Saturday, October 13, 2012

Book Review: Looking Back With a Smile

Looking Back With a Smile, by Edward Farber
Category: Memoir

Edward Farber's Looking Back with a Smile is a quick and fun read.  Mr. Farber has taken the idea of a memoir in a slightly different direction, not trying to create any particular significance out of his life, but looking back and picking out the bits that make him smile, and that he thinks would do the same for the reader.  The result is a rather episodic construction of a life lived through a good chunk of the 20th Century, both personal and nostalgic.

A quick and easy read at only 89 pages, LBWS offers both a fun glimpse into how our country was at different periods during the last 70 years, but also a reminder that we all have stories to tell.  That, in fact, is largely the point of the work: to share the little stories that otherwise get lost, and to encourage his readers to do the same, even if only to share with their families. 

In a way, what Mr. Farber has done reminds me of the NPR feature "Story Corps," where they get "ordinary" people to record conversations with a loved one, recalling some significant event or element of their history and relationship.  In the end, none of the people seem so ordinary after all.  The tone of the book is that of oral history, reminiscing around the fire on a winter night, and a reminder that all our lives are significant.

That the tone works is a tribute to Mr. Farber's skill in selecting and presenting the incidents he recounts.  Occasionally, I wish he'd tell a little more, follow up a bit on what happened next.  Most most of the time I could just smile and move on to the next little episode.  LBWS isn't great literature.  But it's a nice bit of entertainment you can read in an hour or so, or you can (as I did) dip into an episode or two at a time until suddenly you find yourself (alas) in the 21st Century.

I'll give Mr. Farber 4 stars, because he did what he set out to and did it well.

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