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In Firebird, Mark Doty tells the story of a ten-year-old in a top hat, cane, and red chiffon scarf, interrupted while belting out Judy Garland's "Get Happy" by his alarmed mother at the bedroom door, exclaiming, "Son, you're a boy!"

Firebird presents us with a heroic little boy who has quite enough worries without discovering that his dawning sexuality is the Wrong One. A self-confessed "chubby smart bookish sissy with glasses and a Southern accent," Doty grew up on the move, the family following his father's engineering work across America-from Tennessee to Arizona, Florida to California. A lyrical, heartbreaking comedy of one family's dissolution through the corrosive powers of alcohol, sorrow, and thwarted desire, Firebird is also a wry evocation of childhood's pleasures and terrors, a comic tour of American suburban life, and a testament to the transformative power of art.

Topics: Family and Alcoholism

Published: HarperCollins on Oct 13, 2009
ISBN: 9780061860829
List price: $10.39
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Mark Doty recalls his childhood years from the late 1950s and into 60s and 70s. The second child, his sister much older, he is a chubby, bespectacled, sissy American boy born of the South. His father is an engineer and the nature of his work means they are constantly on the move. His mother, who never works, makes the best of this sometimes pursuing her interest on art and giving attention to Mark's education in the arts. But it is not an easy life for Mark, aware that he is different - he loves dressing up but hates sports and games - he is at times the object of ridicule, although occasionally he finds himself and and then blossoms - until family intervention of the next move sets him back again.Mark's troubled childhood finds not easy solution, and matters will get worse before he eventually finds his feet. He speaks honestly about his feelings, his father, his mother who eventually deteriorates, and his growing awareness that he is gay - and that that is not what he is supposed to be; usually the memories are factual, but sometimes they are just impressions, and these are perhaps even more revealing.Mark Doty's childhood was far from idyllic, and his account is often moving, even heartbreaking. In addition it is full of insightful observations, but what makes it truly memorable if the quality of the writing, it is most beautifully expressed, the result is a thoroughly involving and thought provoking read.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
How well do we know others? Our family, our friends, ourselves? How do we perceive each of these? Through a glass, darkly, or through a perspective box, in a way like an artist. From the opening page of Mark Doty's poetic memoir, Firebird, the theme of art is present. First it appears in a description of the famous "perspective box" of the Seventeenth-century Dutch painter Samuel Van Hoogstraten. Then as the narrative continues the artistic view and way of life is a theme that provides a way to understand the many colors of Mark's life from his early years to his middle age. He says that "I believe that art saved my life." Whether in the fourth-grade art class or when his poetry first received professional recognition from the surrealist poet who gives of himself to a shy young teenage poet; introducing him to the world of poetry and to an artistic family that, like Kurt Weill's The Threepenny Opera provides a haunting image of what a family could be but his is not.It is his family that provides much of the drama of this portrait of a young artist, with a passive/aggressive father who cannot hold on to a job and insists on denuding a teenage Mark's head of its long hair or his mother whose addictive personality leads to storms of emotion so harsh and frequent that Mark "can feel when the storms are brewing" and makes himself scarce, exploring various methods of easing his tension from hashish to transcendental meditation.I was moved by his gradual recognition and acceptance of his sexuality and the blooming of the artist that would eventually win prizes for his poetry. He withstood the fire of the pressures from his family and grew into a successful artist and firebird who watches his own life emerge like a dream from the elements that made it his own.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Having not known Doty as a poet, this memoir was intriguing however a little slow moving. I was interested in the dramatic and almost macabre childhood he had, but some of the memoir was too much.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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Reviews

Mark Doty recalls his childhood years from the late 1950s and into 60s and 70s. The second child, his sister much older, he is a chubby, bespectacled, sissy American boy born of the South. His father is an engineer and the nature of his work means they are constantly on the move. His mother, who never works, makes the best of this sometimes pursuing her interest on art and giving attention to Mark's education in the arts. But it is not an easy life for Mark, aware that he is different - he loves dressing up but hates sports and games - he is at times the object of ridicule, although occasionally he finds himself and and then blossoms - until family intervention of the next move sets him back again.Mark's troubled childhood finds not easy solution, and matters will get worse before he eventually finds his feet. He speaks honestly about his feelings, his father, his mother who eventually deteriorates, and his growing awareness that he is gay - and that that is not what he is supposed to be; usually the memories are factual, but sometimes they are just impressions, and these are perhaps even more revealing.Mark Doty's childhood was far from idyllic, and his account is often moving, even heartbreaking. In addition it is full of insightful observations, but what makes it truly memorable if the quality of the writing, it is most beautifully expressed, the result is a thoroughly involving and thought provoking read.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
How well do we know others? Our family, our friends, ourselves? How do we perceive each of these? Through a glass, darkly, or through a perspective box, in a way like an artist. From the opening page of Mark Doty's poetic memoir, Firebird, the theme of art is present. First it appears in a description of the famous "perspective box" of the Seventeenth-century Dutch painter Samuel Van Hoogstraten. Then as the narrative continues the artistic view and way of life is a theme that provides a way to understand the many colors of Mark's life from his early years to his middle age. He says that "I believe that art saved my life." Whether in the fourth-grade art class or when his poetry first received professional recognition from the surrealist poet who gives of himself to a shy young teenage poet; introducing him to the world of poetry and to an artistic family that, like Kurt Weill's The Threepenny Opera provides a haunting image of what a family could be but his is not.It is his family that provides much of the drama of this portrait of a young artist, with a passive/aggressive father who cannot hold on to a job and insists on denuding a teenage Mark's head of its long hair or his mother whose addictive personality leads to storms of emotion so harsh and frequent that Mark "can feel when the storms are brewing" and makes himself scarce, exploring various methods of easing his tension from hashish to transcendental meditation.I was moved by his gradual recognition and acceptance of his sexuality and the blooming of the artist that would eventually win prizes for his poetry. He withstood the fire of the pressures from his family and grew into a successful artist and firebird who watches his own life emerge like a dream from the elements that made it his own.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Having not known Doty as a poet, this memoir was intriguing however a little slow moving. I was interested in the dramatic and almost macabre childhood he had, but some of the memoir was too much.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I think I've really liked every book I've read by Doty; somehow I missed this one till now. His writing is so beautiful; his memories so poignant and acute.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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