projected four-volume set, tracks the years Zabor spent getting involved with a spiritual commune in the '70s and caring for his dying parents in the 1980s. The narrative is rich, allusive and only loosely chronological; it often skips among the events of several decades within a single chapter. But for fans of Zabor's PEN/Faulkner Award–winning novel, The Bear Comes Home , such intricacies will be part of the book's attraction. A jazz drummer and music critic, Zabor has a great feel for the rhythms and melodies of language, but it is his skill at portraiture that will really lure readers. His descriptions of his father, a Polish Jew who immigrated to Brooklyn in 1938 and stayed in an unhappy marriage in order to be close to his son, are particularly evocative. And his account of his mother's descent into angry senility would be despairing if it weren't so often leavened with humor. The book's few dull moments occur when the author appears alone, with no person upon whom to play his riffs and observations. Religion, or rather the self-conscious struggle to connect earthly experience with the divine, also colors a large part of the book, particularly toward the end. But if Zabor is a mystic, given to visions and dreams, his memoir is nevertheless grounded in the joys, sorrows and many little vanities of ordinary life. Agent, Kathleen Anderson . (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 08/15/2005
Release date: 10/01/2005
Paperback - 472 pages - 978-1-84627-027-7
Open Ebook - 480 pages - 978-1-4299-4460-1
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