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Friday, September 11, 2009

Beg, Borrow, Steal: A Writer's Life by Michael Greenberg

Beg, Borrow, Steal: A Writer's Life
Publisher: Other Press
ISBN: 159051341X
Pages: 232 pgs
Genre: Memoir
Challenges-Read’n’Review Challenge, 100+ Reading Challenge

Publisher's Description:

To the literary elite, Michael Greenberg has always been known for his trenchant and moving columns that appear biweekly in the Times Literary Supplement. But when critics hailed his memoir Hurry Down Sunshine as a classic, Greenberg became a household name. Beg, Borrow, Steal is an autobiography in installments, set in New York, where the author depicts the life of a writer of little means trying to practice his craft, or simply stay alive. He finds himself writing about golf, a game that he never played; doctoring doomed movie scripts; driving trucks and taxis; selling cosmetics from an ironing board in front of a women’s department store; and botching his debut as a waiter in a coveted five-star restaurant.

Central characters include the City of All Cities; Michael’s father, whose scrap metal business looms large; his elegant mother; his first wife, Robin, whom he met in a Greenwich Village high school; their son, Aaron, who grew up on the Lower East Side; a repentant communist who fought in the Spanish Civil War; a Chilean filmmaker in search of his past; rats who behave like humans; beggars who are poets; a man who becomes a woman; and a woman who prefers to live underground. Greenberg creates a world where the familial, the incongruous, the literary, the humorous, the tragic, and the prosaic not only speak to each other, but deeply enjoy the exchange.

Praising Greenberg and his column in the New York Times, Rachel Donadio wrote: “Imagine The Talk of the Town as if written byDostoyevsky.” This is an entirely original book, whose writing ismagical and whose insights are deceptively profound.

My Review:

This was one of the books I knew I would love the minute I picked it up. It did not disappoint. I absolutely loved it and bumped Greenberg's other book, Hurry Down Sunshine, higher on the TBR O'Doom.

Beg, Borrow, Steal is most definitely a New York book. Every chapter just breathes the city I love and live in. The chapter about the subway was like a scene out of my life. The people you share a subway car with are probably the most interesting people you will ever meet and you only get a snapshot of their life. You only get to know what they are reading, listening to, wearing at that specific moment and then they are gone and you forget about them. That is the magic of New York. You meet close to 10,000 people everyday and don't remember any of them.  It was very interesting and eye opening to see my city through the eyes of a talented writer who can see things better than I can.

This novel is little more than snapshots. Every chapter is like the flash of a camera or a blink of an eye. Images that take a second to fade away before the next one appears. It was a little jarring when I first got into the book but as I got used to it, it really began to make sense. Greenberg captured the little things that shape the writer's eye. I have always wanted to see things through a writer's eye and this book definitely accomplished that.

Beg, Borrow, Steal is an excellent book. It is well-written and engaging. I would recommend that anyone with literary ambitions pick up this book.
*A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher for review. My opinion is my own and has not been influenced in any way and any monies made from associate or affiliate accounts are recycled back into the blog.


  1. Sounds like a wonderful book.

    Stop by when yo get a chance and pick up an award.

  2. [...] Collins 54. Hunter: A Novel-Campbell Jefferys 55. Falling Into the Sun: A Novel-Charrie Hazard 56. Beg, Borrow, Steal: A Writer’s Life-Michael Greenberg 57.The Holy Bullet-Luis Miguel Rocha 58. To Serve Them All My Days-R.F. [...]



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