“Oh, lots. A whole Central Park Society. If
you’re a non-conformist, you should join us.
We thought about calling it the Antisocial Society.
But one of us used to be a shrink, and she
said that antisocial means you go around and
kill people, and none of us does that anymore.
You should think about visiting us. Unless you
have somewhere else to go back to. Did you really
kill your mother?”
I think for a moment because I want to answer
honestly. Then I tell him, “Yes and no.”
A naked, terminally ill man wanders into Central Park on a rainy n ight.
His final hours serve as a brilliant, extravagant, and often funny metaphor for
the trajectory of a life. When he strips off his clothes in the rain, he is born.
Every rambling step he takes through the paths of the park is a step through
life. He loses a mother, finds friends, a place in society, an overblown sense of
importance. He grows old, he dies. This book is about the mental acrobatics
we all employ to invent meaning for ourselves, and failing at that, to accept
narratives from the people around us. In the end the rationalized purposes
and grandiloquent arguments abandon him. But somehow—and this is the mystery—everything is worth it. Even the last meaningless moment is worth it.
"Graziano (God Soul Mind Brain), a Princeton professor of neuroscience, writes with intelligence, mischief, pace, and economy, and seems to care little about telling a story. He uses a whiff of outrageous plot—a naked, terminally ill man perches on a wall in Central Park—to bat around the big questions. “What is love? What is art?” he asks playfully, though not frivolously. There is a bit more plot when a helpful woman, mistaking him for a suicide case, falls from his perch to her death. This accident turns blame on the man and the flurry of activity that follows allows him to flee deeper into the park, all the better to join the fun and provocative discussions that constitute the bulk of this book. In a touch of irony, the philosophic circle with whom he discusses not just love and art but also religion and death (he calls them “the committee”), are a ragtag group of homeless people, given names like Chair Lady, Knee, Guitar, and Bottle Rat. The kind of entertaining and piquant talk that you hope to hear in your favorite bar or on cable TV, but almost never do."
Barnstable Patriot (review by Michael Lee)
A man, terminally ill with cancer, walks into Central Park on a rainy night and takes off his clothes. It’s doubtful this is the first time this scenario has occurred, but the surreal often rears its head in the fiction of Michael S.A. Graziano. Once we begin to meet the rest of the cast of characters, it becomes quickly apparent we’re going to learn something about human beings, and their philosophies. As with much of Graziano’s work, there’ll be some laughs along the way too.
Early on, we’re privy to the naked man’s thinking process:
“Maybe I can take up permanent residence. The Naked Park Walker. A New York installation for months, for years. I won’t need a job. I can ask the hot dog vendors for handouts and they would be happy to oblige me because of my advertisement value. If somebody asks, “Hey Naked Park Weird Pelvis Man, where’d you get that delicious looking chilly dog?” I can point back up the path and say, “Right there, Normal Everyday Man, see that yellow umbrella?”
Every book by Graziano that I review (and this is the third) reminds me more and more of Salvador Dali with a typewriter. He has a poet’s eye for the succinct; spare but not spare. His characters are all quirky, but underneath the impossibility of people in the park such as Chair Lady, Bottle Rat, Guitar, and Knee, springs an intelligence and humor that arrives unexpectedly.
Death My Own Way is also Graziano’s most internal in that there is a lot of conversation among the characters. If you’re looking for a whodunit or a few car chases followed by a fistfight, this is not the novel for you. However, if you’d enjoy your own place in the circle of this homeless tribe of sharp and inventive people, this slim novel will give you plenty to think about. The Naked Man’s soliloquy on the relationship between art and life is worth the price of entrance alone.
Bookfetish.org (review by Renee C. Fountain)
Michael S.A. Graziano is an interesting creature. A Princeton University professor of neuroscience by day, and a writer of strange and imaginative metaphorical literature the rest of the time...
There’s little question whether Graziano knows he’s dark and strange. It’s not like he’s happily writing then suddenly takes a quick left turn; no, Graziano’s quirkiness shines bright from the very first page.... Graziano takes eccentric to a whole new level.
In his latest endeavor, Death My Own Way, Graziano takes the reader on a journey through the eyes and experiences of a terminally ill man who completes the trajectory of life from birth to death in a single, rainy night in Central Park.
The intentions behind Graziano’s novels are up to interpretation and Death My Own Way is no exception. One potential lesson may be that despite the sentence life hands down, it’s what you do next that matters—the outcome may already be set, but how you get there is still up to you.
As always, Mr. Graziano’s writing delves deeper than mere words on a page. It urges people to navigate life with an open mind. Just because an idea or concept may come from an unlikely place, or someone believed to have less stature due to circumstance, doesn’t necessarily render that source less valid.
However you interpret his books, Michael Graziano continues to be a creative, intuitive writer, who possesses an incredibly distinct voice and ruggedly tactile prose that raises way more questions than it answers.