By Troy Patterson
Updated October 12, 2005 at 04:00 AM EDT

Reeling after watching his parents die (”I was leaking pain all over the place”), Rafi Zabor journeyed from New York to Turkey to refresh his spirit. He gets about halfway there in the first installment of a planned four-book autobiography. In I, Wabenzi, he leads us on a profusion of enchanting narrative side trips — tales of sweetness and misery from his Brooklyn boyhood, offbeat elegies for his mismatched folks, mystic visions described with mystic precision, plus bedtime stories, countercultural commentary, a rabbi joke raised to the level of allegory, and tips on how to whirl like a dervish. Two-thirds of the way in, the narrative loses energy with an overlong account of a year Zabor spent with a Sufi sect in England. Even so, Zabor’s voice is so warm and frank that the extravagant meandering of his storytelling amounts to generosity.

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