Through a wide-angled lens of laser-crisp language, Neal Snidow’s brilliant Vista Del Mar directs our gaze to the sea of time. Like a ghostly image coming to life in developing fluid, his tightly focused and artfully framed narrative seizes the moment—a moment in which waves of past and future are subtly engrained. From Hollywood noir to white-sand LA beaches, his story is metered to the black and illuminated with refined sensitivity to shades of light. Singularly his and entirely ours, it is the story of America, moving west, landing at the edge of the sea, and asking, “Now what?” Required reading.
Neal has completed a magnificent memoir, one graced by a riveting narrative power, and by nuanced, deeply revelatory, and moving insights into the intertwined personal, familial, and larger human stories contained in his pre- and post-war memoir. His portrayals of the book’s main characters, primarily his family, are profoundly evocative and memorable, and I hasten to add that his chapter that focuses on WW II is nothing short of brilliant. Neal’s personal and succinct histories of his ancestors who homesteaded in the Midwest, of Southern California, of Hollywood, film noir, and the small beach town in the South Bay are wonderfully entertaining, surprising, and enlightening.
Somehow, Neal manages to write with extreme sensitivity and compassion about lives that only grazed his, and to plumb the complex depths of his own and of his nuclear family’s inner and outer lives with high intelligence, literary éclat, and with extraordinary perceptiveness and illumination.
…beautiful prose – better than many far more celebrated writers….handles personal subject matter with perfect unsentimentality and tact. What really stood out was a resonant poignancy, “emptiness” in the positive Buddhist sense, in suburban things so often dismissed as tacky…that, and the sense of “soul work” in recovering the things of one’s past.
In his shimmeringly beautiful Vista Del Mar, Neal Snidow is a skeptical pilgrim in the search of lost time. With a poet’s eye, he looks within himself and back to his childhood, taking photographs of his old neighborhood as a means to discovery. A subtle, magical memoir, brimming with originality and luminous imagery.