A journalist recounts the triumphs and failures of a long, eventful life through a series of letters.
One of the more interesting ways to witness the effect of time on political and social mores is through a chronicle of personal correspondence. As email and text messaging have relegated letters to the status of quaint relics, Garrigues’s book serves as a reminder that letter-writing was at one time equal parts art form and means of communication. The author’s father, Charles Harris â€œBrick” Garrigues, was a California journalist, writer, would-be novelist and lover of women. In this compendium of letters, which dates back to the 1920s and extends through 1973 (the year before Brick’s death), a riveting tale unfolds as Brick romances numerous women, hops from newspaper to newspaper, has children and struggles in vain to complete an autobiographical novel, a task that would consume many years but never quite reach completion. The bulk of Brick’s letters were written to Fanny Strassman, an intellectual he met in the ’20s who would become his literary agent, though 42 years would pass between their initial days together and their next meeting. Alongside this correspondence are letters to Brick’s children, various friends and a few ex-lovers, including Dickie, Brick’s first wife (and the author’s mother). Interspersed with these epistles are the author’s remembrances, some of Brick’s articles, and passages from his unpublished novel, Many a Glorious Morning. The novel fragments lack the lively punch of Brick’s letters, and the excision of a few of the less interesting missives might have moved the proceedings along at a brisker pace. Nevertheless, with Brick’s letters combining the acute observatory powers of a lifelong newshound with the uncertainty of a brilliant but flawed man, historical events such as the Depression, red-hunting government committees and anti-war protests are rendered with bold, vivid strokes.
A fascinating, if slightly uneven, slice of Americana.