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Beg, Borrow, Steal: A Writer's Life    by Michael Greenberg order for
Beg, Borrow, Steal
by Michael Greenberg
Order:  USA  Can
Other Press, 2009 (2009)
* *   Reviewed by Deb Kincaid

Michael Greenberg currently pens a column for the Times Literary Supplement, and has written for the entertainment industry. You may remember him as the author of the moving memoir, Hurry Down Sunshine, about his teenage daughter's mental illness. Now he writes about his struggle to find time to write. But this memoir is different. The focus is less about writing, but more about life, his life - as a writer. Beg, Borrow, Steal: A Writer's Life is a collection of essays about vivid periods or forces imprinted on Greenberg's memory. But, writing is the thread running through it.

A derisive father and unsupportive family led to his leaving home at fifteen. Soon, with wife and children to support, he took on various jobs while carving out bits of time to write. Native New Yorker Greenberg contemplates his Jewishness or lack of it, and the obligations of immigrant ancestry, business ownership, and family. Greenberg's quiet tenacity, steady resilience, and his belief in his ability underscore the truth that only the rare writer achieves success right out of the gate; the rest have a long, hard road. Greenberg writes concisely, with masterful utilization of subtext and understatement.

Some of Greenberg's 44 essays are poignant, some sad, some wry. None of them are sentimental or vitriolic. Yet, melancholy suffuses the collection. Unlike many memoirs, this one doesn't tie up loose ends, doesn't draw weighty conclusions, doesn't even document a profound philosophic journey. What it does is give us glimpses of the inner person of Michael Greenberg, revealed in the context of the characters and events of his life. We may, however, see glimpses of ourselves as well.

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