WESTCHESTER: Portrait of a County by Alex Shoumatoff

WESTCHESTER: Portrait of a County

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Undisciplined meanderings by a Westchester County (N.Y.) native who tackles The Land and The People of the territory he calls home--like the local supermarket, where ""The average shopper takes forty-five minutes to an hour, depending on the size of his family and on how familiar he is with the store."" Shoumatoff is primarily a naturalist, and he opts for a chatty and-then-I-saw approach to the landscape and its animal denizens: the sight of a worm with multiple setae occasions the note that the Asiatic species is closing in on the indigenous variety; a check of rock formations reveals evidence of a glacier (erratics) and a legacy (Fordham gneiss a twin to north African graywacke). As an up-county boy who knows all about the meaning of ""background"" in Bedford (now being invaded by new money), Shoumatoff promises only ""fleeting impressions"" of the dense Lower Tier communities. And he's true to his word: Scarsdale is ""supposed to be running about sixty-forty Jewish-gentile these days""; and in White Plains, ""Macy's was a bit more refined than Sears, but not as refined as Lord & Taylor."" This just isn't the kind of book you can curl up with. Or even consult for reference, although some of the snippets have springboard-possibilities--e.g., the origin of the Italian presence in the County, associated with the construction of the Croton Dam. At the start, Shoumatoff cheerfully confesses that he's done his best to get his facts straight but he's chosen them for their ""resonance"" rather than for their ""truth."" Well, they won't resonate much further than The New Yorker, where some of them already appeared.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1979
Publisher: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan