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Young Man, Muddled

A Memoir

Robert Kanigel

248 pages
Bancroft Press

In this, his first memoir, celebrated biographer and non-fiction book author Robert Kanigel tells of “muddling” his way into adulthood, love, and a new life. The 1950s formed him first; then the 1960s got their grip on him.

His journey, rich in its sense of time and place, begins with his childhood in Brooklyn. After college, where he was trained as an engineer, he takes a job in Baltimore with a company he calls “the ammo lab”; the Vietnam War lurks just offstage all through this story. Though his work serves the military, Kanigel shows up for the March on the Pentagon, one of the first big anti-war rallies. Later, he meets Maura, a firebrand of a woman pursuing a doctorate in biology, who beckons him to Europe. He spends lonely months in Paris, unable to crack French. With Maura. he returns to Baltimore, forsakes engineering forever, and morphs into a writer – “not,” he says, “because I decided to become a writer, but because I began to write.” His first project is a series of essays he proposes on a whim to an underground newspaper; this one stark act sets him on a meandering, serendipitous path that no one, least of all himself, could have predicted.

Author Bio
ROBERT KANIGEL is the author of nine previous books, most recently Hearing Homer’s Song: The Brief Life and Big Idea of Milman Parry and, before that, Eyes on the Street, his biography of Jane Jacobs. He has received many awards, including a Guggenheim fellowship, the Grady-Stack Award for science writing, and an NEH Public Scholar grant. His book The Man Who Knew Infinity was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; it has been translated into more than a dozen languages and was the basis for the film of the same name starring Jeremy Irons and Dev Patel. Kanigel and his wife, the poet S. B. Merrow, live in Baltimore, Maryland.