Kirkus Review: Albert – An Autobiography
Novelist and true-crime writer Borowitz (Death Play, 2016, etc.) shares an autobiography that he wrote during a precocious adolescence.
The author, who was born in 1930, has written books and practiced law for decades, but this memoir doesn’t portray those years of experience and observation. Instead, it captures a young boy’s view of his own life; Borowitz says that he likely wrote it when he was about 13, possibly for a school assignment, and kept it ever since. After an opening that relates his family’s emigration from Central and Eastern Europe to Chicago, the author’s birthplace, he tells of his infant years and his development into an inquisitive child. As one might expect from a teen’s memoir, the book and its chapters are brief, favoring short observations over more intensive examination of the author or his surroundings. One chapter offers an account of his time as an ambivalent camper, surrounded by much more enthusiastic participants at Wisconsin’s Camp Menominee, while another describes the thrill of his first plane ride. Borowitz’s boyhood coincided with World War II, and he provides a unique, youthful perspective, sharing his confusion, for example, that a 1938 newspaper headline, “Nazi Escape from Justice Seen,” didn’t refer to a jailbreak. His authorial voice is often appealingly wry and self-aware, providing a funny portrait of a cautious, smart, and somewhat hapless child in a world of strong personalities. Borowitz writes charmingly of his first-grade art projects: “I had no respect for the anatomy of the body in my drawings, and my characters often appeared in positions which even contortionists would consider impossible.” The charm gradually lessens, however, during a lengthy closing chapter on the Borowitz family’s Mexico trip, which reads like a string of names and places, much like a student’s report on how he spent his summer. Overall, the book is clearly the work of a clever young writer, and it’s no surprise that Borowitz grew into a successful author. That said, it still essentially reads like a teenager’s school assignment, and therefore its target audience, beyond the author’s friends and family, is unclear.
An often charming but slight literary artifact, capturing a writer early in his career.