At the Heart of It: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives

Walt Harrington, Author
Walt Harrington, Author University of Missouri Press $29.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-8262-1078-4
Reviewed on: 09/02/1996
Release date: 09/01/1996
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What's extraordinary about these people isn't so much their lives as the way Harrington profiles them. In 16 pieces originally published in the Washington Post Magazine, the award-winning journalist and author of Crossings: A White Man's Journey into Black America displays a storyteller's ability to find the drama and pathos in seemingly mundane materials. Yet unlike Oprah, Rickie, Geraldo and other electronic purveyors of what oozes its way under the rubric of ""human interest,"" Harrington neither demeans nor trivializes. Readers will sense the respect he feels for the young father and mother living ""in the American netherworld between poverty and the middle class"" as they celebrate a new job with a bottle of Manischewitz Concord Grape wine and a dinner of grilled hot dog and cheese sandwiches, macaroni and cheese and a tossed salad. The same is true of his compassion for a group of suburban 13-year-old girls learning to play soccer ""with the abandon of boys,"" as they ""sweat like roadside ditchdiggers, their T-shirt sleeves rolled up over their shoulders."" Although his subjects include a few better-known sorts (including poet Rita Dove), most of the people here are the sort that the media tends to overlook. It is Harrington's gift as a writer that makes their stories equally compelling and unforgettable (Sept.)
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