What I Can't Bear Losing by Gerald Stern
Notes from a Life

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A time now almost lost—America and Europe of the 1940s and 1950s—indelibly recalled in prose pieces by a celebrated poet.

In a series of freewheeling rambles that combine autobiography and meditation, Gerald Stern explores significant and representative events in his life. He describes the dour Sundays of Calvinist Pittsburgh, punctuated by his parents' weekly battles. We have glimpses of him as a wilderness camp counselor, and later, having been declared 4-F, as a postwar draftee (a stint that includes jail). In the 1950s he savors the romance of Paris. Stern also tells of being shot in Newark—the bullet is still in his neck to prove it. Other scenes include being mistaken for Allen Ginsberg and encounters with Andy Warhol. And in the ineffably tender "The Ring," Stern recalls his mother's second engagement ring, "when they were a bit richer, if a bit broader and a bit more weary."

As in his poetry, Stern discovers his subject as he goes along, relishing that discovery and expanding on it. There is no other voice like Gerald Stern's, funny and reflective and opinionated—and forgiving.

About Gerald Stern

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Gerald Stern, the author of seventeen poetry collections, has won the National Book Award, the National Jewish Book Award, the Ruth Lilly Prize, and the Wallace Stevens Award, among others. He lives in Lambertville, New Jersey.
Published November 17, 2003 by W. W. Norton & Company. 272 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for What I Can't Bear Losing

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Yet, with ultimate tenderness, comes the taunting suggestion that we might have been better off in that jittery world poised on the brink of a half-century's Cold War.

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Kirkus Reviews

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National Book Award–winning poet Stern (Last Blue, 2000, etc.) brings the same renowned voice to prose, from a life that began in 1925 in what he recalls as the “Calvinist” Pittsburgh of his immigrant Russian parents.

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Project MUSE

In the course of the 20 autobiographical essays that comprise What I Can't Bear Losing, Gerald Stern ranges from recollection to meditation, from the personal to the political, and from the secular to the religious with characteristic energy.

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