cover image Lot Six: A Memoir

Lot Six: A Memoir

David Adjami. HarperCollins, $27.99 (400p) ISBN 978-0-06-199094-6

A gay playwright struggles with his claustrophobic Jewish community as he attempts to define himself in this raucous if flawed memoir. Adjami recalls his upbringing among Syrian Jewish immigrants in Brooklyn, whom he paints as a close-knit tribe focused on religion and business and hostile to homosexuality. As a dreamy, uncertain youth, he wrangles with domineering figures including his volatile, narcissistic parents and a contemptuous Juilliard playwriting professor while groping for an identity by trying on new personas like outfits, including faux-French–accented fashionista, black-clad Nietzschean—“I had to become the Superman”—and, finally, a gay man comfortable in his own skin despite his clan’s unease with him. If not fictionalized, Adjami’s memoir is certainly theatricalized: he alters timelines, invents dialogue, and inserts composite characters, and thus delivers pitch-perfect Brooklynese dialogue, colorful personalities, and entertaining scenes (“By the time we were done eating, Howie had convinced himself that the only part-time job he could ever get was spraying perfume samples at Bloomingdale’s dressed as a woman”). Unfortunately, his take on his adventures often feels melodramatic (“Like the desert-trawling Jews in the Bible, my exile was transmuted into freedom,” he declaims of his transfer to a new high school) and calculated for literary effect. The result feels more like a script than real life. (June)