Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Measure of a Man: Review

...we puny individuals have only seventy-five or eighty-two or ninety-six years to look forward to, which is still a snap in the overall impentrableness of time. So what we do is we stay within the context of what's practical, what's real, what dreams can be fashioned into reality, what values can send us to bed comfortably and make us courageous enough to face our end with character.

That's what we're seeking. That's what it's all about, you know? We're all of us a little greedy. (Some of us are plenty greedy.) We're all somewhat courageous, and we're all considerably cowardly. We're all imperfect, and life is simply a perpetual, unending struggle against those imperfections.
(last lines of The Measure of a Man by Sidney Poitier)

Well, now.  I just spent the last three days in conversation with Sidney Poitier.  No, really.  You sit down with The Measure of a Man--what Mr. Poitier has subtitled A Spiritual Autobiography--and you tell me that you don't feel like you've got him right there talking to you.  He comes across as unflinchingly honest--telling us about his failures as well as his successes.  The failure that touches him most is the divorce from his first wife and the two-year estrangement with one of his daughters.  Because his father had taught him that the true measure of a man was how he cared for and provided for his family--and his children most of all.  But he also tells us of what he learned from that experience...and all the experiences of his over 70 years.  

We learn of his struggles to make a place for himself in an alien culture, a culture that said he wasn't as good just because of his skin color.  We learn how he proved that he was just as good....and better than quite a few when he became the first African American to win an Oscar.  He tells us--in his direct, it's-just-us manner--about what he believes is important.  And how we ought to react to the struggles and obstacles that will come along to keep us from those important people and things. And, most importantly, how to handle life with dignity and character.

An extraordinary memoir....four and a quarter stars.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great read! I have always respected the acting work of Mr. Poitier and will never forget him in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, To Sir With Love, and In the Heat of the Night, just to name a few. Thanks for sharing this!