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Paperback Details
  • 11/2021
  • 979-8768644727 B09M4YKKML
  • 199 pages
  • $12.99
Michael Nanfito
Rotten Fruit in an Unkempt Garden
This is an unconventional memoir about an unconventional life. Told through poetry and a series of and prose "vignettes," this slender volume offers a view to a period of my life that no one (outside of my wife) knew anything about – until now. In the main, this is my effort to celebrate outsiders and outcasts who worked to reclaim their true Selves, the ones that polite society stole from them. I've taken some poetic license with parts of the timeframe and some events (I leave it to the reader to guess which bits I messed with), but my intersections with the individuals described here are all as accurate as can be, supported in large part by notebooks of essays and poetry written during that time. The period covered here focuses primarily on the years 1970 through 1981, with a nod to the aftermath of these events, culminating in a reflection on my situation in 1988.
Plot/Idea: 9 out of 10
Originality: 9 out of 10
Prose: 10 out of 10
Character/Execution: 8 out of 10
Overall: 9.00 out of 10


Plot/Idea: Nanfito’s spare, lyrical memoir is finely crafted and thoroughly engages the reader.  

Prose: The author has incorporated strong prose and imagery in his writing. The poetic language is very descriptive and complex, but does not shy away from realism. Nanfito is confident in his storytelling.

Originality: Nanfito’s story is personal, vivid, and unflinching in its vulnerability. The author's fine writing allows for his unique circumstances and experiences to resonate powerfully with readers.

Character Development/Execution: Thematic elements and motifs serve as connective tissue throughout the author's story. Some greater degree of connection between parts one, two, and three may benefit the overarching narrative.

Date Submitted: December 15, 2021

Nanfito’s fresh, genre-defying memoir explores his life journey from the 1970s to the 1980s in essays, poems, and illustrations, starting with a childhood shaped by a “Father”–a scholarly man who encourages the study of philosophy and nurtures Michael’s artistic talent–who isn’t officially his father, and the man Nanfito terms his “lesser father,” the parent whose practical yet cynical nature teaches him the craft of metalworking but curses him with young rage. Always attracted to the “outlaw life,” Michael recounts leaving home at 17 to discover “the self that lived within me and threatened to burst” and then committing himself to “choose life over a living death embroidered with the shallow breath of obligation.”

With sharp prose and a beat poet’s vivid frankness, Rotten Fruit in an Unkempt Garden surveys the adventures that followed. Through the eyes of young Michael, we witness his passion, both physical and intellectual, develop through every poem, encounter, and caper, including the “heady rush” of “running blow up and down the Coast.” He offers emotional and intellectual tributes to many who crossed his path, and, as “a brazen young man recently released from the academies of conscience and incarceration,” he delves deeply into literature and philosophy, both in the narrative’s present and in the telling today. Despite bookending lines like, “…remember to forget me” and, “…when I died, I died alone,” from the collection’s first and last poems, Nanfito’s accounts are powered not by grief but by the urgency to understand one’s self.

The poems, portraits, and vignettes cohere into something like a portfolio, revealing aspects and the development of a freethinking soul, readers’ sense of the full picture emerging through accretion of telling detail. Nanfito proves adept at crafting his lyric, sometimes stinging vignettes, immersing readers in “a life lived through a dirty lens,” championing personal freedom, laying down a marker about what it means to live–and create–on his own terms.

Takeaway: The raucous, lyric coming-of-age of a freethinker, in verse and essays that live “life through a dirty lens.”

Great for fans of: Howls From the Underground: An Anthology; Tony Nesca.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: B+
Illustrations: A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A

Paperback Details
  • 11/2021
  • 979-8768644727 B09M4YKKML
  • 199 pages
  • $12.99