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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, LopatPhillip 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....

Title : Portrait of My Body
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780385483773
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 336 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Portrait of My Body Reviews

  • Buck
    2019-04-06 23:10

    I must have been coming off one of my gas-huffing binges when I bought this book. Because I can't otherwise explain why the idea of a middle-aged Jewish writer rhapsodizing about his penis -- 'it has a brown stem and a pink mushroom head' -- would have appealed to me. Lopate doesn't merely gaze at his navel - he sticks his finger in and takes a good long, contented sniff ('a very ripe, underground smell', in case you were wondering).Didn't some French guy named Montaigne already do this, like, 500 years ago? And do it much better? Course, he never told us what his penis looked like. A merciful omission.

  • Josh
    2019-04-08 00:11

    Won this as a first reads giveaway. To say this collection of essays has topical diversity would be the understatement of this year. Ranging from very personal details of the author's family life (including a touching tale of the illness that impacted his only daughter as an infant) to literary/cinematic review/criticism to New York City antidotes to thoughts on how long before onset of intercourse the conclusion is reached to the mindset of the Jewish male surrounded by straight, gay, and bi men. Lopate warns the reader as much in introduction but still you find yourself awash in the run of the gamete pretty quickly despite the warning. For me, while not a purveyor of the personal essay, it was a nice break from my normal reading pleasures. As other reviewers notate, some essays will grab your attention more than others- that's an understood. I found humor, intellectual material, geographical and cultural tales, prompts for new reading material, and finally thoughts on both being young and growing old - each complete with heartache unique to both ends of life. A solid 4 for this reader although some will bore too much to rate it up that high. Mostly I appreciate that he writes in such a manner that I can identify with him on points we probably differ on perhaps even more than those we happen to see the same. Good smart brain food b

  • Diane Barnes
    2019-03-28 00:37

    Essays are my literary bon-bons. I can consume 1 or 2 in between reading other books that demand more attention. If I don't care for the subject matter of a particular piece, it can be skipped without compromising the meaning of the book.In the art of essay writing, Phillip Lopate is one of the best. The pieces in this collection that I loved were ones written about his childhood and family life, his life as a father and husband, brother and son. Then there were others that got a little too intellectual for me, and I lost interest. But a solid 3 stars for the entirety.

  • Naomi Ayala
    2019-03-29 06:09

    Even though I knew the author, this was my first time reading his work. A great book I carried with me everywhere. The very first and last essays in the collection are particularly stunning.

  • Andrew Miller
    2019-04-18 01:28

    This book was suggested to me by my mentor, which ironically enough is a collection including one which questions the relevance of mentors - but thankfully mine, not unlike Lopate, does not take himself too seriously. My assumption based on the recommendation and title was that this collection would be much more focused on essays about the body itself, but there was by no means a specificity to that theme. This is only important if you were thinking of picking it up for that reason explicitly. With that out of the way, the collection is fabulous and everything there is to love about Lopate.Engaging, questioning, relentless, and full of humor. I recently had the opportunity to hear Lopate speak about his essay process and I feel following that with this reading highlighted just how effective his interrogation methods are.

  • Mark
    2019-04-20 05:08

    Beginning in an unspecified near-present before looping back to his youth to sketch an approximately linear biography filling in the gap between, Lopate proceeds from this contextualizing to branch off into less outright personal essays, though ones that are no less incisive in the compassionate but clear-eyed portrait he paints of his mind. While being given such direct insight into the author's thoughts occasionally made me miss the pleasure of making those connections for oneself from more oblique prose, these essays were quite pleasurable to read nonetheless.Structured loosely but with a clear connective thread between most essays, there is a pleasing rhyming quality to many of the passages that echo previously encountered themes. At times, a slight change of position manifests itself, giving a living quality to the text, as if we are seeing the modification of stances in real time; at others, we see a humanizing repetition of mistakes we've seen Lopate make previously, acknowledging in a manner less common in nonfiction of the cyclical nature of life, where even the trend of forward progress is only the result of a slow and curling path (he may be nodding sideways to his own work when praising serialized television for "the novelistically shade, progress-and-regress evolution of its characters" (116)).We are offered the opportunity to see not only the development of his ideas within his internal monologue but also how those ideas, once deemed complete enough, fare when allowed to be publicized and come up against the existing debate of the larger world. The fact that he is presenting his thoughts rather than necessarily defending them gives the collected essays a rather pleasingly loose (though not overly so) feel, freeing the prose of the defensiveness that a strict burden of proof often brings with it. Perhaps because of this relative freedom, Lopate does on a couple of occasions make the mistake of thinking the audience will find his life, rather than his thoughts, fascinating, and in those same passages, there is a perversely anti-narcissistic (and as such, necessarily narcissistic) undertone of a desire to expose himself as being as ugly as possible, an impulse which is belied by the more dominant level self-perspective that is neither too critical nor too flattering; his language, even, sometimes felt oddly restrained in these passages, as if part of him was resistant to the characterization, attempting to sway toward genteelness his deeper desire to reveal all. At times, too, when Lopate chose to defend a position more staunchly, I wished for a bit more support for evidence he entered into his arguments, though it may be that doing so would have marred the general lightness of tone that characterizes the essays contained here, tilting the delicate balance from casual to overly academic.As a whole, the collection reflects an author unafraid to examine himself and his ideas closely, and unafraid to remain ambivalent about many of the ideas he reflects upon. For all his appreciation of the artifices that humans adopt, Lopate comes across in this book as very much a lion in winter, who no longer feels the need to stake out definite positions, much less those that are popularly accepted. The self-referential and self-regarding coda gracefully resolves his self-told making-of story of himself as a husband, a father, and perhaps most of all, a writer.

  • Marco Kaye
    2019-03-26 03:08

    Philip Lopate is one of my favorite essayists. I am always taken aback by his unvarnished honesty and hilarious self-deprecation. As soon as he arrives at a beautiful thought, he will undercut it immediately. In his first essay, "The Moody Traveler," while looking at an Italian villa on his way to a lookout point, he questions, "Perhaps we only envy that which we look at superficially; and a deeper look would take care of our urge for possession? Nah. In any case, I kept walking." That above quote is a key to this book. Lopate questions his own motives and desires. Sometimes this feels formulaic. "A [blank] critic might say, with reason..." appeared with some regularity towards the end of essays. By giving voice to his critics, Lopate both raises another side and closes off any argument. My favorite essays were when Lopate is grappling with something or someone bigger than himself. For example, his brilliant portrait of Donald Barthelme and his "Memories of Greenwich Village," a piece of autobiography that feels freewheeling but arrives at a structure through a sideways approach to two other writers, Leonard Michales and Anatole Broyard. It seems that, at least in this work, Lopate wrote the best when writing about other writers. While "The Invisible Woman" was not about a writer, but rather a postmodern feminist artist, it too is strong for the same reasons: Lopate reflects himself through another person. "The Story of My Father," while strong, could have been honed a little more. I wished that Lopate presented his father in a more complicated light. The person who emerges is the biggest curmudgeon you've ever met. Though I did find it interesting that Lopate's father considered himself a failed writer. The inward pieces, "Confessions of a Shusher" (just the title alone gives me the heebies), the titular essay and "Delivering Lily," a birth story, feel oddly like a comedian who is running out of steam...i.e. "And here's another thing about my back."'d think the Internet rating systems were capable of half stars, too, but we're not there yet.

  • Carol Apple
    2019-04-05 05:27

    Phillip Lopate is an amazing writer, from whom I have learned much about writing personal essays, both from his book "To Show and to Tell" and "Portrait Inside My Head", a collection of his own essays. The first part of the book is a collection of personal essays, some of them intensely personal. I especially liked the one called "The Camera Shop" about his mother's attempts to open a camera shop in the family's poor Brooklyn neighborhood to escape her life as a textile worker and better the economic prospects of the family. I could relate to her sheer determination to succeed against the odds, which make all the ultimate failure due to a combination of bad location and lack of capital all the more poignant. It really makes me wonder again why it is so very difficult for the enterprising poor to start new businesses in this land of opportunity. Other essays I liked include a touching one about an incident his very early marriage, a heart-wrenching account of becoming a father after years of longing for a child and then dealing with a seriously ill baby, and an ode to his relationship with his brother, a popular radio host. All of Lopate's personal essays are remarkable for their bare honesty about his own shortcomings.The second part of the book focused on essays about the arts: cinema, artists and literary figures he has known, and discussions of certain authors. I liked this part of the collection less well, mostly finding myself becoming increasingly aware the cultural distance between the New York City arts and academia scene and the lives that the rest of us live. But there were a few essays I found fascinating, especially the one about his poetry years. All in all, I came away from the book with a deeper understanding of the art of essay writing and a bonus whirlwind education in post-modern lit and avant garde cinema.

  • Peter Weissman
    2019-03-26 07:14

    I liked Lopate's Against Joie de Vivre enough to purchase Portrait of My Body a few weeks later. Again, Lopate delves into himself and presents his findings with self-deprecation, where warranted, and assertion, even indignance, where it makes sense. It's a pleasure to find someone who expresses himself so well and with such uncommon sense.If his essays have a flaw, it's in his overaffection for the past. Lopate knows this aspect of himself, and says as much: the desire to dwell in rich remembrance of certain times and places; an inclination I share with him. At times, it waylays his clear-eyed observations, and perhaps his judgment, as in his clunker in Joi de Vivre: an overlong essay on Houston, Lopate's adopted city.In this book, it affected his portrait of the West Village, a place I know too, and in a similar manner: he lived on Bank Street, and I was around the corner on Perry, at roughly the same time, and both of us looking back while we were there. Contemplating those narrow, old-fashioned streets, recalling his bohemians, nostalgia nudges enough of his acuity aside that his piece comes to rest too much on two literary characters he knew, who serve as personifications of the place; a tricky gambit that doesn't work for me here. Then again, perhaps it's because Lopate's highs are so high that they call attention to the pieces that fall short. And in this book, what he has to say about the contemporary Jewish attitude toward the concentration camps--the Holocaust, as it's all but universally called now, which he critically examines--sums up and goes beyond the arguments a Jew hears at Passover, or whenever srael comes up in conversation.

  • Meghan Lorenc
    2019-04-21 00:17

    “Portraits Inside My Head” is everything a collection of essays should be: intelligent, compelling, unique, reflective and most importantly, varied. Phillip Lopate moves through family, literature, locations and a variety of other topics I assume he had floating around in that incredible mind of his. He covers topics like the Little Leagues and empathy in a way that expertly conveys his opinions and thoughts, while tying in a mixture of personal experience and family history in a way that creates almost a series of stories rather than essays. His work becomes particularly interesting when Lopate works in his Jewish history and culture, especially in the first section of the collection, entitled “The Family Romance.” He gives the reader an insight into the life of a Jewish New Yorker boy in a time when children were less supervised and prejudices against Jews were high. His family struggled in a way that is both interesting and purely American. Lopate’s essay collection hits another key aspect of non-fiction: honesty. The last thing you want to read about is someone’s artificial life, full of self-preservation and lies of omission. Phillip Lopate is self-aware and honest about himself, notably in the essay entitled “My Brother the Radio Host.” He analyzes the situation as it is, in this instance being his family dynamics, and doesn’t hesitate to portray himself truthfully - strengths AND weaknesses. “Portraits Inside My Head” is exactly what the title would suggest. Lopate’s intellect shines as he shares his mind with readers, both new and old.

  • Steve Radlow
    2019-04-07 03:15

    Phillip Lopate is an excellent essayist and a very intelligent writer. I would like to say that I enjoyed each and every essay in this collection, but I found it to be very inconsistent. I breezed through Part I which is entitled The Family Romance. Lopate's recollections of his childhood, family members and early neighborhoods in Brooklyn were engaging, humorous and interesting. I also enjoyed the essays included in Part III-City Spaces. I was born and raised in Brooklyn and now live in Manhattan and, for that reason, I was able to relate to Lopate's musings about City Hall Park, the High Line and Brooklyn-especially the comparisons drawn between Brooklyn and Manhattan. However, Part IV, dedicated to Literary Matters, was of little or no interest to me. Literary criticism which includes the cataloging of obscure authors and works just leaves me cold. Lopate makes no apologies for his choice and range of essay topics and he shouldn't have to. As a reader, I make no apologies for this mixed review.

  • Lindaanne
    2019-04-12 06:35

    While I listen to Leonard Lopate (the author's brother) regularly on NPR, I was not familiar with Phillip Lopate's work until my meetup group posted an event for a reading at a nearby college. I signed up for the meetup and quickly got the book to prepare. Very happy I did! (Thanks Ellen). Phillip's essays, based on his own life experiences, are filled with love, humility and hard-earned wisdom. Much of Phillip's writing centers on his hardscrabble working-class Jewish background in 1940s and 50s Brooklyn, which I find interesting on a personal level. If you are a native New Yorker add a star, as the author clearly has a love affair with our great city. Phillip's book is courageously honest and filled with self reflection. One downside may be Phillip's penchant for revealing TMI about his bodily processes and family life, but that should be taken with a humorous grain of salt. Phillip Lopate may be an acquired taste, but one well worth cultivating.

  • Emma
    2019-04-05 02:35

    I would give some of the essays in this book 5 stars, and some of them 2 stars--and for that reason, I found the book a bit disappointing. It started off strong, with engaging essays about Lopate's life and philosophy of life. As a new New Yorker, I also loved the essays about New York (especially Brooklyn). But I got lost, and even a bit dragged down, by the cultural criticism. Maybe that's just me or maybe it's not the kind of reading I like to do--or maybe I should not have read the whole book of essays at once, or at least skipped the ones I could tell I wouldn't like. I found the copious name-dropping tiresome and, eventually, too pretentious for my tastes. Oh well. Lopate is still one of the classic essayists and I appreciate his ability to twist words into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, paragraphs into essays that do leave an impression in one way or another.

  • Alice
    2019-04-23 03:29

    I liked many of the essays in this wide-ranging collection, although some of them -- due to the subject not the writing! -- did not interest me at all. Giving myself license to skip the subjects I was not interested in, I enjoyed the others. Especially gripping and so very moving is the essay describing his baby daughter's serious illness. I cannot imagine how he was able to re-live this difficult time through writing about it. I thank Mr. Lopate for letting us into this so very private part of his life. I also enjoyed very much reading the descriptions of his growing up in a poor part of Brooklyn -- the neighborhood, the bullies, the characters encountered, the games played. His essays on Brooklyn, City Hall and the High Line will be of special delight to readers who either live in NYC or grew up there. Very well done!

  • Naomi
    2019-04-13 07:09

    Some of my favorite literary essays are like receiving long, wonderful letters from friends, inviting me to reflect upon something I have not considered before or from some new angle. Lopate's essays, at their best, reach this level for me, but we part company from the very beginning, when he describes himself as a closed book, one who has already become who he can be. I admire the contentment and acceptance, and I am so far from the idea that we are not, all our lives, in process, writing new pages, living new stories, meeting for ourselves insights new and testing and refining our beliefs, that I struggled with many of the essays.

  • Kent Winward
    2019-03-25 06:21

    Lopate's opening mentions the uneven quality of any collection and then proceeds to prove it in his essays. Yet, the uneven aspect comes maybe not so much from the writer than the reader, with certain topics compelling and of interest and others less so. The literary commentary essays on authors I didn't know well versus the essays on the authors I knew well made me think that if I'd read more Stendahl I'd have enjoyed the essay a lot more.The personal essays and musings seem to be the antithesis of today's cocksure punditry, filled with wise and cogent comments, followed by self-doubt and confusion. Lopate's essays are an enjoyable trip into his head, just as the title suggests.

  • Juli Kinrich
    2019-04-20 02:30

    I had high hopes for this book, as it came highly recommended by several avid readers whose opinions I regard. Yet there were entire chunks that didn't appeal to me at all. Each essay was longer than I expected--where did I get the idea that they are usually shorter? Ah, well--and only one piece really grabbed me: The one about Brooklyn was my favorite. I will not give up on Lopate so quickly; he has other collections that I will try. I totally admire anybody who can go against the current and produce a literary form that is currently, at least, not a very popular one.

  • Michael
    2019-04-18 02:29

    I love Lopate’s writing. His essays are always chock full of information, inspiration, and thoughtful reflection. He has essays here on family life - both growing up and in adulthood - as well as on his beloved New York City (mostly on Brooklyn and Manhattan). He is an easy essayist to read - he writes with verve and joy. It’s not a slog to get through this book - it’s one to be savored. I read it slowly - but not because I didn’t like it - but because it was good.

  • Katlyn
    2019-04-13 07:15

    In the end I finished the book, so I guess I must've enjoyed it well enough. I can't tell, at times, if Lopate is oblivious to his own privilege or owning it ironically, but the line about the Third World in "Delivering Lily" seemed pretty blatantly offensive. His descriptions of other writers are engaging and the self-questioning characterization in "The Invisible Woman" hit a chord, but overall I thought the subject matter (himself) uninteresting and the self-reflection bland.

  • Titus Hjelm
    2019-04-02 05:24

    I had read only one of Lopate's essays previously--in the classic collection he edited--and liked it. This collection confirms him as a first rate essayist, and a *very* personal one. I liked the flow of the prose, but was thinking about the ethics of the essay all the time. Anyway, recommended (not least for the beautiful Notting Hill Editions version).

  • Reading Fool
    2019-04-17 05:15

    I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.This is a collection of essays on subjects ranging from parenthood to films to being a poet. Lopate's writing is personal and smart. I learned a lot about the essay's subject and I even learned a little bit about myself in the process. Very satisfying read.

  • Sarah
    2019-04-19 06:26

    Philip Lopate is an extremely talented essayist - he covers a wide range of topics, with the common thread being his personal experience and thought processes. He effortlessly weaves in narrative and analysis, and is often arguing with himself, or his past self. A must-read for anyone interested in narrative non-fiction.

  • Alexis
    2019-03-26 00:24

    I feel as if I should be stoned for giving PLo only 2 stars. I mean, I am a non-fictioner, right? And he's the god of the personal essay, or at least one of the major ones. But, I found him to be so self-centered and could not draw any kernel of meaning from his essays, nothing to tuck in my pocket and carry forward with me.

  • Rob
    2019-03-29 00:19

    Most of the essays here were of interest and, obviously, very well written. Some of his essays on minor literary characters were too obscure to hold my interest, hence only four stars for the book. I like his writing style.

  • Tim Tibbitts
    2019-04-25 03:18

    Just read a handful of the essays: "Why I Remain a Baseball Fan," "On Changing One's Mind About a Movie," "Duration, or Going Long," "The Limits of Empathy." Very interesting, insightful, well-written stuff!

  • Mikayla
    2019-04-14 06:23

    I skipped quite a few of the essays in this collection simply because I wasn't interested in the subject matter (the ones on New York City and auteur films). However, the ones I read were by turns delightful, full of insight, and well-crafted.

  • Marina Aris
    2019-04-21 05:21

    Lopate's essays are easy to delve into. He brings meaning to universal, everyday experiences. You don't have to read this book cover to cover. It's best to read an essay at a time and see where it takes you.

  • Susan
    2019-04-06 23:08

    I rarely read essays but had heard positive things about this book and author. A few of the essays seemed a little weak - or maybe just less interesting - to me but overall very positive! Especially about his family relationships. And living, growing up in Bklyn.

  • Bruce
    2019-04-18 04:23

    A wonderfully droll, poignant and ultimately inspiring book by a master of the personal essay! So witty and wise, very funny and never sentimental. Lopate's heart shines throughout though, especially in the last essays when his bachelorhood is revoked and his child is born.

  • Ingrid Wassenaar
    2019-04-05 03:17

    loved the trenchant confidential style of Lopate's observations. Made me love the essay form all over again.