The Boy Detective: A New York Childhood
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The Washington Post hailed Roger Rosenblatt's Making Toast as "a textbook on what constitutes perfect writing," and People lauded Kayak Morning as "intimate, expansive and profoundly moving." Classic tales of love and grief, the New York Times bestselling memoirs are also original literary works that carve out new territory at the intersection of poetry and prose. Now comes The Boy Detective, a story of the author's childhood in New York City, suffused with the same mixture of acute observation and bracing humor, lyricism and wit.
Resisting the deadening silence of his family home in the elegant yet stiflingly safe neighborhood of Gramercy Park, nine-year-old Roger imagines himself a private eye in pursuit of criminals. With the dreamlike mystery of the city before him, he sets off alone, out into the streets of Manhattan, thrilling to a life of unsolved cases.
Six decades later, Rosenblatt finds himself again patrolling the territory of his youth: The writing class he teaches has just wrapped up, releasing him into the winter night and the very neighborhood in which he grew up. A grown man now, he investigates his own life and the life of the city as he walks, exploring the New York of the 1950s; the lives of the writers who walked these streets before him, such as Poe and Melville; the great detectives of fiction and the essence of detective work; and the monuments of his childhood, such as the New York Public Library, once the site of an immense reservoir that nourished the city with water before it nourished it with books, and the Empire State Building, which, in Rosenblatt's imagination, vibrates sympathetically with the oversize loneliness of King Kong: "If you must fall, fall from me."
As he walks, he is returned to himself, the boy detective on the case. Just as Rosenblatt invented a world for himself as a child, he creates one on this night—the writer a detective still, the chief suspect in the case of his own life, a case that discloses the shared mysteries of all our lives. A masterly evocation of the city and a meditation on memory as an act of faith, The Boy Detective treads the line between a novel and a poem, displaying a world at once dangerous and beautiful.
black cave. To my right. Now, tell me why, all these years, did I get it wrong. Was I so afraid or ashamed of the sinful hole that my mind hid it from itself? Or was I thinking of another place entirely, even darker and more dreadful, that I had obliterated into forgetfulness? Sometimes I wondered, whenever I crawled through that dark place alone, what would happen if the roof of the little tunnel collapsed and I was imprisoned in the airshaft and buried in the ruins. Did I have the strength and
them how the battle went, much less the war. The woman mutters, “Gawd.” Where is Matthew Brady when you need him? WHERE’S JOHNNY MORRIS when you need him, I’d like to know, when America has no natural heroes left and every so-called national leader looks twice before he fails to leap. Not Johnny Morris. He who organized evening tackle football games in the park (I used Peter’s diapers as shoulder pads). He who printed programs for the games, and positioned flashlights in the trees to
president of the Gramercy Park Association, upon consulting with the membership, proposed that a memorial be established to honor the missing children. Two years passed, and the matter was hotly debated at the National Arts Club by the neighborhood grown-ups, some of whom thought a bench with a bronze plaque would be appropriate, while others envisioned the sculpting of a statue of a child placed in front of the club, bearing a forlorn expression to symbolize all the children who had fallen into
start with candy and work your way up to the costlier stuff, but I never made the grade, not even with candy. The Fifth Avenue candy bar I stole quavered like the Hindenburg over my bed that night. The following morning, I returned to the drugstore, and when the owner’s head was turned, I restored the Fifth Avenue candy bar to its place on the rack, though I knew it was too late to restoreth my soul. Sometimes Tom and I would play at his house after school. Tom’s was a big dirty-white town house
something—a club, a group, an institution. Tom Brownell used to show up in school once a week wearing the quasi military dress uniform of the Knickerbocker Grays. I never figured out what the Knickerbocker Grays did, but it seemed to involve marching and other martial exercises. Tom Munnell, the best student in our class, and the most gentlemanly, took figure-skating lessons in the afternoons. In the summers, he was a competitive sailor in Connecticut, winning races that were reported in the New