Searching for Amylu Danzer

 Publication: March 15th, 2021

£17.99

Introduction by Pam Durban

On the afternoon of February 24th, 1965, Amylu Danzer, a twenty-year-old art student who’d been visiting Jones Beach on Long Island, went missing. A month later, her body was swept ashore some sixteen miles away, at Far Rockaway.

In this tender, courageous, artfully structured and engagingly written memoir, the writer and photographer John Rosenthal looks back on his youthful friendship with Amylu, and, drawing on multiple sources, seeks to answer some of the questions which have haunted him ever since he first learned of her death, now half a century distant.

Pam Durban observes in her introduction that one of the great pleasures of this book … is the pleasure of traveling with the writer as he traces how the boy who knew Amylu … and the young man who lost her became the man who remembers her now. It’s the pleasure of watching something take shape that works like memory itself, tracking back and forth between now and then, picking up images and events and ‘questions posed and unanswered’ by his life and Amylu’s and fitting them into the developing mosaic that I’m calling a story. It is the pleasure of watching him question and doubt, and wish he could correct his younger self.

Searching for Amylu Danzer is a truly affecting book—a book, as Durban says, of lingering power and grace. Not the least of its achievements is to ensure that, however short her life was, Amylu Danzer will not be counted as one of those which have no memorial … and are become as though they have never been born.

Coming Soon

ISBN: 978-1-911379-02-7 Extent: 184pp Category:

Searching for Amylu Danzer

Relying on his memory of a dear friend, John Rosenthal has composed a once-in-a-lifetime reading experience. Searching For Amylu Danzer is funny, direct, and tantalizingly oblique; Rosenthal’s dramatic study of his relationship with Amylu—and with his memory of her—is smooth, clear, and suspenseful. He masterfully shuffles time and event while weaving together photographic art, memoir, and novelistic technique. This book will knock you down in the way great books are supposed to knock you down. Skip it only if you’ve never lost someone you loved. — Clyde Edgerton, author of The Floatplane Notebooks and Walking Across Egypt

Photographer and prose poet, John Rosenthal has written an account of two lives braided together in late childhood, where only one, the author, survives to reach adulthood and beyond, burdened and mystified by a loss 50 years old, never to be fully absorbed, forever unclosed. While not Proustian in style, this tender memento mori aims and succeeds at recovering a lost place and time, a decade when ‘Wake Up, Little Susie’ gave way to ‘Desolation Row.’ — Jean McGarry, author of No Harm Done and Ocean State

As in all great life writing, the central drama in John Rosenthal’s unforgettable memoir, Searching for Amylu Danzer, is not between self and other, but within the narrator, between a recollecting self whose horizon of vision is wide, and a recollected self whose horizon of vision is narrow. While the story of his friend’s mental instability and eventual death infuse the book with all the suspense of a page turner, the real subject of this amazing story is not Amylu but Rosenthal himself, how it is he became the writer who could tell this story with such compassionate understanding, not just for Amylu, but for himself, for the young person that he was, of that time and that place. — Alan Shapiro, author of Against Translation and Reel to Reel

Whatever it is—memoir, novel, extended prose poem, elegy—it’s a beautiful book. Not a false note anywhere. Things are as they are, sometimes beautifully, sometimes sadly, sometimes simply factually. The point and pointlessness of life conjoined, as in the chance, contingent whorls of the driftwood surfaces. It left me exhilarated and depleted. — Jay Tolson, editor of The Hedgehog Review and author of Pilgrim in the Ruins: A Life of Walker Percy

This short book feels like something perfect. Its impossible ambition is to understand the vagaries of time and memory and loss, and in that enterprise captures something even more important, the essence of friendship: our desire to understand each other. I loved it. — Daniel Wallace, author of Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions

 

from the opening chapter of Searching for Amylu Danzer

 

Where Are You?

Broadway was like a river running through the Upper West Side. It swept up everything, spare vacuum cleaner parts, first editions, maybe Amy.
Amylu Danzer was missing.
A flock of pigeons flew above the campus heading to the garbage cans of Broadway. Mounds of snow lay curbside covered in soot and dog piss. Across the river, the snowy clefts of the Palisades.
I tried to extract Amy out of the cold, thin air. I looked for a slant of shoulder, pitch of head, something coltish and familiar. In junior high school Amy had been my first real girlfriend and I was her first boyfriend. We’d lived on Long Island in the small Great Neck village of Lake Success. What had mattered then? The Prophet. Clearasil. Our forty-five collections. One night I’d called the Alan Freed Show on WINS and dedicated “A Rose and a Baby Ruth” to Amylu.
Now she was twenty. A junior at the Rhode Island School of Design.
She was one of the five people in the world I’d recognize in a crowd.
My oldest friend.
Was she looking for me?
I can still hear my mother’s voice that February morning: “Johnny, I just got off the phone with Amylu’s mother. She wanted to know if you’ve heard from her. It seems that Amylu has disappeared.”
Disappearing: a magician’s trick. It meant nothing.
She also told me this: that last week Amy’s parents had received a call from a staff psychologist at RISD who told them that Amy had stopped talking and needed to take a medical leave-of-absence; that three days ago her parents drove to Providence, packed up Amy’s belongings, and brought her back to Great Neck; that yesterday Amy suggested that she and her mother drive to Jones Beach to sketch; that after an hour Amy walked up the beach with her sketch pad and never returned.
The state police found no sign of her.
No one has heard from her since.

 

Excerpts

from the opening chapter of Searching for Amylu Danzer

 

Where Are You?

Broadway was like a river running through the Upper West Side. It swept up everything, spare vacuum cleaner parts, first editions, maybe Amy.
Amylu Danzer was missing.
A flock of pigeons flew above the campus heading to the garbage cans of Broadway. Mounds of snow lay curbside covered in soot and dog piss. Across the river, the snowy clefts of the Palisades.
I tried to extract Amy out of the cold, thin air. I looked for a slant of shoulder, pitch of head, something coltish and familiar. In junior high school Amy had been my first real girlfriend and I was her first boyfriend. We’d lived on Long Island in the small Great Neck village of Lake Success. What had mattered then? The Prophet. Clearasil. Our forty-five collections. One night I’d called the Alan Freed Show on WINS and dedicated “A Rose and a Baby Ruth” to Amylu.
Now she was twenty. A junior at the Rhode Island School of Design.
She was one of the five people in the world I’d recognize in a crowd.
My oldest friend.
Was she looking for me?
I can still hear my mother’s voice that February morning: “Johnny, I just got off the phone with Amylu’s mother. She wanted to know if you’ve heard from her. It seems that Amylu has disappeared.”
Disappearing: a magician’s trick. It meant nothing.
She also told me this: that last week Amy’s parents had received a call from a staff psychologist at RISD who told them that Amy had stopped talking and needed to take a medical leave-of-absence; that three days ago her parents drove to Providence, packed up Amy’s belongings, and brought her back to Great Neck; that yesterday Amy suggested that she and her mother drive to Jones Beach to sketch; that after an hour Amy walked up the beach with her sketch pad and never returned.
The state police found no sign of her.
No one has heard from her since.