Having carved out a niche for himself with a regular column in The New York Times, Barry now trains his keen eye on his own story in Pull Me Up. The eldest of four children, he recounts his amusingly idiosyncratic childhood in a slightly off-kilter Irish-American clan of Deer Park, Long Island, including a father who believes in UFOs and a mother whose collection of seashells and garden statuary threatens to overtake the very refuge it guards.
But Barry’s youth gives way to a young adulthood when his career as a reporter begins to accelerate while his parents face financial setbacks and deteriorating health. Barry paints a tender but troubling portrait of his forbears. His mother faces lung cancer with quiet stoicism, nursing a beer and countless cigarettes by the blue light of the television. His father screams in agony from the bedroom upstairs, begging to be rid of the pain caused by the untreatable migraines he has endured for nearly 20 years.
But despite the obvious suffering — including his own bout with cancer inhs early 40’s– Pull Me Up is not a memoir of overwhelming heartbreak. Instead, Dan Barry delivers a story of poignant beauty and wry humor from the details of his suburban American family’s life, in true reportorial fashion.
New York Times
May 12, 2004 – Review by Wendy Wasserstein. “…In the flat world of parking lots, tract homes, yellow school buses and Little League, Mr. Barry has managed to find the richness of heart of a now oddly distant America.” Full Review
New York Times
May 16, 2004 – Review by Phillip Lopate. “I hope we can always celebrate a writer who, trying to make intelligent sense of life’s confusions, gives us a memoir that is witty, self-aware and peopled with strong characters. That’s the case withPull Me Up, by Dan Barry.” Full Review
New York Newsday
May 16, 2004 – Review by John Anderson. “A poetic personal memoir, a kind of “portrait of the journalist as a young man,” it’s full of eloquently restored memories and often rueful reminiscences about an Irish-inflected Long Island boyhood, the venial barbarity of an all-boys Catholic education, the emergence of a journalistic talent and a victorious bout with cancer…”
New Orleans Times-Picayune
Jun. 27, 2004 – Review by William C. Gibson. “We humans love to tell stories, and we tell them for all sorts of reasons — to instruct, to entertain, but mostly to help us make sense of the world around us. While all peoples have storytelling traditions, the Irish are, arguably, the best storytellers. In his new memoir, Pull Me Up, New York Times reporter and columnist Dan Barry shows that he is a worthy bearer of that heritage…”