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

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  1,004 ratings  ·  106 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 learned t ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published May 28th 1996 by Vintage (first published 1995)
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Average rating 3.88  · 
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 ·  1,004 ratings  ·  106 reviews

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Debbie Zapata
Oct 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: saturdaymx
I have enjoyed every Salzman title I have read so far, and this one is no exception. We are treated to a sometimes hilarious, sometimes painful glimpse into the author's youth; full of the usual issues which swirl around humans as they (hopefully) learn to become who they are supposed to be in life.

Remember the overbearing sensei in the movie The Karate Kid? Salzman studied kung-fu for three years with a man who makes that character look like an angel. I could not believe the brutality of this
Cindy Dyson Eitelman
Nov 05, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2013-15
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
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.

Stephen Gallup
Jun 25, 2008 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
Jan 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
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, astr
Jul 23, 2007 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 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. ...more
Jan 12, 2011 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. ...more
Sep 10, 2007 rated it liked it
Nicely written memoir about Salzman's odd and goofy childhood. The characters ring true, and the absurdities made me smile. Worthwhile, though not as riveting as his True Notebooks. ...more
Nirjhar Deb
Jul 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
The spectacular autobiography, “Lost in Place: Growing Up Absurd in Suburbia”, written by Mark Salzman, is about how Mark’s life journey from a little boy absorbed in Kung-Fu into a mature, educated Yale graduate. Mark’s story starts off with how he developed a deep interest in becoming a Zen monk, a practitioner of the Chinese Kung-Fu Martial Arts techniques. Mark’s obsession was so extreme that he even donned a swimming cap and painted robes to make himself look like a Zen monk. One day, Mark’ ...more
Dec 04, 2017 rated it liked it
I liked it enough to finish it, and there are excerpts that I might recommend, but, overall, I think this suffered from the lack of a more engaging narrator - so it depended on content to make it enjoyable or not. Sometimes the content was interesting. Other times not so much. I also thought it veered rather strongly into privileged white male speak towards the end of the book, which was a big turnoff for me. I thought the dad was the best part, and I would have loved to get more of him and his ...more
Jul 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I very much enjoyed this book. It was a relatively light and easy read considering the depth of the questions involved. Generally, it was the story of Salman's life as he hopped from obsession to obsession–kung Fu, meditation, Chinese philosophy, painting, cello, marajuana, the meaning of life.

I picked it up randomly from a used bookstore, was drawn to the subtitle and the summary on the back, and am now definitely curious about the other books he has written.
Sep 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I so enjoy Mark Salzman (along with my newest discovery, Michael Chabon). They both speak to my own time frame, I guess. It was so interesting seeing his teenage years. Illuminates the strands that make up his stories. Ever since The Laughing Sutra I've been a big fan. ...more
Jan 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this novel. I identified with the author, a lot, which made it funs at times, and mildly embarrassing at others. The writing is great - life's big questions being asked by a teen, yet written down by an adult. ...more
Suzanne Ray
May 03, 2020 rated it liked it
Might be good for teen boys, but lost of language. Saltzman is searching for himself in martial arts and other eastern pursuits, and concludes that we must search for knowledge even though there really is none.
Jennifer Louden
Sep 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
I loved watching Salzman recount the childhood and the mind he has that has made him such a great writer. I also appreciated seeing where the themes of his work came from.
Dec 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Occasionally I laughed out loud at this memoir of a boyhood in Connecticut. There were stretches I found much less interesting, particularly the adolescent drug use and the obsession with Kung Fu.
Jan 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite books ever. Just a really funny memoir with some poignant moments.
Jun 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Ridgefield author
John Clements
Jun 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Fast and light but quite beautiful. Easy to pick up, easy to read, a vivid reminder of growing up in the 70s. It's also clear that Mark isn't quite the schlub that he presents himself as... ...more
Margie Harding
Jun 28, 2020 rated it liked it
The story line is great--- the language--- in places, really intense, in a bad kind of way!
Ellen F
Feb 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Screamingly funny! I just loved it. The author was so self-deprecating that I had to wonder what his contemporaries thought of him.
Jul 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
I'm not entirely sure how this ended up on a list of 1,000 books to read before you die, but that's not to say that it wasn't enjoyable and even, to an extent, rather profound. I did find myself laughing aloud multiple times, especially in the first half. And as a mother of a male child, I am grateful for the insight it provided into the teenage boy mind. ...more
Jul 27, 2020 rated it liked it
A wonderful memoir of growing up. Salzman's descriptions of his father, friend Michael, Sensei O'Keefe are delightful. I laughed aloud at his first marijuana experience.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 29, 2012 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
Jul 20, 2009 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 05, 2016 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 04, 2008 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 17, 2013 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
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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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