Book: Famous Builder , by Paul Lisicky, ISBN10: 1555973698, ISBN13: 9781555973698, Graywolf Press, October 2002, Paperback
Paul Lisicky is the author of the celebrated novel Lawnboy. He teaches fiction and creative nonfiction at Sarah Lawrence College and in the low-residency M.F.A. Program at Antioch University and lives in New York and Provincetown.
Paul Lisicky remembers being not much like other boys his age, but rather the awkward thirteen-year-old with "arms thick as drinking straws," who composes tunes in his head that he might later send to Folk Mass Today or to the producers of The Partridge Family. Born into a family whose incremental success bumps them up a notch from their immigrant upbringing and into suburban America, Paul puts his creative, undaunted energy into drawing intricate housing development plans and writing liturgical music.
In these lively, loving essays, Lisicky explores the constant impulse to rebuild the self. With gracious, thoughtful candor and pitch-perfect humor, he explores the very personal realms of childhood dreams and ambitions, adolescent sexual awakenings, and adult realities.
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.)
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