Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Measure of a Man Doesn't Measure Up

cover of The Measure of a Man Audiobook
The Measure of a Man
The Measure of a Man
Sidney Poitier

I listened to this on audio book last month, and have been hesitating to write the review ever since. I just really, really, disliked it - and I was hoping to enjoy it. I mean, it's Sidney Poitier! Who doesn't like Sidney Poitier?

I spent half the book wondering if I didn't like it simply because it was an audio book. It was only the second audio book I've listened to, so I thought "well, maybe the format just isn't my thing." Nope. I've since listened to another audio book and loved it. Not the format.

Okay, so what was it that bothered me about this book? It starts off strong. Poitier is talking about how he doesn't believe that we should look to other, less developed societies to find ways to be strong, upright people. That basically, your kid isn't going to grow up to be a screw-up because zie has access to television. Makes sense. THEN he spends the rest of the book extolling the benefits of growing up on an undeveloped island in the Bahamas where there was no electricity, running water, etc. He comes back to this theme all the time. I guess that you could say he's just explaining where he personally came from, but the impression is that this is the way all children should be raised and if they aren't - if they're raised in say, Miami, they're going to be morally bankrupt by 16.

There's also a lot of self congratulating going on. Poitier takes nearly all the credit for the success of the play A Raisin in the Sun. It was painful to listen to. His vision of the play may have been a better one - I'll concede that - but wow, the ego involved was staggering. Of course, it takes quite a bit of ego to write a book about your life and be sure that many people would want to read it, and I'm sure most people in Hollywood probably have enormous egos, too.

I was interested in Poitier's interactions with civil rights activists. He talks about how studios wanted to to sign contracts that he wouldn't associate with certain people who were considered agitators, and he refused to do that. Again, this part of the book fell short. I don't know if he had his reasons for not talking about these encounters in more detail - was he protecting someone? - but I wanted to know more.

I do want to read Harry Belafonte's new memoir, My Song. He and Poitier were friends, and I heard him interviewed on NPR about the two of them splitting a theater ticket, one watching the first half of a play and the other going in to watch the end. Something about how Belafonte told the story was more engaging than anything that I heard from Poitier.

Have you read this? Did you like it? What am I missing?

5 comments:

Shannon @ Reading Has Purpose said...

I saw your tweet about this and have been waiting for your review.

I actually don't disagree with the fact that kids these days have access to too much. For some children, sending them outside to play is punishment and that's utterly ridiculous.

With regards to being raised in Miami, I think his point was - being raised in Miami at a time when he was could have a huge impact on the morale of a person. And that was true for just about any black person growing up in the south during that same time which is why he did what many did - headed north.

I agree, he thinks highly of himself!

I'm disappointed that you didn't like it. But I guess we always want people to like the books that we like!

I posted a review on it as well, but I was pleased with the book : The Measure of a Man

Shannon @ Reading Has Purpose said...

@Shannon @ Reading Has Purpose

hahahah, I just looked back at the review I posted and we hit all of the same points! Interesting how we both did indeed see the same thing but through different lenses.

MJ said...

@Shannon @ Reading Has Purpose Thanks Shannon - just went and read your review. I totally agree with you - growing up probably pretty much anywhere in the US was incredibly difficult for a young black man at that time. Some of the stories he told were just terrifying. I'm especially thinking of the police who followed him home that one night.

And I hear you about how some kids are raised. I was told to go outside and play, but it was usually because I was holed up in my room with my nose in book for longer than my mom thought was healthy! But I don't think that it's necessarily the case that kids shouldn't be able to access technology. I believe it's more about supervision, structure, and limits. Of course, I don't have kids, so everyone can take my views on that with a grain of salt!

Vasilly said...

Great review. I'm going to pass this one up though.

MJ said...

@Vasilly I know a lot of people liked this, but it wasn't for me, as much as I hate to admit it. But hey - I feel it's necessary to share both the good, and the not-so-good.