LOST IN PLACE by Mark Salzman


Growing Up Absurd in Suburbia
Email this review


An affectionate and often incisive appraisal of the author's thoroughly peculiar yet thoroughly representative suburban Connecticut adolescence. Novelist Salzman's previous memoir, the well-received Iron and Silk (1987), told of his experiences during a two-year stint as an English teacher in China. He begins here by narrating drolly the quintessentially American way his interest in China started: At 13 he saw a kung fu movie and suddenly developed a conviction that he would become a Zen monk. He built a shrine around some chopsticks and incense, purchased a Surprise Bald Head Wig in lieu of cutting off his hair, and soon began taking kung fu lessons, in which he persisted. Salzman recalls his conflicted allegiances to several role models: his terrifying, drunken, somehow inspiring kung fu master, Sensei O'Keefe; his fellow kung fu student Michael, whose fatherless home full of delinquent brothers was the opposite of Salzman's own orderly household; and especially his father, who managed to refrain from expressing disapproval even in the face of his son's undigested Zen babble. A high school teacher persuaded Salzman to study Chinese language and culture seriously, and he wound up learning traditional landscape painting from a waiter at the local Chinese restaurant. Salzman's gentle mockery of adolescent foibles is so dead-on that he achieves Waugh-like moments of hilarity. But in the second half both the humor and the insights trail off a little: After a particularly psychotic demonstration by Sensei O'Keefe, Salzman quit kung fu, which ended his friendship with Michael. He graduated from high school a year early, smoked a lot of pot, and played jazz cello in the basement. Then he went to Yale, had bouts of fairly ordinary existential malaise, and emerged wiser. Salzman engagingly describes teen malleability and confusion; hopefully he'll immortalize his childhood next.
Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-679-43945-5
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1995


NonfictionTRUE NOTEBOOKS by Mark Salzman
by Mark Salzman
FictionLYING AWAKE by Mark Salzman
by Mark Salzman
FictionTHE SOLOIST by Mark Salzman
by Mark Salzman


NonfictionSTING-RAY AFTERNOONS by Steve Rushin
by Steve Rushin