‘The self-care is the writing’: Women essayists destroy clichés at the Festival of Books

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(excerpt) Before it even began, the panel was an exercise in anxiety over language. “When I got this panel assignment,” the moderator Dinah Lenney said, “I thought, ‘Oh God, now I have to define feminism!’” [ more... ]

little of us all in the object parade

True is hosted by Proximity: a quarterly collection of true stories

(excerpt) Dinah Lenney knows of the power of pieces. Author of and contributor to eight books (including a compelling meditation of her father's murder published in 2007, Bigger Than Life: a Murder, a Memoir), Lenney 's most recent collection of essays is offered to us as The Object Parade. [ more... ]

2014 in Review: David L. Ulin looks at the year in books

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(excerpt) The same is true of Dinah Lenney's essay collection "The Object Parade," which employs common household objects — a table, a piano, a watch — as the starting points for a series of loosely connected family stories in which memory and emotion, and the interplay between them, fill the function of the narrative arc.

DINAH LENNEY has done something smart. She’s come up with a solution to the essayist’s dilemma. She’s figured out a way to stay true to the form of the essay — digressive, skeptical... [Full Review]

Brevity Review — Dinah Lenney's Object Parade

An interview with Dinah Lenney, Brevity contributor and author of The Object Parade: Essays.  Lenney, a working character actress, has written for The Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Review of Books, Rumpus, Creative Nonfiction, and elsewhere... [Full Review]


— by Dinty W. Moore

Review Dinah Lenney's 'The Object Parade' on what we keep, hand down

By summoning all manner of physicality — some easily defined (spoon; chandelier) and others more amorphous or symbolic (nests; Dinah's room; letters to Dad) — the Los Angeles-based writer plumbs the detritus of her life to find meaning or glimpses into a lost time. The resulting pieces are dreamily evocative and lingering at their best, while others slip away, too nebulous to hold. [Full Review]

Los Angele Times Books / Jacket Copy

— by Margaret Wappler

Essays On A Life, Told Through The Objects In It

It's impossible to go through life without falling in love with an inanimate object or two. In the essays in Dinah Lenney’s new memoir The Object Parade, the writer spins narratives through the symbolism of the everyday objects that have nestled their way into her life... [Full Review]


— by Shaunacy Ferro

On The Object Parade, by Dinah Lenney

Dinah Lenney objects her life. Not objects as in no, as in against, as in protest. Objects as in things, as in the tangible. In her collection of essays, The Object Parade, Lenney takes objects to define different moments in her life, to metaphor them, to bring new insight to old stories. “Things, all kinds—ordinary, extraordinary... [Full Review]


— by Chelsey Clammer

Dinah Lenney: The TNB Self-Interview

So let’s talk about The Object Parade. Nonfiction, right? Wait—can I just say—I’d so much rather someone else were asking the questions. That’s funny. Why? What do you mean? You’re always telling your students to interrogate themselves on the page— You’re right.. [Full Interview]


— by TNB Nonfiction

[eastside eye] The Object Parade: Essays by Echo Park’s Dinah Lenney

Throughout the six years I’ve been writing this column, each person I’ve interviewed in the creative arts who lives locally–whether it’s Los Feliz, Silver Lake or Echo Park–always credits the area for inspiration, how it gives back in tangible and intangible ways to the artists, writers, musicians and filmmakers who live here. [Full Review]

Los Feliz Ledger

— by Kathy McDonald

Dinah Lenney | Author Interview on Book Circle Online

Dinah Lenney’s book, The Object Parade, is a collection of interconnected essays that examine meaningful objects – her grandfather’s piano, her green earrings, her mole – and the stories that they evoke from her life. In this edition, Jeffrey Masters sits down and talks with Dinah Lenney about her new book. [Full Podcast Interview]

Book Circle Online

— by bconline6

Three Writers (De)construct Form at ALOUD

On next Tuesday, May 20th, three innovative and genre-crossing writers will take the ALOUD stage for “Sentence After Sentence After Sentence,” to discuss their own unique relationships to form—or lack their of... [Full Post]

Fifth & Flower

— the blog of the Library Foundation


By Evan Kindley

April 12, 2014, 2:23 p.m.

"Authors who write personal material tend to get a bad rap," moderator Meghan Daum said at the start of Saturday's panel "Nonfiction: The Art of the Personal Story" at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. [More]

Early Praise for The Object Parade

"How better to track the stages, shape, and meaning of a life than by way of the significant objects in it? But Dinah Lenney is a good deal more than clever. Every object she embraces in this beautifully-wrought book -- the piano, the Christmas tree, the mole, the green earrings -- discloses the compressed and hidden power of things, the nouns with which we write our lives. Piece by piece, the author reveals herself as a first rate observer in possession of a kind and generous mind -- the most treasurable object in her rich parade.”

— Roger Rosenblatt

The Object Parade is a wonderful book—an inquiry, a quest. The relation of objects to individuals is perhaps its secret charm. It doesn't simply narrate —underneath is the persistent urgency to understand, to consider, beyond the joys and anguish of the self, the meaning of these bright and sometimes out-of-focus slides that pass before us, revealing not only a life but a growing consciousness. I read with deep pleasure and that sensation of being in a book, that is rarer than it should be."

— Patricia Hampl 

“Spoon, piano, flight jacket, Ferris wheel—The Object Parade courts tactile memory. Driven by Dinah Lenney's distinctive, insouciant voice, at once engagingly authoritative and tenaciously self-questioning, the heft of a guitar, smell of chicken simmering, or ticking metronome are brought to life again, then re-examined under the magnifying glass of time. The story of family and fate (with its rich panoply of relationship and revelation) unfolds here as "one thing" does inevitably "lead to another" in the hands of an author who gives us genuine insight at its subtle, insistent best.”

— Judith Kitchen, author of Half in Shade and The Circus Train

"From politics to the piano to the lament of a mourning dove, Dinah Lenney looks life in the eye and never finds it wanting. Like Proust's madeleines, her "objects" scent the terrain of this book with memories from the evanescent to the profound. The world itself, examined with joy, shines out through each small detail. You will love this book, one object at a time, right down to its very end."

— Linda Gray Sexton, author of Searching for Mercy Street: My Journey Back to My Mother,
Anne Sexton and Half in Love: Surviving the Legacy of Suicide.

The Object Parade is a rich, poignant homage to, quite literally, the stuff of life. Lenney is a gifted essayist, but her ear for the riddles and rhythms of language reveals the sensibilities of a poet—even a musician. She doesn't just write to us. She sings to us. You won't just read this collection, you will hear it.”

— Meghan Daum

“Dinah Lenney's marvel of a book is both unflinching and confiding. Her subjects are, ostensibly, the familiar objects of daily life. But no matter what this writer sets her sights on--a scarf, a coffee scoop, a pair of shoes--its sure to yield unexpected meanings, intricate histories, and memorable stories. The objects in this parade quickly transcend their personal significance to the writer and stir the reader with a sharpened sense of life's pleasures and risks. Lenney knows that everything we touch has the power to change us.”

— Bernard Cooper

“..heart-stopping..This creatively structured book remains an enjoyable read, and the standout essays merit the price of admission.”

Publishers Weekly

“A pensive perusal of the objects that can define and shape a life… the collection’s pieces build on each other, layer upon vivid layer of Lenney’s personal history, her heart firmly invested in hearth and home…One of the book’s most moving entries also happens to be its shortest: a strikingly gorgeous, two-page homage to Lenney’s daughter, portrayed as a young girl bouncing in the sun trailing a kite flush with bright streamers. An eclectic treasury of the cherished and the evocative.”

Kirkus Reviews

"Lenney draws upon her experiences as a working actor and mother, offering a reflective and candid look at the connection between sentiment and necessity."

— Book List





Dinah Lenney wrote Bigger than Life: A Murder, a Memoir, published in Tobias Wolff’s American Lives Series at the University of Nebraska Press, and co-authored Acting for Young Actors. [More]

Missouri Review

There has been talk recently, here and elsewhere, about the fairness – or, more pointedly, unfairness – of memoir criticism. This is the kind of subject matter that will someday give me a heart attack, as I have strong feelings about it, and had a particular sort of upbringing. [More]
Robert Long Foreman is The Missouri Review’s Social Media Editor.

Host, Jeffrey Callison talks to TV actress and author Dinah Lenney who has written a memoir about her father’s highly publicized murder, and the impact it had on her family.

Samantha Dunn: I'm going to give a plug to two fine memoirs. In these there is no abuse, drug use, crazy parents or even a hot Italian lover, just beautiful sentences, deep emotions and intellectual stimulation: One is Dinah Lenney's Bigger Than Life: A Murder, A Memoir. The other is Practicing, by Glenn Kurtz, about his lifelong pursuit to perfect his playing of the classical guitar.

— Samantha Dunn, author of three books, including, most recently, Faith in Carlos Gomez

“This affecting memoir ends on a note of grace as Lenney acknowledges her hard-won peace with her father’s memory and his murder. . . . Such transcendent realizations elevate Bigger Than Life . . . beyond an account of the bombastic life and brutal death of Nelson Gross to speak of life and healing found in the midst of tragedy.”
— Paula L. Woods, Los Angeles Times Book Review

“The subject matter is grim but the writing is anything but, as Lenney, with an artful layering of details and remembered conversations, brings her complex, confounding father back to literary life.”
Los Angeles Magazine

“Before his murder, Dinah Lenney’s father was Bigger than Life but looms larger in death.”
— Elissa Schappell, Vanity Fair

“In one sense, [Lenney’s] book can be seen as therapy, a way of purging a decade’s worth of inner turmoil. But the story also explores a broader issue, the way the death of one man can affect the lives of many people. . . . Not a typical ‘survivor's autobiography,’ but a deeply affecting one.”

"Vivid, revealing, and meditative. . . . The narrator is poignantly self-aware, brutally honest. . . . This is a book well worth reading, not only for some dazzling chapters and evocative details about the American justice system, but also for the contribution it makes to the body of American literature about fathers."
—Fourth Genre

Marrie Stone interviews Dinah Lenney, author of Bigger than Life: A Murder, a Memoir and Michael Quadland, author of That Was Then.
             Listen to audio...  (Broadcast audio: Nov 14, 2007)

LA TIMES BESTSELLERS — Week of March 25th 2007

Actor-writer pens memoir of life marred by murder
By Robert David Jaffee, Contributing Writer — 2007-10-19

Jewish Journal

Review from Betterbaking.com Book Shelf

Books take a candid look at dads
Actors Dinah Lenney and Kirk Douglas take on the pain of parent-child relationships

Hamilton Spectator

By Valerie Kuklenski Los Angeles Daily News (Jun 16, 2007)

Interview with Dinah Lenney




Nelson Gross, a New Jersey businessman and politician, lived his life with abundant enthusiasm. When he was murdered in 1997, in a holdup that went horribly wrong, his death punched a hole in the lives of his family, including his daughter, Dinah. In one sense, her book can be seen as therapy, a way of purging a decade’s worth of inner turmoil. But the story also explores a broader issue, the way the death of one man can affect the lives of many people. The narrative uses Gross’ death as a fulcrum, seesawing back and forth from the years before the murder, when the author was trying to come to terms with her parents’ divorce, to the years after the murder, as Lenney tried to restore her life to normality and find a way to explain to her young children what happened to their grandfather and why. It’s an unusual structure, perhaps not as accessible as a more traditional linear one, but it captures effectively the jumbled nature of the author’s life before and after her father’s murder. Not a typical "survivor’s autobiography," but a deeply affecting one.

— David Pitt


(excerpt) ... Of all the people in all the world, it was Dinah's father who was murdered in 1997 by three young men whose greed turned homicidal. Somehow, Dinah Lenney tells that story with all the complexity, the messiness, the surprisingly wry humor, and even the joy of a life lived that such a story deserves.

A father.

A daughter.

To see the world in a grain of rice, you have to look. And you have to read books like this one. Posted on Thursday, March 22, 2007

— Robert Gray


On September 17, 1997, Nelson Gross, a one-time Senate hopeful, was kidnapped by three teenage boys and brutally murdered; with the money they stole from him, they purchased jewelry, clothes, and hubcaps. BIGGER THAN LIFE (Nebraska, 227 pages, $25) is an account of the murder, written by Gross's daughter, Dinah Lenney, an actor who lives in Echo Park. Although the abduction made national news, the book is less about the tragedy than about what such events do to the survivors. The subject matter is grim but the writing is anything but, as Lenney, with an artful layering of details and remembered conversations, brings her complex, confounding father back to literary life.

—  Robert Ito