Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Because I Was Flesh” as Want to Read:
Because I Was Flesh
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

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)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Because I Was Flesh, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Because I Was Flesh

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 204)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
Claudia marked it as to-read
Mar 25, 2015
Clericusvagans marked it as to-read
Mar 04, 2015
Mpho3 marked it as to-read
Feb 10, 2015
Sidra marked it as to-read
Jan 24, 2015
Jerrod marked it as to-read
Dec 14, 2014
Bakunin marked it as to-read
Nov 11, 2014
Jim marked it as to-read
Nov 11, 2014
Adam marked it as to-read
Oct 28, 2014
Ethan marked it as to-read
Oct 25, 2014
Josh Watkins
Josh Watkins marked it as to-read
Oct 24, 2014
Dipankar marked it as to-read
Oct 23, 2014
Ian Pagan-Szary
Ian Pagan-Szary marked it as to-read
Oct 06, 2014
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Curriculum Vitae: Autobiography
  • A Sort Of Life
  • Bill Bruford - The Autobiography: Yes, King Crimson, Earthworks and More
  • The Life of Graham Greene, Vol. 1: 1904-1939
  • Take Five
  • The Plains
  • Moment of Freedom: The Heiligenberg Manuscript
  • The Flight of Icarus
  • Yesterday, at the Hotel Clarendon
  • The Abyss of Human Illusion
  • The Beetle Leg
  • Now and Then: A Memoir of Vocation
  • Dark Carnival: The Secret World of Tod Browning, Hollywood's Master of the Macabre
  • Bronx Primitive: Portraits in a Childhood
  • Other People's Houses
  • The Italics Are Mine
  • La Medusa
  • Remember To Remember
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 )

Share This Book

“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
More quotes…