Life Sketches:

John Hersey, Author Alfred A. Knopf $19.95 (377p) ISBN 978-0-394-57784-5
For over 40 years Hersey has been contributing profiles and character sketches to a variety of magazines, and this is a selection of what his publisher finds the best of them. They vary considerably in interest, read, as they must be, many years after their initial urgency. On writers, his reminiscence of Sinclair Lewis, for instance, is much more compelling than his rather slavish tribute to Lillian Hellman. On presidents, his noncommittal account of JFK and his PT-109 experience is more revealing than his over-detailed and too-cozy depiction of one of Harry Truman's early morning walks. Perhaps disappointingly to his publisher, his review of Alfred Knopf's fascination with our national parks is probably the least absorbing piece in the book. Hersey is best at unknowns: Jessica Kelley, the tiny, brave widow who survived (barely) the 1955 Connecticut flood, or Private John Daniel Ramey, who learned to read and write in the Army in World War II. And there is a splendid account of a persistent black man trying to win the vote in Mississippi in the early '60s. Hersey always writes clearly and un pretentiously, and the best of these pieces are very superior journalism indeed. BOMC selection. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/01/1989
Release date: 04/01/1989
Paperback - 377 pages - 978-0-679-73196-2
Hardcover - 978-0-517-07162-5
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