Lost In Place: Growing Up Absurd in Suburbia
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Lost In Place: Growing Up Absurd in Suburbia

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  696 ratings  ·  77 reviews
From the author of Iron & Silk comes a charming and frequently uproarious account of an American adolescence in the age of Bruce Lee, Ozzy Osborne, and Kung Fu. As Salzman recalls coming of age with one foot in Connecticut and the other in China (he wanted to become a wandering Zen monk), he tells the story of a teenager trying to attain enlightenment before he's learn...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published May 28th 1996 by Vintage (first published 1995)
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Salzman is a favorite author, and while there were parts of this I enjoyed enorumously, there were parts that I kind of felt my eyes glazing over and my brain numbing. But that may be what happens when you read about someone else's adolescence! However, the singlemindedness that Salzman has when starting a new love, be it kung fu or becoming an astronaut, is wonderful to read about.

However, there were two things that really cracked me up.

The dedication:
For Joseph Arthur Salzman, artist, astron
Salzman is from my home turf in CT (he grew up in Ridgefield and practiced karate in Danbury). But reading about familiar places is only one of the reasons why I liked this book so much. It is a hilarious and often heart wrenching look into the life of an eccentric young boy trying to find his place in the world. My favorite part of the novel is when Salzman starts experimenting with the notion of becoming a kung-fu master and for lack of proper attire begins running around in his eggplant color...more
Oct 16, 2009 Nancy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fans of "Freaks & Geeks"
An incredibly entertaining coming-of-age memoir with quite a few insightful tidbits. My only disappointment was wanting to read more about "growing up absurd in suburbia" (the book's subtitle) -- in other words, how others reacted to his weirdness and how he dealt with it -- as opposed to just the "growing up" story itself. Overall, a very enjoyable quick read that even gave me a little bit to chew on afterward.
This was a nice palate cleanser of a story - light, humorous, suburban. Based on reality. Not too complex and told from the POV of an adolescent guy from his pre-teen years through college and a bit thereafter.

I'll admit this is my first kung fu-related read, but what was familiar about this that I very much enjoyed was this idea of 'trying on' different careers and passions as we grow up. I've had interests that have burned hot for a while (though not quite as ardently as Salzman's)…and then b...more
It's a coming of age memoir that takes our nebbishy hero to the brink and back via kung fu! in Connecticut! The author's morose hobbyist astronomer father is memorable. It's all pretty likable, although his "synthetic pessimism" philosophy didn't leave me feeling especially enlighted at the end. Probably the author's point.
I first found this book serendipitously in the library when I was looking for a Biography in the S section. I was not familiar with Mark Salzman or any of his books. However the back cover described a time period and young person's life that was very familiar. I was able to read it very quickly which is my first clue that this could be a 4 to 5 star book.

I loved it because it was well written and like the "Wonder Years" described a phase we all go through with comedy, sadness, and sincerity. He...more
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This memoir of Mark Salzman's early life (up through Harvard), gave me the backstory on his life to his book Iron and Silk (his memoir of his two years teaching English in China). Reading it made me purchase all of his books I didn't have/hadn't read. He's an engaging writer and knows that the things that he does are definitely not the norm for every child, i.e., learning Kung Fu from a vicious and alcoholic Sensei, learning Chinese, calligraphy and Chinese screen painting in order to keep from...more
Stephen Gallup
One thing going on in this delightful coming-of-age memoir is Salzman’s coming to terms with the idea that attaining enlightenment is one thing and life is something else. Americans have a hard time with this, because we are preoccupied with becoming more than we can be. (Perhaps this is because advertisements continually sell us the idea that our lives will be so much more wonderful if we just do whatever it is we’re being urged to do.) And so Salzman presents us with his younger self, a kid de...more
If you came of age in the 70s (or are a fan of that lost decade), LOST IN PLACE should prove an amusing account of coming-of-age at a time when it seemed most every teenager was high or trying to get high. Only Mark Salzman's not your ordinary kid growing up in Connecticut. He's fascinated with kung fu, then cello, then Chinese culture, and so forth. His father is hilariously deadpan and filled with resignation before life's slings and arrows (of which his son provides many).

In addition to a gre...more
Perhaps it is the all-out, no holds barred nature of adolescent enthusiasms that makes them so appealing ("the kind of dedication that is possible only when you don't yet have to make a living, when you are too young to drive and when you don't have a girlfriend.") This memoir chronicles a middle school passion for martial arts that knows no obstacles: neither the drunken sensei nor the ridicule of fellow adult bruisers nor the patient sighing disapproval of his parents, nor the scorn of his sib...more
Jun 30, 2008 Tanya rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: painters, astronomers, the obsessed, and les ingenues
Shelves: memoir, pure-escapism
Hilarious! Endearing! The kind of kid you wished you could raise yourself.

I first encountered Salzman through his book, The Laughing Sutra, which was delightful and joyous and completely enthralled my early high school imagination. I'm glad to find that this, his memoir of growing up obsessed with kung fu, stays true to that absurdist, humorous, enchanting voice that was so fresh and necessary ten years ago.

Here, we meet young Mark--a kid so determined to master kung fu and find enlightenment...more
I picked up this book while at a weekend mountain retreat. I haven't read Iron and Silk, but knew of this author. This is a breezy autobiography. It was fun. Mostly so well written that it drew me in, despite a lingering sense of doubt as to whether any of this was stuff I needed to know. So, not remarkable or engrossing enough for me to feel justified in reading it; but engrossing enough for me to stay with it and read the whole thing! There are some funny scenes in this book, and it does feel...more
This memoir focuses on Salzman's teenage years and how his obsession with kung-fu during the 1970's affected him growing up. Myself, I could have done with a few less kung-fu stories and a bit more of Mark's relationship with his gruff but loving father... but it's an solid read.

One of the things I appreciate most about Salzman as a writer his his constant self-depricaiton about himself and his place in the world. Where this constant mystified perspective on his own talents and abilities might c...more
Crazy and amusing. It's easy to imagine a fan of Kung Fu going a little over the top in his teenage years. Too easy.
Maggie Wiggins
As I was reading this book, I kept thinking to myself, "Oh, another quip about karate. I wonder when the karate part of this book will end," except it never ended. It's partially my fault for not realizing how heavily this title discussed martial arts, but it also feels somehow miscategorized. To me, this felt more like an unbalanced mashup of The Foot Fist Way (Starring Danny McBride) and a Paul Fieg book.

Readalikes: Paul Fieg titles, Teen Angst? Naaah by Ned Vizzini, King Dork by Frank Portman...more
This was enjoyable partly because the author's adolescent years coincide with the same time period I was an adolescent. I knew exactly all the references he made to activities, music, tv shows and so on. Sometimes I found this memoir a little tedious, but just as I would be getting to a point where I thought, how much longer, the author would comment on or explore something that perked my interest. I wonder if it is a little dated now, though, for YAs who don't know the era well, unless it is fr...more
Cheryl in CC NV
3.5 stars. Most dragged a bit, because I'm a pacifist and female, and I just don't understand the drive to fight, to prove how tough one is by hurting oneself and others. But I sure did enjoy getting glimpses of his incredibly supportive family - no dysfunction there! And the ending was almost up to the standards of Iron & Silk - insightful, sincerely humorous, disarmingly enchanting.

I still haven't decided whether I want to read Salzman's novels or not.
What an odd yet interesting book this turned out to be. It took me a while to get through it because it's one that I read before bed but that was no reflection of what a great story it is. Memoirs always intrigue me and I felt drawn to this title because I vaguely recall a teacher friend of mine telling me about it. It's a bit of a roller coaster ride with the author as he goes between his devotion to kung fu to studying Chinese at Yale University.
Jeremy Preacher
Some things never really change, and growing up in middle-class suburbia seems to be one of them. This is a charming, if somewhat glib, story and the martial arts instructor Mark encounters is almost (but sadly not quite) beyond belief. I definitely felt some sympathy for the intelligent, restless kid searching for meaning, and while the book as a whole seems rather sanitized, it was definitely an entertaining read.
Just blew through this one. NOT a good book. Typical memoir nonsense. Basically he was a whiny, nerdy kid who had trouble "figuring out the meaning of it all". The book jumps at the end from him being in crisis, to resigning himself that life is a drag and that his dad's negative outlook on life was right all along. Typical whiny intellectual. Stop worry about the meaning of life and enjoy what there is.
It took almost 80 pages for me to get into this book, but once I got there, I found it to be completely charming. This was the story about an eccentric Ivy-League bound boy's childhood in Connecticut. The story took the reader through Mark's various obsessions: the cello, martial arts, pot, & Chinese culture. I found myself laughing out loud from time to time and really appreciating this person's life journey.
Joyce L
Salzman's autobiographical account of growing up "absurd in suburbia" is a wonderful look at the inner life of adolescent boys. His description of early attempts to appear as a martial arts sage/adept are priceless, yet full of pathos. Should be required reading for all women trying to understand the minds of boys/young men. (See also Boys of Few Words by Adam Cox for a professional view.)
Back to memoirs! I have enjoyed 3 other books of Salzman's and didn't think I would enjoy his memoir of a childhood kung-fu dreams...but I was wrong. He uses his interests over the years as a teen and in college to help him search for who he is. It is an enjoyable memoir that really shows how we search for who we are through what we do. An easy and enjoyable read, just like his other books.
For the most part, a really funny memoir. It seems Mark never did anything halfway as a kid, something that inevitably led to absurd situations. Mark does a good job of making light of serious issues, but rarely frivolously. Towards the end, things become more serious, which seems appropriate as it's dealing with a friend's death. A very enjoyable read, and a smart one, too.
Salzman writes with self deprecating humor about coming of age during the 1970s. He was a quixotic kid with varied passions: kung fu, Chinese culture, cello. I love the image of the 13-year-old Salzman in eggplant colored pajamas and bald wig. His father’s eternally gloomy outlook and love of astronomy provides balance throughout the narrative.
Ellen Tveit
Mar 11, 2012 Ellen Tveit added it
Shelves: culture
Salzman is obviously a very bright guy, which may have intensified his teenage angst and certainly helped him deconstruct it for this book.

For the first 80 pages or so it felt like Salzman was trying too hard to be funny. After that, one of us got into the groove. Some of my favorite scenes were with his kung fu master, Sensei O'Keefe.
This is a cheerful, utterly unpretentious coming-of-age story. I love Salzman's self-deprecating, honest tone and many of his anecdotes are hilarious. For some reason I didn't engage with it that fully and found myself wondering up until the (very satisfying) end what the point was - but maybe that's the point?
Mark Salzman has a very down to earth approach to writing, is not pretentious and will easily bring you on a journey thru his youth. I found this to be more than funny, even cried laughing at certain parts. It was also very insightful about life in general.

Great read. Short, fast and should not miss.
Funny & entertaining, especially for those born between 1957-1963. I just about died laughing in the first chapter of his boyhood aspirations to become a wandering monk like Kwai Chang Caine, the protagonist in the TV series "Kung Fu." Salzman is such a gifted writer! See also his excellent "True Notebooks."
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Mark Salzman is an award-winning novelist and nonfiction author who has written on a variety of subjects, from a graceful novel about a Carmelite nun’s ecstatic visions and crisis of faith to a compelling memoir about growing up a misfit in a Connecticut suburb – clearly displaying a range that transcends genre. As a boy, all Salzman ever wanted was to be a Kung Fu master, but it was his proficien...more
More about Mark Salzman...
Iron and Silk The Soloist True Notebooks: A Writer's Year at Juvenile Hall Lying Awake The Laughing Sutra

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