Picks and Pans Review: I Want to Thank My Brain for Remembering Me
Many personal histories that tell stories of survival are pigeonholed with the sentimental moniker "a celebration of life." But when the writer is the irascible, sharp-tongued New York City newspaper columnist Jimmy Breslin, the result is something more complex, more idiosyncratic and more surprising. Breslin offers graphic and sometimes farcical details of the events that followed after he was diagnosed with a potentially lethal brain aneurysm in 1994. Now recovered, Breslin uses his near-death experience to explore his past.
Befitting a reporter famous for finding the fresh angle on every story (at President Kennedy's funeral he interviewed the grave digger), Breslin's memoir is quirkily anecdotal. Little is said about the famous paths he crossed while working for the Daily News and later for Newsday; instead, Breslin ponders the roles played by chance and Divinity in shaping a life. His marriage to Rosemary Dattolico, for instance, elicits a stirring passage. Breslin met Dattolico, with whom he has six children, in a bar in Queens after the car she was riding in had broken down out front. Dattolico was on her way home from a wedding, where she had caught the bouquet; flirting, she threw it to Breslin and asked him to marry her before running into the rainy night.
Breslin is not an easy writer; there's something unpolished about his prose that forces the reader to work hard for emotional payoffs. He weaves back and forth from the past to the present, which adds to the book's disjointed quality. But Remembering Me is the self-portrait of a man both grandiose and humble, somebody gentle, joyful and loud. In other words, a memorable guy. (Little, Brown, $22.95)