Return to homepage

Bookmark This Site
 
Search our site
BOOK REVIEWS
 
Send this page to a friendIncrease Font
Page DownBottom

FacebookRedditDeliciousDigg
Share this page
 

 
Issue:
12.05
 
Important dates

This Month...

Editor's Comment
Michael looks at:
Farewell, Shalom and Adieu

Being Jewish Magazine


see a .pdf copy of the current issue

Features
An Open Letter from Abba to His Family

Enough With The Political Finger-Pointing!

Revisiting the Haggadah

Eddy's Recipe List
Victoria Sponge

Book Review List

The Outspeaker
Encouraging violence is never correct

Batya
Good times and bad times with Batya


Marjorie Wolfe
An Interview with Paul Reiser

BC's Backlot
The Last Shalom

This And That
My Treasure Chest

Three Symbols of Passover

Stress

Lynn Ruth Miller
How we all became part of a bigger story

Mel Yahre
A few words for my friend

Eddy's Thoughts
Don't let life flutter by

The Bear Facts
How I found Michael

 
Unstrung Heroes 
by: Franz Lidz  
May-25-11

Anybody who followed the headlines in March 1947 about the discovery of the Collyer brothers’ bodies in their junk-jammed Harlem row house will recognize Lidz’ Uncle Arthur.

In fact, Franz’s father Sidney used to tell him stories about the Collyer brothers as a warning not to follow too closely in Arthur’s footsteps.

But all five Lidz brothers were a little unstrung: Arthur was a hoarder and collected shoelaces; Danny was paranoid; Sidney was both the designer of the first transistorized portable tape recorder and an obsessive punster; Leo declared himself the Messiah of Washington Heights in 1932; and Harry was a world boxing legend in his own mind.

“My uncles were smelly, screwy, astonishingly scrawny old guys who had abandoned everyday life. The world had packed away in a back closet, like old sweaters,” Lidz writes. “They still managed to pop up at the most inappropriate moments, subverting my mother’s insistence on good manners and personal hygiene, and making a joke out of my father’s cold, scientific detachment. As a boy I happily enlisted in their conspiracy against sanity. Now, as I write about these flickering men, I realize they kept me reasonably sane.”

What just about undid both Franz and his sister Sandy was their mother’s long death from cancer. Diagnosed when Franz was seven, Selma Lidz was given a year to live. She held on for five more years, long enough for her son to have a bar mitzvah.

But they were years of pain, chemotherapy, radiation, frequent hospitalizations and multiple surgeries. Terrifying experiences for children, especially ones with a father unable to be close or share his feelings.

Sidney, struggling with widowhood and single parenthood, charged into a second marriage with a narcissistic woman ill-equipped to parent two grieving stepchildren in addition to her own. Her need for exclusive attention was so great, she resented the letters that Sidney exchanged with his son.

What could have been a grim, bitter tale is touching, warm and insightful in Lidz’s hands. The two uncles he saw most often – Arthur and Harry – were unlikely role models in asserting oneself and one’s world vision against unwelcoming forces.

Lidz’ experience writing for Sports Illustrated, GQ, Men’s Journal, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Observer, AARP Magazine, Slate and the New York Times give him a light touch with a complex and painful story.

His other books include Ghostly Men (2003), about the Collyer brothers, and Fairway to Hell (2008), a memoir chronicling his adventures on golf courses with people like actor Bill Murray, the members of the band Judas Priest and a New England farmer who raised llamas as caddies.

Unstrung Heroes was turned into a movie of the same title, directed by Diane Keaton. Lidz wasn’t pleased by it. The book is entertaining and well worth the read.


© Jeannette M. Hartman 2011

Submitted by: Jeannette M. Hartman
Go back to the list
 
  Go to list      
   
Advertisement

Page UpTop Small Monitor Subscribe Tzedakeh Links

Subscribe (free) to the Gantseh Megillah. The Gantseh Megillah and GantsehMegillah.com are designed and hosted by HannaVisioN About this site Send a financial contribution to this site Contact us See our glossary of Yiddish words and expressions Log In Join
Personal insights from two yiddishe meydls Life stories from the heart News and information with a lighter touch Politics and policy with a Yiddishe taam