Though they could not be more different the next two gifts that R.O. Blechman offers us share a common theme: memory. One is written looking at the past, the other writing of the present before it becomes the past. One is born out of a life of poverty, the other of privilege. Both are rich in language and perhaps richer in a sense of family – again in two very different ways.
In the wake of an attempt to turn the book into a play that put it, briefly, back in the spotlight I recently reread Moss Hart‘s Act One. When it was first published in 1959 I found the story of his early life in the tenements of New York difficult and unsettling reading and put the book aside unfinished. Fifty-odd years later I still found the story of his early years unsettling but myself better equipped to understand it. His writing is witty and, if at times slightly romantic, unsentimental. I only wish he had lived to give us Act Two and Three.
This segment, narrated by José Ferrar, mixes archival photographs of New York of the time (1910s) with still shots of the characters that make up Hart’s family. An ingenuous way to present this gift of memory.
Christmas could not have been more different than as recorded by the eleven year old Teddy Roosevelt in 1869. I particularly enjoyed that very matter-of-fact last sentence. Illustrator Chas. B. Slackman and actor Dean Wareham take us into the pages of the young man’s personal diary for another snapshot in time.