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Because I Was Flesh
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Because I Was Flesh

4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  70 ratings  ·  11 reviews
Because I Was Flesh is the story of Edward Dahlberg's life as a child and young man, and a portrait in depth of the remarkable woman, his mother Lizzie, who shaped it. It is an authentic record from the inferno of modern city life, and a testament of American experience. Seldom has there been so ruthless, and yet so tender a dissection of the mother-son relationship. And f ...more
Paperback, 234 pages
Published January 17th 1967 by New Directions (first published 1963)
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Bill
the subtitle of this book is "the autobiogaphy of edward dahlberg". this, however, is very misleading, as 80% of the book is about the author's mother. except for one section where he travels across the usa, in abject poverty, to california, he is a fairly minor figure in the book.

as i said, the book is mainly about his mother Lizzie. the main, and most interesting, part of the book portrays her life as a lady barber in kansas city in the early 1900's. during this period, and after as well, she
...more
Jonathan
I shall let him speak for himself, as it is the quality of the prose that really made this stand out for me. If your taste is anything like mine, the following will be enough to make you want to read this as soon as possible:


"Kansas City was my Tarsus; the Kaw and the Missouri Rivers were the washpots of joyous Dianas from St. Joseph and Joplin. It was a young seminal town and the seed of its men was strong. Homer sang of many sacred towns in Hellas which were no better than Kansas City, as hi
...more
Tom
In lieu of a review, here are a handful of the more delightful quotations (mostly related to lust) that I've culled.

p. 1 Only those who know the ocean ponder death deeply as they behold it, whereas those bound closely to the ground are more sensual.

p. 2 Each one carries his own sack of woe on his back, and though he supplicate heaven to ease him, who hears him except his own sepulchre?

p. 4 Everything has been created out of lusts no less than flesh, for God and Nature are young and seminal, and
...more
Distress Strauss
That most of Dahlberg's work remains out-of-print is possibly the publishing industry's current great calamity. He is not an easy writer to figure, nor was he a pleasant man in real life, but those with the patience to stay with his frustrated Edenic quest will understand the passion of his cult. This autobiography of his mother, a lady barber in turn-of-the-20th-Century Kansas City, will break your heart with a sentence, then his own heart in the next. The most neglected of American masterpiece ...more
Joseph Nicolello
Review coming later from misc. miniature notebooks and receipts. Was going to give the book one star just to give Dahlberg a Dahlbergian kick in the balls, but it's a great book and one of the many I'll be purchasing over the holidays as tested out at the library. While trudging through Mailer working out the kinks of further Dahlberg.
T.
In brief: if you like pungent, maximalist late modernist prose such as that of Omensetter's Luck or Darconville's Cat, there is no work of that ilk more erudite, misanthropic, or wounding.

And yet, praising a work so singular, so intransigent, as this, seems almost inane. Not least because there has been no literary critic so opposed as was Dahlberg to the idea that literature is something that we just read and blithely form opinions about -- for Dalhberg, great literature was something that jud
...more
Chris Brown
Oct 09, 2009 Chris Brown marked it as to-read
Huffingtonpost Recommendation -

Unlike anything else in literature, this strange little book represents for me the outer limits of the imagination - how this son of a lady barber in turn-of-the-century Kansas City could travel the breadth of world history in his mind.


Brenton Harper-Murray
Interesting for insight into a childhood in b ad neighborhoods and a Jewish orphanage during the early 1900's, but pompously long winded and grandiloquent. If you like buckets of obscure old testament references, this one is for you.
Sam
Impressionistic autobiography, soaked in the language of the old testament prophets and WWI songs... there are lady barbers, Jewish orphans, Army majors, button factories... Very good stuff and highly philosophical. Liked it.
Cocò Porto
Bellissima la figura di lizzie, la madre dell'autore
Brad keil
Meh. It was ok.
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His first novel, Bottom Dogs, based on his childhood experiences at the orphanage and his travels in the American West, was published in London with an introduction by D. H. Lawrence. With his advance money, Dahlberg returned to New York City and resided in Greenwich Village. He visited Germany in 1933 and in reaction briefly joined the Communist Party, but left the Party by 1936. From the 1940s o ...more
More about Edward Dahlberg...
Can These Bones Live The Sorrows Of Priapus; Consisting Of The Sorrows Of Priapus And The Carnal Myth The Leafless American and Other Writings (Recovered Classics Series) Bottom Dogs, From Flushing To Calvary, Those Who Perish, And Hitherto Unpublished And Uncollected Works Confessions Of Edward Dahlberg ( Universal Library, Volume 12 )

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“When the image of her comes up on a sudden—just as my bad demons do—and I see her dyed henna hair, the eyes dwarfed by the electric lights in the Star Lady Barber Shop, and the dear, broken wing of her mouth, and when I regard her wild tatters, I know that not even Solomon in his lilied raiment was so glorious as my mother in her rags. Selah.” 0 likes
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