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

3.87  ·  Rating Details ·  875 Ratings  ·  93 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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Cindy Dyson Eitelman
Apr 26, 2015 Cindy Dyson Eitelman rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2013-14
Mixed bag, here. Mark Salzman tells the story of his early teen to college age years. He was a most peculiar character. And his friends and teachers were so unique, so sublimely weird--his Kung Fu master, his best friend who used to beat him up, and especially his dad--they made a story themselves. His dad is a hoot.

I get the impression that with the notable exception of a Chinese Studies professor, Mr. Salzman's relationships with women were uniquely flat. His mother was a concert celloist yet
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
Jul 23, 2007 Kelly rated it it was amazing
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 really liked it
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.
Jan 12, 2011 Jennifer rated it really liked it
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.
Dec 23, 2016 Marianne rated it liked it
Shelves: gone, present-day
Kind of pulls you in, then loses you, and pulls you in again. Finishes nicely.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Glen Engel-Cox
Biographies in our society are usually reserved for the famous, the infamous, and the dead associated with the famous or infamous. To get to the real meat of what a biography should be, one must turn to the autobiography shelf. Although this area is also filled with the lives of the well-known, there also reside some gems that sparkle with an inner-fire of their own. These are the stories of lives which are unique in themselves, not for what they did on the sports court or the silver screen.

Oct 29, 2012 Francoise rated it really liked it
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
Stephen Gallup
Jul 02, 2008 Stephen Gallup rated it really liked it
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
Jul 24, 2009 Ken rated it really liked it
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
Jul 13, 2016 Heather rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, china, humor
Mark Salzman's coming-of-age memoir is a great reflection of what it's like to be a teenager struggling to find one's place in the world and learning to cope with not necessarily knowing the meaning of everything.

Kicking off (haha) with his explorations of kung fu, on which over half the book is spent, Salzman then moves through a lost period of jazz cello and drug experimentation, followed by college and groping his way through the death of a friend.

The writing style shines and Salzman's abilit
Jun 30, 2008 Tanya rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: painters, astronomers, the obsessed, and les ingenues
Shelves: pure-escapism, memoir
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
Dec 25, 2013 Maggie rated it really liked it
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
Sep 19, 2012 Ravi rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
Robin Woodcock
Feb 21, 2014 Robin Woodcock rated it liked it
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
Jul 27, 2013 Heather rated it liked it
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
May 06, 2008 Chris rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
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
Jun 07, 2015 Thomas rated it it was amazing
I only recently rediscovered this book's title. It was gifted to me by my high school film analysis teacher.

It was for me what Catcher in the Rye, or Perks of being a Wallflower was to other teenagers. I found the helplessness and loss that comes with age and hindsight very relatable to what I was going through. I empathized with this story more than any book I read up to that point. It opened up my world to the possibility that a story can just end, neither comedy or tragedy.

The hijinks and pl
Maggie Wiggins
Feb 02, 2010 Maggie Wiggins rated it it was ok
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
Debbie Phifer
Jan 24, 2015 Debbie Phifer rated it it was ok
I just finished reading this book; what an annoying book. I liked the first couple of pages then Mr. Salzman started began his meandering diatribe regarding the meaning of life. He ran the gamut of pessimism, cautious optimism, nihilism, and every other "ism" you can think of. The epilogue, in my opinion, was the worst part of the book. I think I just did not care for Mr. Salzman; he was a seemingly ungrateful, entitled, whiny complainer in his youth. I came away wondering how his parents tolera ...more
Apr 18, 2011 Susie rated it liked it
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
Dec 01, 2008 Marc rated it it was ok
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.
Apr 28, 2013 Robin rated it liked it
Shelves: memoirs, 2013-list
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.
Apr 11, 2010 Danielle rated it liked it
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.
Jeremy Preacher
Apr 16, 2011 Jeremy Preacher rated it really liked it
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.
Joyce L
Mar 14, 2008 Joyce L rated it it was amazing
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.)
Aug 06, 2007 Clare rated it liked it
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?
Bob Schuman
Dec 10, 2008 Bob Schuman rated it really liked it
Shelves: worth-reading
A really interesting book about a childhood gone bad (Continually). A few good quotes from the book:
"Today is the tomorrow I wished for yesterday. Now I know why".
"A society in which the individual feels responsible for his or her actions is more likely to work together and survive to spread it's values.
Apr 14, 2013 Moira rated it it was amazing
Shelves: humor, memoir
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
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