In a world where everyone is inventing a self, curating a feed and performing a fantasy of life, what does it mean to be a person? In his grandly entertaining debut memoir, playwright David Adjmi explores how human beings create themselves, and how artists make their lives into art.
Brooklyn, 1970s. Born into the ruins of a Syrian Jewish family that once had it all, David is painfully displaced. Trapped in an insular religious community that excludes him and a family coming apart at the seams, he is plunged into suicidal depression. Through adolescence, David tries to suppress his homosexual feelings and fit in, but when pushed to the breaking point, he makes the bold decision to cut off his family, erase his past, and leave everything he knows behind. There's only one problem: who should he be? Bouncing between identities he steals from the pages of fashion magazines, tomes of philosophy, sitcoms and foreign films, and practically everyone he meets—from Rastafarians to French preppies—David begins to piece together an entirely new adult self. But is this the foundation for a life, or just a kind of quicksand?
Moving from the glamour and dysfunction of 1970s Brooklyn, to the sybaritic materialism of Reagan’s 1980s to post-9/11 New York, Lot Six offers a quintessentially American tale of an outsider striving to reshape himself in the funhouse mirror of American culture. Adjmi’s memoir is a genre bending Künstlerroman in the spirit of Charles Dickens and Alison Bechdel, a portrait of the artist in the throes of a life and death crisis of identity. Raw and lyrical, and written in gleaming prose that veers effortlessly between hilarity and heartbreak, Lot Six charts Adjmi’s search for belonging, identity, and what it takes to be an artist in America.
Praise For Lot Six: A Memoir…
— Elif Batuman, author of Pulitzer Prize finalist The Idiot
"Vibrant, edgy, scenic and exciting. . . . Adjmi also emerges as a sensitive and faithful—and funny!—narrator who is keen to notice his own reactions to particular moments and perceptive about how his early experiences fostered a kaleidoscopic inner life that informed both the formation of his identity and the art he would later make.”
— BookPage (starred review)
“Every page of Adjmi's memoir, his life story thus far, is stamped with the gifts of the awardwinning playwright he would become. . . . So suffused with Adjmi's skill for drama and spectacular vocabulary is this gimlet-eyed personal history of making and being made by art, it is emotionally vast and utterly triumphant.”
“Lot Six is a deeply moving, completely riveting tour de force. With searing wit and heartbreaking honesty, Adjmi writes about the agonizing work of building an identity, and in doing so has crafted a shimmeringly beautiful love letter to art and those of us who need it to survive. Reading it I wept with recognition, and when I finished, I felt more alive—as if the book had worked some kind of magic spell on me.”
— Heidi Schreck, playwright of Pulitzer Prize for Drama finalist What the Constitution Means to Me
“David Adjmi has written one of the great American memoirs, a heartbreaking, hilarious story of what it means to make things up, including yourself. What do you do if you don’t get the nurturing you need at home? Is it possible that art could help fill in the gaps? A wild tale of lack and lies, galling humiliations and majestic reinventions, this touching, coruscating joy of a book is an answer to that perennial question: how should a person be?”
— Olivia Laing, author of Crudo and The Lonely City
“David Adjmi has written a transfixing, hilarious, and devastating memoir that is wholly unique. Like a match struck in the dark, it set me afire, illuminated aspects of my own self that I'd never faced. It is not often a book possesses this much pain, humor, and power. It is a tremendous artistic achievement and truly one of the best books I’ve ever read."
— Melissa Febos, author of Whip Smart and Abandon Me
Harper, 9780061990946, 400pp.
Publication Date: June 23, 2020