Saturday, December 8, 2018
The Measure of a Man by Sidney Poitier
Writing Style: Pleasant, wordy in spots, all-around elegant.
Pacing: Moderately Fast
Personal Highlights: Where do I start!?
First of all, I found it as ironic as wholly surprising that Poitier began his career unable to read or write, a sharp contrast to the serious, articulate character I saw on screen; what makes the overall tone of his introspective biography remarkably engaging.
Poitier’s exposure to, and understanding of, black culture is written unlike any other literature I’ve yet to come across. His experiences are rich. Raised in the 30's/40's by hard-working parents, Caribbean life (Cat Island, Nassau, the Bahamas) was tough, but simple... paling in comparison to the callous awakening he got when he moved to America; Miami first, and shortly thereafter, New York. Saved by his guiding principles and hard scrabble making a living without sparing his dignity, he wended up turning a paradoxical coincidence into an experience that set (film) history in motion.
His perspectives are not only relevant to our story working today, but are refreshingly engaging. I related to that “...must go ‘down’ in order to find up...”. I respected his description of art; as ‘an irritant, a reminder, clarification that focuses on what is, and was, but alone solves nothing.’ His argument about Raisin in the Sun also caught my attention. Ending the story by playing on pity, versus redemption, makes me want to watch the film (along with others mentioned). My only wish was that the opposition’s viewpoint had been spelled out, other than from a stance of ‘I wrote the play.’
There is just so much contained in ‘Measure of a Man’. I laughed at him learning to act; the old-school way, speaking from the diaphragm, along with fielding rustic exercises such as how to play a tough guy... and nodded in agreement when he got to introducing ideologies and moralities such as Carl Sagan’s technical understanding of the universe... God and/or natural harmony... the poverty syndrome and pleasure principle...among other states of ‘consciousness’. Although there wasn’t much storytelling, and in spots (perhaps unavoidably) wordy, the writing all around is deep, pleasant and elegant. Highly recommended!