Perhaps the most intriguing character arc covers his youth as a Catholic schoolboy admiring war ships in the harbor and imagining himself as a sailor, and then becoming one. Giambri does not shy away from his (mis)adventures, some charming, some blending trouble-making with impressive ingenuity, such as Giambri and his teenage coterie enjoying the use of a “borrowed” pharmacy coup the owner doesn’t seem to miss, or having a good time crashing weddings, often seeking out one that “looks good… with a crowd smoking outside,” and then wandering in “as though they’ve been there all along.”
Giambri’s focus throughout is less on his most important moments than the textures of a searching, creative life, packed with sharp character portraits (like the openly gay Francine, marching in drag at the Philadelphia Mummer’s Parade in the 1950s, ready to beat up anyone who made fun). The collection often reads more fascinating context than a standalone story, but it bursts with compelling context about an exciting life and culture at times of great change.
Takeaway: Vivid memoirs of an inventive midcentury life, from Philly to the Navy to NYC.
Comparable Titles: Anatole Broyard’s Kafka Was the Rage, Judith Stonehill’s Greenwich Village Stories.
Design and typography: B+
Marketing copy: B-