One Hundred Autobiographies
David Lehman (View Bio)
Hardcover: Cornell University Press, 2019.
"Poet and critic Lehman, who was treated for bladder cancer in 2014, brilliantly captures the despair, uncertainty, and anger he felt in these 100 short reflections on life, death, and writing. Likening his ordeal to the plot of a novel, he declares, “the road connecting memory and desire is not linear... one lesson of any brush with death is that time is finite.” He muses on why he writes: “I write to assert my will to live. To prove I exist.” Throughout, he reflects on literature and pop culture figures to tell his story: arriving at the hospital for treatment wearing his fedora, Lehman recalls the movie Some Came Running and Dean Martin’s hat, “which he wears even in bed, even in a hospital bed.” After reading John Milton’s Paradise Lost, Lehman ponders the concept of evil: “the real question is not whether you believe in god as such but whether you believe there is such a thing as evil.” In his final reflection, being in excellent health—though, like many cancer patients, he acknowledges that this might just be a reprieve—he advises that “even on bad days, there are pleasant hours,” and “it is amazing how much pain the body can withstand.” Lehman’s exquisite essays illustrate the ways that beauty can flow out of pain." — Publishers Weekly
"David Lehman’s One Hundred Autobiographies is the tale of his many lives, told with wit, insight and the gifts of a natural storyteller. While illness forces him to confront his own mortality and to recall the people and events who shaped him, there is no shutting out the banal soundtrack of everyday life. David is an eloquent, playful seeker of the truth who, when that treasure is too well hidden to be found, will settle for a good joke for the time being but never give up the search." — Robert Siegel, former host, "All Things Considered," NPR
"The micro-essays in David Lehman’s compelling book display a lively mind and livelier imagination in mortal combat with a frightening, debilitating illness. That Lehman wins this battle is no surprise. Neither is his unconquerable allegiance to the healing power of putting words together." — Robert Wilson, Editor, The American Scholar