An Enlarged Heart, the exquisitely written prose debut from prize-winning poet Cynthia Zarin, is a poignantly understated exploration of the author’s experiences with love, work, and the surprise of time’s passage. In these intertwined episodes from her New York world and beyond, she charts the shifting and complicated parameters of contemporary life and family in writing that feels nearly fictional in its richness of scene, dialogue, and mood.
The writer herself is the marvelously rueful character at the center of these tales, at first a bewildered young woman, navigating the terrain of new jobs and borrowed apartments and the rapidly fading New York of people like Mr. Ferri, the Upper East Side tailor (“a wren of a man with pins flashing in his teeth”). By the end, whether Zarin is writing about vanished restaurants, her decades-long love affair with her collection of coats, a newlywed journey to Italy, a child’s illness, Mary McCarthy’s file cabinet, or the inner life of the New Yorker staff she knew as a young woman, this history of the heart shows us how persistent the past is in returning to us with entirely new lessons, and that there are some truths not even a tailor can alter.
Praise for An Enlarged Heart
“In gauzy yet substantial prose, Zarin (The Ada Poems, 2010, etc.) takes readers on a journey through a lifetime’s worth of homes, relationships and landscapes, displaying wry humor and an endearing sense of uneasiness with the tropes of memoir. Far from an exhibitionist’s tell-all, this collection instead grants us entry into the world of a private person, a woman who acknowledges that she is ‘entirely unsuited to selflessness’ and who doles out tantalizingly cryptic bits of personal information . . . . Pulses with a life force that illustrates why this poet ‘had also begun to love the shape that prose made in [her] head.’” —Kirkus Reviews
“Lustrously descriptive, complexly emotional, and exquisitely crafted personal essays . . . . acute observations and incisive reflections . . . Each episode is ensnaring, each setting scrupulously and atmospherically evoked in language silken and cut on the bias. But it is what she makes out of these reassembled remnants of memory that imbues this book with its lambent beauty and philosophical resonance.” —Booklist
“An Enlarged Heart is irresistible. In a series of elegant, piercing moments, Cynthia Zarin unleashes the immense power of the intimate, conjuring both the past and the present with brilliance and wit, transforming anecdote into art. These pages beat with precision, sorrow, color, strength and life.”
“Cynthia Zarin’s moving and beautiful memoir, An Enlarged Heart, accomplishes one of the rarer of literary feats—it locates the profound in the outwardly ordinary. Zarin masterfully reveals those significant emotional, moral, and aesthetic truths that tend to conceal themselves among everyday events, an act of camouflage so effective as to require a truly brilliant writer to show us the beauty and terror of that which has long been hiding, often in plain sight. An Enlarged Heart is a large book.” —Michael Cunningham
Cynthia Zarin was born in New York City and educated at Harvard and Columbia. The author of four books of poetry and five books for children, she is a longtime contributor to The New Yorker, as well as other publications, and a former contributing editor at Gourmet. Her awards and honors include a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, the Ingram Merrill Award for Poetry, the Peter I. B. Lavan Prize, a National Endowment of the Arts Award for Literature, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. She lives in New York City.