Breslin's confrontation with his mortality began with double vision in his left eye. He had an MRI, which revealed an aneurysm in his brain. He was referred to Robert Spetzler in Arizona, who is considered the best aneurysm neurosurgeon in the world. Thus begins Breslin's odyssey from New York City to Phoenix, which takes readers on a wonderful whirlwind tour of his life.He starts with his childhood in working-class Queens, where his father "left the arena early," abandoning the family. He became a journalist when he was 16 and unabashedly informs his readers: "I invented the news column form and other papers immediately went out and hired imitators with Irish names." He recalls JFK's assassination; while other reporters hung around the White House waiting for press releases, he interviewed the $3.01-an-hour gravedigger at the President's grave.Breslin insists that New York "is the healthiest city in the world" and shows us the sights and sounds, which here include serial killer Son of Sam; Casey Stengel of the 1962 Mets; Malcolm X's murder in 1965, which he witnessed; Norman Mailer's unsuccessful 1969 mayoral campaign; and subway shooter Bernhard Goetz playing out his fantasies with a gun. Breslin discusses the great loves of his life: his late first wife, Rosemary, his present wife, New York City councilwoman Ronnie Eldridge, and their combined nine children.What is most stunning, however, is his rock-hard Catholicism. "There is no such thing as an ex-Catholic," Breslin admonishes as he continually invokes pre-Vatican II phrases such as "state of Grace," "sins of Omission" and an "examination of conscience." We also see Breslin the Luddite railing against the computers "that took the verve out of the whole newsroom and the charm out of the stories" and Breslin the nostalgist looking back on friends like Fat Thomas, Marvin the Torch and Klein the Lawyer.Breslin's brain operation is a success, and with stream-of-consciousness remembrances, he takes us through the procedure. His memoir is as tough as the streets of New York, and as sensitive as a poet in search of the truth. Major ad/promo; BOMC selection; author tour. (Sept.)
Readers of this marvelous memoir should thank Breslin's brain for saving his life. For if a case of severe eye pain had not driven Breslin, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and a notorious avoider of doctors, to his opthamologist, the aneurysm hidden in his brain would have remained undiscovered and eventually burst, killing him. Preparing for a risky surgery that could either cure him or leave him a vegetable, Breslin meditates in a series of candid and witty flashbacks on his extraordinary 65 years of life‘his childhood in Queens ("My family were people with winter emotions who could not use warm, affectionate words"), the death of his first wife, his second marriage to New York City councilwoman Ronnie Eldridge, and the colorful eccentric characters he has encountered in his career as a reporter and columnist. Breslin has a true writer's passion for words and language; his graphic description of his surgery (definitely not for the squeamish) is as sharp and clean as a surgeon's knife ("My brain sits like a chalice on an altar of clean blue cloth"). Highly recommended for all collections.‘Wilda Williams, "Library Journal"