The Boy Detective: A New York Childhood
Nearly six decades have passed since Roger Rosenblatt was a restless young lad with a vivid imagination. Then he walked the streets of New York City alone, imagining himself a fly-on-the-wall observer of human nature, a silent seer of all things private, a solver of mysteries and crimes.
Roger is now a senior citizen, an accomplished writer, a college professor, a husband, father and grandfather. Still, he easily returns to the imagination of his childhood as he walks the same city streets one cold evening in February 2011. He walks alone, telling no one where he is going, just as he loves to strike out alone without checking in with anyone. From the way his stroll meanders, it would be hard to locate him with a GPS. And we really would not want to since that might disturb his poetic musings, his stream-of-consciousness writing, his spot-on-memory, and the sheer enjoyment of this rambling trip down Memory Lane. At times, this native New Yorker sounds like a philosopher as he tries to revisit the young boy he once was --- to make sense of his life experiences that helped form and create the mature man he now is.
"Roger may have taken that walk alone and unnoticed. Fortunately, he has chosen belatedly to announce his walk in the form of this most unusual book, which is part poetry, fantasy, memoir, and love letter to New York City."
Memory Lane usually contains at least a few potholes, and this journey of Roger's is no exception. He recalls living in a large and grand apartment in Gramercy Park with his parents and younger brother. His rigid and very sober father demanded silence and expected him to behave in a more mature manner than his youthful exuberance could understand. Children do make some noise. How odd that his father --- an educated man, a doctor --- could not comprehend that.
Walk with Roger as he notices that Morton Stamps, a one-room shop where he used to purchase foreign stamps, is now the location of a commercial enterprise called www.undisputedcorp.com --- whatever that is. And the Empire State Building, which he muses was the perfect site for the dramatic ending of the huge beast, King Kong. Oh, Roger loved the movies, and Saturday double features were such a welcome relief from the dreaded silence of his home. Roger strolls past a public library where he spent many pleasant hours and an extremely small Jewish cemetery practically obscured by the buildings on either side of it. He continues to walk, to remember, to ruminate, to compare and contrast the past and the present. He spins a yarn, The Case of the Decapitated Tulips, that definitely sounds like a cold case. But is it?
In Roger’s words: "…doing things like taking a walk in the city at night without telling anyone makes the thing done a modest gift to myself. We live most of our lives this way, do we not? Unnoticed and unannounced." Roger may have taken that walk alone and unnoticed. Fortunately, he has chosen belatedly to announce his walk in the form of this most unusual book, which is part poetry, fantasy, memoir, and love letter to New York City.
Reviewed by Carole Turner on January 8, 2014