George (The Accidental Hunter, 2005, etc.) chronicles his progression from an impoverished childhood to an accomplished career as a music journalist, novelist and filmmaker, with many stops along the way.
The author was born into a working-class black family in swiftly changing Brooklyn. It was 1957: White families were moving out to the suburbs; African-American and Puerto Rican families were moving in. George’s father was absent for much of his youth, and his hardworking mother served as his principal role model. The memoir serves up many images already shopworn from other coming-of-age stories set in New York during the ’60s and ’70s: stickball in the street, dancing to soul records, trading comic books, etc. George’s recollections often seem romanticized, with one notable exception. His colorful descriptions of pop, soul and jazz, the experience of listening to music and his reactions to it, always seem authentic, and they point a clear path to his career as a journalist. He developed his craft at Billboard, New York Amsterdam News and The Village Voice (his dream job). As the author chronicles his professional success, the book’s focus shifts to his relationships with an impressive, if lengthy, list of major black artists, including Russell Simmons, Spike Lee and Chris Rock, each of whom gets his own chapter. While these accounts provide a unique perspective on the development of African-American culture, they also fragment the text into choppy, piecemeal sections that abandon the subject of George’s family life. He attempts to bring things full circle with concluding chapters on Life Support, a film he directed about his sister’s battle with HIV, and a brief account of a family reunion at his niece’s graduation.
Uneven but frequently engrossing.