Beg, Borrow, Steal: A Writer's Life

Beg, Borrow, Steal: A Writer's Life

by Michael Greenberg

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Overview

In Beg, Borrow, Steal Michael Greenberg regales us with his wry and vivid take on the life of a writer of little means trying to practice his craft or simply stay alive. He finds himself doctoring doomed movie scripts; selling cosmetics from an ironing board in front of a women's department store; writing about golf, a game he has never played; and botching his debut as a waiter in a posh restaurant.

Central characters include Michael's father, whose prediction that Michael's "scribbling" wouldn't get him on the subway almost came true; his artistic first wife, whom he met in a Greenwich Village high school; and their son who grew up on the Lower East Side, fluent in the language of the street and in the language of the parlor. Then there are Greenberg's unexpected encounters: a Holocaust survivor who on his deathbed tries to leave Michael his fortune; a repentant communist who confesses his sins; a man who becomes a woman; a Chilean filmmaker in search of his past; and rats who behave like humans and cease to live underground.

Hilarious and bittersweet, Greenberg's stories invite us into a world where the familial, the literary, the tragic and the mundane not only speak to one another, but deeply enjoy the exchange.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307740670
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/02/2010
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 5.17(w) x 7.99(h) x 0.71(d)

About the Author

A native New Yorker, Michael Greenberg is the author of the memoir Hurry Down Sunshine (Other Press, 2008), published in sixteen countries and chosen as one of the best books of 2008 by Time, the San Francisco Chronicle, Amazon.com, and Library Journal. He is a columnist for the Times Literary Supplement. His writing has appeared in such varied places as O, The Oprah Magazine and The New York Review of Books. He lives in New York.

Read an Excerpt

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. “Which do you think is worth more,” he once asked me, “a commodity or some goddamn idea?”

Among the family, my violent fights with him were famous. The last one occurred when I was fifteen. I followed him around the apartment, taunting him with a line from my latest poem, “Which do you think is worth more, flesh or steel?” At the end of his rope, he took a wild swing at me. I dodged it easily, hearing the crush of bone as his fist hit the wall. I fled the apartment, and when I returned, three days later, his hand was in a cast. “You have guts, but no common sense,” he said. “One cancels out the other. A total waste.”

A week later, I moved away from home, supporting myself with a night job in a bookstore.

Nevertheless, when I was in my early twenties, driving a cab, with a newborn son at home, my father offered me a chance to join the family business. “You get all the major holidays,” he said. “You quit work every day at five. And to make a living you don’t have to be a genius.” He seemed hurt when I turned him down. “Those notebooks you scribble in won’t get you on the goddam subway,” he said. He was right, and during the lean years that followed I sometimes imagined that he was eyeing me with satisfaction.

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