In his most recent collection of essays, Soter (Driving Me Crazy, 2015, etc.) explores a wide range of personal and cultural experiences.
The author, a lifelong New Yorker, returns with another installment of his collected works. He returns to favorite topics, such as reminiscences of his Greek-American family, and also takes on other issues, such as his diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. In the introduction, he compares his ongoing project to the clip books that he kept in the early days of his writing career, in which he gathered every piece of his published journalism. Here, he gathers together published and unpublished work, and his topics range across his many interests, including the cats that he’s owned over the years, his encounters with cyclists on the streets of New York City, his love life, and his pop-culture obsessions, such as the 1960s television program Combat!. The pieces differ not only in content, but in form and structure as well. There are witty one-pagers about life in the big city; a lengthier piece about some of the more memorable students in Soter’s improvisational comedy classes; an interview-based article about co-op doormen; a memorial poem for Soter’s mother; and even a sci-fi story. Although the author’s sharp, journalistic prose is consistent throughout, the four-decade span of the content naturally makes some pieces feel fresher than others. The author is at his best when describing characters he’s met, such as an overly enthusiastic fan of Soter and his pal’s homemade films and an old-school London taxi driver. Some readers will wish that the collection was more cohesive, though; as it is, this volume could easily have been two separate books—one of personal memoir and another of cultural journalism. However, other readers will delight in the surprise of stumbling from a rumination on childhood birthdays to an unpublished, intimate interview with the legendary comedian John Cleese (of Monty Python fame) within a few pages. In any case, nearly everyone will find something of interest in this volume, which also includes more than 100 black-and-white images, including photographs and print ephemera.
A compilation that’s as diverse and surprising as life on a New York City block.