Reviews and Interviews

You Think It Strange – Advance Comments on Publication of US Edition

Back to Review Summaries

“Dan Burt is a fine poet, and this memoir has all the sensitivity and vigilance you might expect from a writer with such a background. But his prose also has a robustness and documentary power that continually startles and engages. As it combines these things, You Think It Strange catches the strangeness of the world and makes it familiar.” - Andrew Motion

“Here are the broken contours, and vivid, vigilant prose, of a classic American life-story. You Think It Strange hauls up from the past Dan Burt’s upbringing in South Philadelphia. It depicts with unflinching clarity the immigrant experience of Jews from the Pale, the crime families in the Tenderloin, into one of which he was born, long hours of child labour, school, college, early love affairs, drag racing, dangerous fishing expeditions, a car crash, paralysis and recovery. It's a hard-edged, often violent story, unsparing about human nature, but through it shine Burt’s determination, intelligence, and the graft and craft of writing.” - John Kerrigan, Professor of English 2000, University of Cambridge

“There is nothing cozy about Dan Burt’s Jewish roots or the family of gangsters his mother came from. Yet this extraordinary memoir is far more than the story of his escape from a brutal childhood in South Philadelphia. In the UK, Burt has a growing reputation as a poet who can strip away the protective skin from the face of a harsh world, and it is the precision of his language which engages us here, too. It is not a dispiriting book. When Dan Burt’s father was convalescing after surgery, he learned to fish, and Burt too learned to relish the clean beauty of the Atlantic. This memoir takes us through his life with the same intensity.” - Elaine Feinstein

You Think It Strange is a memoir told in a voice that is precise, vivid and eloquent. It is about a young life lived in the tough streets of South Philadelphia, a place where religious devotion overlapped with crime and blows were as readily exchanged as words. But this is not a victim's story. Its precisions of memory reveal a life open to contingency and chance where violence and love could strangely overlap. It is also a vivid portrait of an emerging writer who discovers an unexpected source of freedom in the imaginative power of words.” - Jon Cook, Director of Creative & Performing Arts, University of East Anglia

"Dan Burt’s poetry, like his prose, explores themes unusual in contemporary literature, using a language that is precise, nuanced and mordant. And he risks traditional forms, his sonnets and quatrains mastered and masterful. The reader learns to trust this uncompromising, illuminating imagination which sees what is rather than projecting a might or would be." - Michael Schmidt OBE FRSL, General Editor, PN Review