Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination

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Ted Solotaroff's First Loves: A Memoir carries forward the narrative begun in the widely praised Truth Comes in Blows, published in 1998. Where that book’s core was its portrait of Solotaroff's relationship with his father, First Loves is a portrait of marriage that is perhaps unique in its unremitting candor. It describes true love painted in the hues of emotional duress. Solotaroff's scrupulous willingness not to draw conclusions leads the reader on a painful and wondrous journey.

Solotaroff turns back to the earliest pages of his romance with Lynn, remembering his first sighting of her emerging from the water as if from a dream. Yet the image, as he penetrates the intervening layers of sorrow and disappointment, is almost impossibly distant, fragile. First Loves reenacts the blurring of a perfect conception in the mind of a man who would devote his life to precision of thought and word. This opposition, of romantic and intellectual passion, drives the narrative and eventually brings it to crisis.

First Loves could be described as a very private feat of honesty from a public intellectual. Solotaroff's willingness to admit the failures, personal and professional, alongside the triumphs of his career gives a three-dimensional intensity to the emotions on the page. Working with all of the gritty and romantic elements of his storied life, Solotaroff manages to avoid a tone too heroic or honey-dipped; he manages simply to tell the tale.

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“*First Loves is a beautiful, funny and finally heartbreaking story of love won and lost; it is also an unforgettable account of American culture in the post-War period . . . equally inspired by the muse of fiction and the muse of history, story under oath.”

“Ted Solotaroff joined the ranks of such artful autobiographers [as Tobias Wolff and Mary Carr] with Truth Comes in Blows. In First Loves his coming of age as a writer, student, teacher, husband and father is told with sensitivity and skill . . . and no less moving or artful for being true.”

“Meets the very high standard set by Alfred Kazin's Starting Out in the Thirties for describing a young man's intellectual coming-of-age with nuanced honesty and genuine emotion.”

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Born to working-class parents in Elizabeth, NJ, Ted Solotaroff (1928–2008) became one of the twentieth century’s most influential literary editors. An associate editor of Commentary and the editor of Bookweek, he also founded the literary journal New American Review (later American Review), and was a senior editor at HarperCollins, where he edited many of the prominent writers of his generation. Solotaroff’s pieces of literary and cultural criticism are collected in The Red-Hot Vacuum and A Few Good Voices in My Head. His first memoir, Truth Comes in Blows, won the PEN Martha Albrand Award. Solotaroff died in his home East Quogue, NY in 2008.