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All Tomorrow's Parties: A Memoir

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  206 ratings  ·  38 reviews
Rob Spillman—the award-winning, charismatic cofounding editor of the legendary Tin House magazine—has devoted his life to the rebellious pursuit of artistic authenticity. Born in Germany to two driven musicians, his childhood was spent among the West Berlin cognoscenti, in a city two hundred miles behind the Iron Curtain. There, the Berlin Wall stood as a stark reminder of ...more
Hardcover, 344 pages
Published April 5th 2016 by Grove Press
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Average rating 3.70  · 
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Elyse  Walters
Jan 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
Update: In case you don't trust my word --(that this book is terrific), ...seems its noticed by 'somebody' other than me. (its hitting the Professional BIG WIG LISTS)....
Its been called out to be one of the.....
"Most Anticipated -Great 'Non-Fiction' books for 2016! (works, for me...I'd loved it!)

This was an engrossing memoir....REALLY ENJOYABLE!!!!!

Rob Stillman is editor and founder of *TIN HOUSE*...
a literary magazine, based out of Portland, Oregon....which has been honored dozens
plus awards f
Jul 22, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
What an excellent memoir. Several story threads that all come together at the end in not such a neat way. No lil ribbon tie-off. For memoir this book. Love the structure. He creates suspense with chapter endings and with a foreshadowing early on having to do with absinthe. He's coming on the show on Sept. 21, 2016 (Writers on Writing, KUCI-FM) and I can't wait to talk to him about the book. He's so on the page, as he should be, and if anyone's flawed, it's him--just as it should ...more
Júlíus Arnarson
Apr 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Very entertaining and intelligent. Makes you think about your life as you read the book. I had no idea who Spillman was, but now I know all the details. A book about life and how you live it (or should live it). His music interest almost took the book to 5 stars.
Fun and informative read about spillmans young life , his discovery of punk rock and new wave told simultaneously with his and his wife's long stay in east Berlin after the wall fell but before reunification Intelligent and fast paced and of course lots of book references. He didn't explain how tin house got started which disappointed , no pictures, no index no bibliography. But super fun epigrams. ...more
Lolly K Dandeneau
Feb 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"Of course I'm going to jump into the abyss. That's what I do- throw myself into the unknown."

Intimately revealing. The child of musicians who divorced when he was young, Rob grew up behind the Iron Curtain. Eventually he ended up in New York and longed to return to Germany when the wall came tumbling down. Here he chases a life that seemed to be promised from the time he was little and surrounded by the most worldly, creative people. That he became a writer, longs for a Bohemian existence, feel
Sep 17, 2016 rated it liked it
Rob Spillman (co-founder and editor of literary magazine Tin House) was born in Germany and raised in Berlin by his musician parents. There and back in the United States when his family (now divorced) returns, he grows up among artists and deep in the theater world. Eventually, Spillman finds his way to New York where he hungers to live the life of an artist which in his eyes means the life of Jack Kerouac or Hunter Thompson or something like that. As part of that search, he convinces his wife t ...more
Apr 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"Spillman captures the rawness of youthful artistic ambition eloquently and self-consciously, the "amplified emotions you only feel in your twenties, when you are wildly changeable." His seeking of authenticity and creative fulfillment, from latching on to early influences like Hunter Thompson to his disappointment in the debauched literary culture of 1980s New York, make for a melancholy but ultimately redemptive journey." - Lisa Butts, Full review at: ...more
Apr 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
I saw the author at a reading/signing and found him to be very interesting. I did like the book and appreciated how he went back and forth in time. I would recommend reading this book if you like memoirs.
Jul 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Aw, shucks. If that final chapter doesn't do you in after everything that came before it, you might not have a soul. ...more
Alex Rob
May 13, 2020 rated it did not like it
This book just isn’t good. I keep hanging in with all its self proclaimed profound coming of age tales, but its just descriptions of things. The author leans on bohemian nostalgia rather than writing that punches. I take it he is a star in the editing world but that’s probably what he should stick with.
Feb 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
In reading Rob Spillman’s coming-of-age memoir, I was reminded of something one of Don DiLillo’s characters said to describe another person in the recent New Yorker short story, “Sine Cosine Tangent.” “The vivid boy, she whispered. The shapeless man.” Indeed, Spillman seems to have had a vivid boyhood, characterized by living part time with each of his separated musician parents. He seems to have wanted to believe that his closeted gay father was a far more compelling figure than his mother, who ...more
Steve Weddle
Apr 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Rob Spillman’s All Tomorrow’s Parties is a memoir about identity, sure, but it’s also a story about belonging. Andrew Hudgins has a poem about a boy in a church pageant and the poem begins “A boy – ok, it’s me.” That’s the sense from reading Spillman’s magnificent book, a man telling a story about a character who is, who was, himself.

Spillman’s story moves between belongings: from Berlin to the states, from one divorced parent to the other, from artist to young man who doesn’t quite feel like an
Anne Martin
Apr 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley-arc
Rob Spillman has -so far had a fascinating life. Born to American expats on Fullbright scholarships, he was raised in Berlin at the time of the iron curtain. He came back to the U.S. with his divorced parents and lived in many different places, looking for "home". When the Perestroika got rid of the travel limitations and the two Berlins could be reunited, of course, Spillman wanted to go back. That is what he did in the very early nineties.
It is quite hard to describe Berlin after the second w
May 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I first met Rob around six years ago, and he's among the people I respect most in the literary community. He's an ambassador for the written word, and he's an outspoken advocate for equity within the industry. If he offers an opinion on a subject, I know to give it due consideration. So for all I've looked up to him, it's was really great reading this memoir and learning more about his human side, too.

All Tomorrow's Parties is a pair of parallel stories covering Rob's childhood and young adultho
Jan 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Gets off to a bit of a slow start as the author gets his feet under him, but it picks up nicely in the first few chapters. It's worth staying with it. It is impressive how he develops his emotional awareness, and you feel as though you are really following the path of a boy growing up and becoming a man. I'm often impressed with how authors can describe a series of very similar emotions in different ways. In this case, the author feels rage, lonliness, emotional detachment and fear of facing his ...more
Jason McKinney
Apr 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
You don't have to be a Tin House fan to enjoy Spillman's tale of his childhood in Berlin and Baltimore, followed by his growing up in his 20s in NYC and Berlin again. There's definitely some pretentiousness here and he does get a tad insufferable at times, but Spillman's writing and structure will win you over in the end. You'll also have an appreciation for his wife, who seems to have put up with quite a bit when they were first together. He's a talented writer though and has some great insight ...more
Mar 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I have never read a book quite like this one. I wanted not just to travel to the time periods and places Rob Spillman was living in, but to be in his shoes and inhabit his experiences. His lively, enrapturing prose made that nearly possible. Spillman has incredible insight; here is someone laying bare for you many of his youthful aspirations, mistakes, and acquired knowledge, always with the intent of expressing to the reader that a true artist’s calling, the chasing of a dream, is never easy, b ...more
Sidik Fofana
Aug 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
SIX WORD REVIEW: Fear and Loathing in the Berlins.

By the way, won this in a Goodreads Giveaway.
Nicole Marble
Jun 27, 2017 rated it did not like it
Supposedly about Berlin and reunification but more about teenage angst.
Taylor Lindsay
Sep 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This memoir is one of my favorite books.

In an early chapter, eight-year-old Robby sneaks a few U.S. Dollars in his sock from West to East Berlin with his father, an accomplice in purchasing cheap sheet music. “I came to crave this danger, savored it as much as my seemingly inexplicable survival – but quietly, the desire so surreptitious you’d never, ever know that about me.” It's like an intimate motif, this feeling, I saw it popping up through the whole book, and it made the whole experience o
Jul 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Spillman is a brilliant writer and this memoir of Berlin during its most interesting decade is worth the read. The best parts are set in the historical moment of wall coming down, East Germany opening up, and the several cultures colliding openly where all had been hidden before. The coming of age story also included resonated with me because my father was on a similar journey as Spillman's, but it reads as if the parties involved were still alive and Spillman was fearful of offending them. He h ...more
Jan 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
I'm a sucker for place as character and this book is full of 'em: Underground raves in Berlin, Aspen forests in Colorado, Portuguese fishing villages, Baltimore house parties, East Village dives. Ultimately, it's a passionate love story but along the way the passion extends to art, culture, travel, running, punk music and any number of other topics relevant to my interests, making it a thoroughly enjoyable read. ...more
Jay Hinman
Oct 22, 2019 rated it it was ok
Definitely found this one to be pretty inane, with loads of made-up witty dialogue and some pseudo-introspection that still positions Spillman to be more of a wildman than he actually was. I liked the locations and many of the setups but found so much of this to be rose-tinted memories that didn’t find a whole lot of purchase outside of the person who lived them.
Jul 10, 2018 rated it liked it
I liked this, but not wowed. Continually jumps back and forth between childhood/youth and his 20s, which wasn't all that hard to keep track of but was repeatedly jarring, particularly when each chapter could be as short as two or three paragraphs. ...more
Sep 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoirs
An engaging memoir about what it means to live a true artist’s life. I enjoyed the book as a whole, and was fascinated by the author’s experiences as an expat in the incipient days of the former East Germany. I loved the references to music, art and film throughout.
Jan 31, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 26-in-2016
I read this in galley via Netgalley, so I don't know how much the Kindle changed the formatting and how that affected my reading of it.

Spillman uses the occasion of living in post wall, pre unification East Berlin to reflect on his life from his birth to musician parents in Berlin (West), their split, his early childhood in Berlin, the return to the States, and his constant search for home. Neither of his parents seem able to provide this; home, he believes, is Berlin.

He returns as an adult wi
I eagerly awaited this book, because I'm such a fan of Tin House, and I've heard Rob Spillman talk about what he looks for in a story or essay, so my expectations were high. The more I knew about the book, the more I wanted to read it -- I too sought something more from my existence through art as a young person, I too suffered through parental vagaries, I too have a connection with Germany, and I too found my path through punk music and its offshoots.

The book took a while for me to get into --
Mar 17, 2016 rated it it was ok
I’m glad I read this book. The author is a writer and he tells the story of how he grew into that. He does it by alternating chapters - first his childhood, step by step across the years. The other chapters are in one brief period as a young adult. He and his wife and a friend (accompanied by other friends along the way) go to Europe, eventually arriving in Berlin (where he had lived in some of his childhood). They arrive in Berlin as the Wall is falling and in the in-between-time of the real o ...more
May 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Very good book. Excellent journey. The destination – not so much, and I will write about that, with spoiler warnings.

This is great involving reading. The journey, the struggle the author goes on. Descriptive, muscular detail. Berlin, Chautauqua, Aspen – musician parents. Back and forth between the past and a more current present.

I was very caught up in this and really loved it.

And then he ended it. Here's your spoiler alert. You can start reading after the second set of three asterisks:

*** What
Again, a book I didn't like or hate. I originally read the first chapter through the Buzz Books Spring/Summer 2016 release. That chapter was about being invited to an East Berlin rave being held under the Wall in an abandoned subway station. That was intriguing enough for me to track down the rest of the book. I kind of wish I hadn't.

The book alternates chapters between Rob's childhood in West Berlin/Rochester/Baltimore/Aspen, and his life in Portugal/East Berlin after the Wall came down but bef
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Rob Spillman is Editor and co-founder of Tin House, a sixteen-year-old bi-coastal (Brooklyn, New York and Portland, Oregon) literary magazine. He is the 2015 recipient of the PEN/Nora Magid Award for Editing as well as the 2015 VIDO Award from VIDA. Tin House is the recipient of the 2015 Firecracker Award for General Excellence and has been honored in Best American Stories, Best American Essays, B ...more

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