cover image All the Wrong Places: A Life Lost and Found

All the Wrong Places: A Life Lost and Found

Philip Connors. Norton, $25.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-393-08876-2

Family trauma sends a young man drifting through many incongruous settings in this affecting but sometimes aimless memoir. Connors, who recalled his stints as a fire lookout in Fire Season, here revisits the period before he entered the wilderness—a time of searching (mostly in vain) for answers to the riddle of his brother’s suicide at the age of 22. His path takes him to New York, where he is a fish out of water, working at the Wall Street Journal despite his socialist leanings and living in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, where his white skin makes him an object of baffled wonder in an all-black neighborhood. Emotional connections with other people are fitful: one serious love affair fizzles when his girlfriend suffers a psychotic break and proclaims herself “the female Jesus,” and an amateur phone-sex line provides one-night-stands whose tenderness is overshadowed by her broodings about death. Connors’s narrative, like his state of mind at the time, feels pulled in many directions: he gives sharply funny observations of the culture at WSJ, soap-boxes against its right-wing editorial line and the Iraq War, and ruminates on yuppie bachelorhood in the big city. Through it all his subtle, evocative prose and depth of feeling carry readers through the eddies of his story. (Feb.)