Monday, September 28, 2009

Beg, Borrow, Steal - And Win!

MY OLD MAN was like Zeus's father Cronos: he couldn't bear the idea that any of his children might surpass him. Life radiated from the central pulse of his scrap-metal yard; the world beyond it seemed to make him defensive and nervous. Self-conscious about his lack of formal education, he took my bookishness as a personal affront. "What do you think is worth more," he once asked me, "a commodity or some goddamn idea?"

So is the theme established in Beg, Borrow, Steal - A Writer's Life (Other Press), the second book out by Michael Greenberg, This small treasure of 45 small, tightly woven tales of living a writer's life in the literary Valhalla of New York City quietly astoundone of my favorite memoirists. Less stories than vignettes, these slices of life are sensuous and bittersweet, tied together by a ribbon of yearning: for pasts, for compromises, for paths not chosen.

Last January, I selected Greenberg's memoir Hurry Down Sunshine to kick-off my debut author/Indy press review series. As with that book, the atories enthrall. Each chapter transports the reader to the intricacies of a life observed, one lived to follow his inner calling -- writing -- and the strugggles, mishaps, joys, and humor in keeping the integrity of that calling.

As a reader, what I love about Beg, Borrow, Steal is the total immersion in the physical environment that is New York; even as an outsider, the clamor of the family scrap metal business, the view of the Hudson from a derelict writing studio window, suffering the plague of rats, the rumble of the subway plunging through the bowels of the city all feel familiar. This world pores through his words, makes it real and vivid as a photograph, all told with economy and elegance. Which is why I love this book as a writer -- the prose, so tight, so bare of uneccessary words, yet so evocative.

Most of all, Greenberg provides flashes of making a living and a life as a writer, from selling counterfeit cosmetics from a vending cart to ghost-writing to sabotaging his own screenplay after being screwed by the director. All for the love of words. Read this book if you love New York, if you love excellent writing, if you are a writer.

Want your own copy of Beg, Borrow, Steal? Here's how. In 100 words or less relate how you have begged, borrowed, or stolen to live your dream. Leave your comment here or send your response to me via drwasy (at) gmail (dot) com. Put Beg, Borrow, Steal in the subject line. I'll swirl all answers in my magic hat and draw a random winner on October 15. PLUS... I'll publish the best five answers in a separate blog post.

Peace, Linda


  1. Oooh, sounds like a gem, Linda! You know how I love a vivid setting!

  2. that's all well and good on the give away and all, but I can not put it into words...on accounta that may be (I say may be) admitting to a crime of some sort not that I would commit one. not that there's anything wrong with that, okay so may be there is but I'm not saying that.

    Nice review.

  3. Greta, I thought of you when reading several passages. You and I both love to wallow in descriptives, but Greenberg paints his pictures with restraint, yet somehow conveys the feeling of lushness. Good stuff.

    Paige, I can always post yours as anonymous ;^) Like poetry, take the theme in any direction you wish... Peace, Linda

  4. Begging is definitely my favorite method. Most of the time it has involved begging off work for time to write, begging fiance/family members for time alone to write, or borrowing someone else's time while they read my manuscript and give me feedback.

    I have a wonderful cousin who always takes my calls at 3 in the morning if I have writer's block and patiently listens to my writerly woes. But the time is borrowed. She calls me in the middle of date night sometimes!

  5. Reesha, thanks for visiting! Begging is my favorite of the three as well, though I do steal time from sleep. May I adopt your cousin? Peace, Linda

  6. To live my dream? That's a toughy. I'm not sure I can come up with one that rises to that standard. I used to borrow my sister's Volkswagon fastback, when I was a kid. Learned how to drive a stick on that. What a blast. Not exactly a life altering experience, but I had fun.

  7. I very much liked your description. Lovely.

  8. Hi Linda,

    Please put my name in the hat. I need all the info on memoirs I can get and this sounds like a good one.

    Peace (I wish)
    Mary E. Ulrich