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About The Book

In this stunning new collection of personal essays, distinguished author Phillip Lopate weaves together the colorful threads of a life well lived and brings us on an invigorating and thoughtful journey through memory, culture, parenthood, the trials of marriage both young and old, and an extraordinary look at New York’s storied past and present.

Opening with his family life, Lopate invites us first into his rough-and-tumble childhood on the streets of Brooklyn, learning the all-important art of cowardice. From there, he takes us to the ball game to discuss the trouble with ex–baseball fans; to high tea at the Plaza; to the theater to dissect Virginia Woolf ’s opinion that  film should keep its hands off literature; and to visit his brother, radio personality Leonard Lopate, offering a rare glimpse into the unique sibling rivalry between two men at the top of their fields.

Throughout this rich, ambitious, deliciously readable collection, Lopate’s easy, conversational style pushes his piercing insights to new depths, celebrating the life of the mind—its triumphs and limitations—and illuminating memories and feelings both distant and immediate. The result is a charming and spirited new book from the undisputed master of the form.

About The Author

Photograph by Sally Gall

 Phillip Lopate is the author of more than a dozen books, including three personal essay collections, Bachelorhood, Against Joie de Vivre, Portrait of My Body, and Waterfront. He directs the graduate nonfiction program at Columbia University and lives in Brooklyn with his wife and daughter.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Free Press (February 12, 2013)
  • Length: 304 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781451696318

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Raves and Reviews

“Immensely readable essays. . . As riveting as short stories, with arresting openings, sculptured scenes worthy of fiction, introspective passages fingering his own feelings, and haunting conclusions that resonate. . . .What holds it together is an engaging voice, the projection of a curious, appealingly modest, sometimes self-mocking character behind that voice, and the “the fluent play of a single consciousness.” He’s gifted at staging his inner conflicts, radiating intimacy without descending into the confessional. . . . [Lopate] remains “a storyteller at heart” who can liven up any subject with nimble anecdotes from his life. . . . Delightful.”

– The New York Times Book Review

"An engaging collection of personal essays. . . . [Lopate] draws you in, playcing you in his writing space, and you feel his impatience to get to the page and draw you into his mind and through his world."

– San Francisco Book Review (4 stars)

"A connoisseur of the personal essay. . . [Lopate's] style and mileu are reminiscent of novels by Henry Roth and early Saul Bellow."

– Christian Science Monitor

"Phillip Lopate is America's Montaigne, bringing the same sense of moderation, warmth, and curiousity to the personal essay."

– Baltimore City Paper

“Hilarious and tender… Meandering merrily along in the footsteps of the great classical essayists Montaigne and William Hazlitt, acclaimed cultural critic Lopate traipses breezily through family life and literary, cultural, social, and political matters…with his typical elegance and peripatetic curiosity.”

– Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Esteemed essayist and poet Lopate offers 'a motley collection of essays, personal and critical' . . . Readers are well-rewarded for his obsession."

– Kirkus

“Lopate does the essay proud. He is elegant in style and a real slugger when it comes to content….Lopate is an ardent, shrewd urban chronicler, piquantly incisive in analyzing film and literature and unnervingly candid and combative in addressing intimate relationships, sexual performance, and his loving rivalry with his brother, Lenny, the well-known New York radio host…[An] ensnaring book.”

– Booklist

“Phillip Lopate is one of the greatest essayists of our time, and Portrait Inside My Head proves it again. His writing is provocative, intimate, intellectually curious, clear-eyed, and funny as hell. He’s a fearless, exquisitely aware chronicler of thought and feeling. Being Phillip Lopate, he’d probably also be skeptical about so much praise, but in this case he’d be totally (tenderly, tragically) wrong.”

– Sam Lipsyte, author of The Ask and The Fun Parts

“It’s impossible to overestimate how completely Phillip Lopate’s anthology The Art of the Personal Essay reframed and revivified the personal essay for contemporary American writers and readers. In his new collection of essays, Portrait Inside My Head, Lopate demonstrates his own immense virtues as an essayist--his ceaseless ability to “think against” himself."

– David Shields, author of How Literature Saved My Life

“Few living writers have done as much to shape the contemporary essay as Phillip Lopate, but he’s clearly not done. Portrait Inside My Head is a welcome reminder of how good he is as an essayist and how vital he makes the form, in all its miscellany, reverie, sparkle, and spectacle. Memoir is for suckers. The essay is—and these essays definitely are—where the jam’s at.”

– Ander Monson, author of Vanishing Point

“There’s something tremendously absorbent about Phillip Lopate’s essays. . . . The reading experience he assembles for us always commands my attention like the wise and mysterious shrug of someone smart.”

– Eileen Myles, author of The Importance of Being Iceland

“The personal essay is one of the most intellectually satisfying and most entertaining literary forms that we have in our day and age and Phillip Lopate is its undisputed master.”

– Charles Simic, author of Selected Poems

“Phillip Lopate's new collection of essays is refreshingly, delightfully, and justifiably acerbic, a miscellany that consistently delivers thoughtful and touching insights that sway from sadness to hilarity, to tenderness, grumpiness, exasperation, etcetera. The result is not only a portrait of what's going on inside Lopate's head, but of the mechanisms of essaying that have made this genre vibrant for millennia. "Essay" doesn't look as cool as some other words do on coffee mugs or tote bags, but its legacy is one that doesn't need a lot of bling. Pardon my potty mouth, but it takes balls to insist on eschewing the momentary fads that grab attention, and to vigorously align oneself instead with an art form that has fallen out of fashion. It's a risk that he's taken on behalf of the essay for more than thirty years. God bless Phillip Lopate's balls.”

– John D'Agata, author of Lifespan of a Fact

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