Portrait of My Body
By Phillip Lopate
(Anchor, Paperback, 9780385483773, 336pp.)
Publication Date: September 12, 1997
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Phillip Lopate's richest and most ambitious book yet--the final volume of a trilogy that began with Bachelorhood and Against Joie de Vivre--Portrait of My Body is a powerful memoir in the form of interconnected personal essays. One of America's foremost essayists, who helped focus attention on the form in his acclaimed anthology The Art of the Personal Essay, Lopate demonstrates here just how far a writer can go in the direction of honesty and risk taking.
In thirteen essays, Lopate explores the resources and limits of the self, its many disguises, excuses, and unmaskings, with his characteristic wry humor and insight. From the title essay, a hilarious physical self-exam, to the haunting portrait of his ex-colleague Donald Barthelme, to the bittersweet account of his long-delayed surrender to marriage, "On Leaving Bachelorhood," Lopate wrestles with finding the proper balance between detachment and empathy, doubt and conviction. In other essays, he celebrates his love of film and city life, and reflects on his religious identity as a Jew. A wrenchingly vivid, unforgettable portrait of the author's eccentric, solipsistic, aged father, a self-proclaimed failure, is the centerpiece of a suite of essays about father-figures and resisted mentors. The book ends with the author's own introduction to fatherhood, as witness to the birth of his daughter.
A book that will engage readers with its conversational eloquence, skeptical intelligence, candor, and mischief, Portrait of My Body is a captivating work of literary nonfiction.