cover image FAMOUS BUILDER


Paul Lisicky, . . Graywolf, $15 (200pp) ISBN 978-1-55597-369-8

At age 12, sitting on the bathroom floor of his family's home, Lisicky (Lawnboy) writes in his head a song he plans to send to The Partridge Family's producers, and dreams of becoming a famous builder like Bill Levitt: "I want those who drive through my communities to be socked in the head with the sheer beauty of all they see." While the specters of building, dwelling in and defining one's self through houses populate this memoir, Lisicky never does become a builder. An accomplished composer and singer, Lisicky begins recording contemporary liturgical music for Folk Mass Today and slowly discovers his talent for writing. His prose—as vivid as it is ethereal—gracefully transports readers to the artist's interior world as he attempts to find the appropriate outlet for his self-expression. Recalling the winding journey towards adulthood, Lisicky meditates on his family's struggles ("You're just a Slovak. You're no better then the rest of us," says his brother of their father's determination to earn a degree in electrical engineering late in life); the family's journey from a working-class Pennsylvania town to the middle-class New Jersey suburbs; as well as his coming to terms with his sexuality. By the book's end, Lisicky moves into maturity while in his 30s in Provincetown, where he finally meets his partner, poet Mark Doty. There are moments of clear, perfect memory (his mother's swinging bell bottoms, boxes of Christmas tree ornaments, and Joni Mitchell's songs' harmonic structures are rendered in stark detail) structural elements of this memoir's "sheer beauty." (Oct.)