cover image The Boy Detective: A New York Childhood

The Boy Detective: A New York Childhood

Roger Rosenblatt. Ecco, $19.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-06-224133-7

In the vein of his other recent works, Rosenblatt (Making Toast) has taken memoir writing—a subject he teaches at State University of New York at Stony Brook—and turned it on its head once again. Walking the Manhattan streets of his childhood, Rosenblatt uses the city landscape to delve into eclectic ruminations on the nature of time and space, the slipperiness of reality and memory. By mixing in history, literary references, geography, philosophy, and poetry, he is somehow able to create a 14th Street where (or when) Luchow, a 19th-century restaurant, sits side by side with a modern Trader’s Joe’s store. Rosenblatt’s writing is honest, yet it produces a magical world unto itself, as when he describes his writing process (“Why do I have to produce an ocean in the morning, much less paint the sun-streaks on it, much less the plaster clouds or the goddam sun itself?”). The title refers to the author’s childhood desire to be a detective on par with Holmes and Marlow, and the idea of controlling the uncontrollable comes into play throughout the book. But Rosenblatt isn’t out to uncover the meaning of life—he is celebrating the fact that “life calls for nothing but itself.” Agent: Gloria Loomis, Watkins/Loomis Agency (Nov.)