Late May Quick Takes

Posted July 13, 2015 by Meoskop in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

In grey scale photo, an older black man pulls in a younger one to kiss his forehead, the younger stares out at the viewerProject Fatherhood: A Story of Community and Healing in One of America’s Toughest Communities by Jorja Leap


I’m conflicted. Leap finds herself surprised when her perceptions of what the group will be like don’t match their words or actions. She also strives to give a clear eyed accounting of the realites of life in this community of limited opportunties. The audience for this book is likely to share many of the assumptions Leap herself makes, and therefore also find themselves surprised. In a scene where a member of the group angrily confronts a police officer who has come to speak Leap is nonplussed by other members of the group being concilatory to the officer. Her fear is the man confronting will escalate the situation. As a reader, I already know the reverse is far more likely. Worth reading, but not without issue.


In a vintage 40's colored photo style, a man in suit and fedora is shown against a backdrop of NYC buildingsMan in Profile: Joseph Mitchell of The New Yorker by Thomas Kunkel


While largely unfamiliar with Mitchell going into the book I found Man In Profile fascinating. Mitchell’s influence on modern feature pieces is, I now realize, profoundly underappreciated. Dealing primarily with his career and his work as opposed to his personal life or (thankfully!) armchair analysis, Kunkel makes a compelling argument for Mitchell’s continued importance. For those interested in early 20th century New York or newsmen as a whole, Man in Profile is a solid choice.


A black and white photo of a paris window view is shown scrapbook style on a sea green cover with the title in boldly gold handwritingMy Paris Dream: An Education in Style, Slang and Seduction in the Great City on the Seine by Kate Betts


Betts writes a beautiful memoir of finding herself and her career path as a young expat in Paris. Coming from a background of some ease, her early struggles will seem lighter to readers from less comfortable ones. This is not to take anything away from her hard work. Without the training and experience she came to Paris with thriving in it would have been more difficult. With it, she still had to identify and seize opportunites. Strongest in the first half where her fish out of water uncertainity is more relatable, but still compelling in the second. A well told tale.


A painting of the subject, with a large red hat, challenging stare, hand on hip, green jacket and opposite hand loosely dangling a red bookBehind The Mask: The Life of Vita Sackville-West by Matthew Dennison


While I enjoyed Behind The Mask, I didn’t feel Dennison offered much insight. The book focused strongly on Vita’s romantic affairs without revealing new depths. The treatment of these relationship somehow manages to be both salicious and boring, all at once.

“She took her to the Hotel Roosevelt, a less opulent setting, and roughly, unthinkingly, maddeningly, had sex with her.” (Pg 131).

There are a lot of things unthinking and maddening about Vita, much of which Dennison illustrates well. There remains something unseen about his subject, and the narrative itself appears to lose interest before the tale is done. Not a poor biography, yet not a compelling one either.