An Artist’s Memoir
University of Iowa Press / Sightline Books 2011
Finalist, William Saroyan International Prize
Peter Selgin was cursed/blessed with an unusual childhood. The son of Italian immigrants—his father an electronics inventor and a mother so good looking UPS drivers swerved off their routes to see her—Selgin spent his formative years scrambling among the hat factory ruins of a small Connecticut town, visiting doting—and dotty—relatives in the “old world,” watching mental giants clash at Mensa gatherings, enduring Pavlovian training sessions with a grandmother bent on “curing” his left-handedness, and competing savagely with his right-handed twin.
It’s no surprise, then, that Selgin went on from these peculiar beginnings to do . . . well, nearly everything. Confessions of a Left-Handed Man is a bold, unblushing journey down roads less traveled. Whether recounting his work driving a furniture delivery truck, his years as a caricaturist, his obsession with the Titanic that compelled him to complete seventy-five paintings of the ship (in sinking and non-sinking poses), or his daily life as a writer, from start to finish readers are treated to a vividly detailed, sometimes hilarious, often moving, but always memorable life.
In this modern-day picaresque, Selgin narrates an artist’s journey from unconventional roots through gritty experience to artistic achievement. With an elegant narrative voice that is, by turns, frank, witty, and acid-tongued, Selgin confronts his past while coming to terms with approaching middle age, reaching self-understanding tempered by reflection, regret, and a sharply self-deprecating sense of humor.
PRAISE FOR Confessions of a Left-Handed Man
“Peter Selgin is a born writer, capable of taking any subject and exploring it from a new angle, with wit, grace, and erudition. He has a keen eye for the telling detail, and a voice that is deeply personal, appealing, and wholly original. Fans of Selgin’s fiction will know they are in for a treat, and those who are new to his work would do well to start with this marvelous memoir in essays, his finest writing yet.”
— Oliver Sacks
“In this witty collection of autobiographical essays, Selgin (Drowning Lessons) clambers atop the building blocks of an artistic life to survey its attendant struggles and epiphanies. . . . Selgin deftly balances humor and tenderness throughout these life-affirming confessions.”
— Publishers Weekly Review
“Tawdry as [his] first love affair with literature may have been, how glad we are that Peter Selgin was tempted into it— and fell head over heels. Without such an addictive beginning, that boy may never have grown up to become a writer of such great substance.”
— NY Journal of Books Review
“The quirky, intelligent memoir of an artist and fiction writer . . . An engaging, original modern-day picaresque.”