TAKING PART by Robert Josephy


A Twentieth-Century Life
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 The memoir of a bashful nonagenarian--who here fails to provide an intimate enough view of himself or of his sometimes- famous friends. The story of this book designer, apple farmer, and conservationist begins interestingly enough, with glimpses of early 20th-century New York and of Josephy's childhood among upper- middle-class Jews--and with portents of the social consciousness that he would develop. Josephy knew people both fascinating and famous, including Arthur Miller, Alexander Calder, and H.L. Mencken. But a self-confessed wariness of emotion seems to prevent him from describing his relationships--even with family and wives- -in compelling detail. At times, this is downright annoying, as when the author breaks off telling about his father's difficulties by saying he doesn't ``care to describe'' them, or when he hints that a neighbor was sleeping with someone famous but doesn't say who. But there's an undeniable decency about Josephy, and his book makes clear that he not only ``took part'' but was an innovator in modern high-production book design--and that he was a force for good in political and environmental affairs as well. Surprisingly, the next-to-the-end chapters, in which Josephy describes the workings of his apple farm--down to technical operations--are the most involving. Here, the author's abiding interests--politics, the environment, social relations--are well integrated as he convinces us that, despite personal difficulties and cultural fragmentation, he's managed to cultivate a satisfactory life. With the exception of a few chapters, then, Josephy's memoir likely will prove more interesting to his progeny than to the general public. (Thirty-five photographs--not seen)

Pub Date: July 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-87745-412-4
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Univ. of Iowa
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1993