Omaha Blues

A Memory Loop

Joseph Lelyveld

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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The profoundly moving family history of one of America's greatest newspapermen.

As his father lies dying, Joseph Lelyveld finds himself in the basement of the Cleveland synagogue where Arthur Lelyveld was the celebrated rabbi. Nicknamed "the memory boy" by his parents, the fifty-nine-year-old son begins to revisit the portion of his father's life recorded in letters, newspaper clippings, and mementos stored in a dusty camp trunk. In an excursion into an unsettled and shakily recalled period of his boyhood, Lelyveld uses these artifacts, and the journalistic reporting techniques of his career as an author and editor, to investigate memories that have haunted him in adult life..

With equal measures of candor and tenderness, Lelyveld unravels the tangled story of his father and his mother, a Shakespeare scholar whose passion for independence led her to recoil from her roles as a clergyman's wife and, for a time, as a mother. This reacquired history of his sometimes troubled family becomes the framework for the author's story; in particular, his discovery in early adolescence of the way personal emotions cue political choices, when he is forced to choose sides between his father and his own closest adult friend, a colleague of his father's who is suddenly dismissed for concealing Communist ties.

Lelyveld's offort to recapture his family history takes him on an unforeseen journey past disparate landmarks of the last century, including the Scottsboro trials, the Zionist movement, the Hollywood blacklist, McCarthyism, and Mississippi's "freedom summer" of 1964. His excursion becomes both a meditation on the selectivity and unreliability of memory and a testimony to the possibilities, even late in life, for understanding and healing. As Lelyveld seeks out the truth of his life story, he evokes a remarkable moment in our national story with unforgettable poignancy.

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Book Excerpts

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  Omaha Blues
1MEMORY BOYLong before I taught myself to hold them at a safe distance, my parents called me “the memory boy.” If once I knew what they meant by that, the memory boy has long since forgotten, shedding memories and the stories behind pet phrases as so much extra baggage. The tag may have had something to do with my inability to forget the lyric of any song I heard as a child. But what I think it really described was a knack for recalling names and the order in which things happened : where we went on those rare occasions we went anywhere as a family, who we saw,

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Reviews

Praise for Omaha Blues

"At once controlled and absolutely direct, an astonishing journal of personal discovery that explores--at the exact place where the two intersect--both a powerfully affecting family history and a political history of the most complex kind." --Joan Didion

"Joseph Lelyveld has told a fascinating story--the story of his youth and of his parents' tormented marriage--with an unflinching and very touching honesty that makes this memoir riveting and poignant." --Robert Caro

"Omaha Blues is a beauty of a memoir--scrupulous, and beautifully written." --Ward Just

"In this compact and gracefully written memoir, Joe Lelyveld interrogates the adult mysteries and evasions that circumstanced his young life. His treatment of the effects of passionate political allegiances on personal relationships goes deep. The revised portraits he arrives at, of others and himself, are acute but forgiving. Omaha Blues is a triumph of retrospection. The book will be a classic." --Norman Rush

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About the Author

Joseph Lelyveld

Joseph Lelyveld's career at The New York Times spanned nearly four decades and included stints as a correspondent in London, New Delhi, Hong Kong, and Johannesburg. He also served as the paper's foreign editor, managing editor, and, from 1994 to 2001, executive editor. He is the author of Move Your Shadow: South Africa, Black and White, which won the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 1986. He lives in New York.

Joseph Lelyveld

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Available Formats and Book Details

Omaha Blues
A Memory Loop
Joseph Lelyveld

e-Book Agency

e-Book Agency
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
March 2006
e-Book Agency
ISBN: 9781429931625
ISBN10: 1429931620
240 pages, 24 Black-and-White Illustrations
$7.99

Trade Paperback

Trade Paperback
Picador
March 2006
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9780312425104
ISBN10: 0312425104
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches, 240 pages, Includes 25 halftones throughout
$17.00
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From The Publisher

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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