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INTERVIEW Ben Yagoda G’91 on Memoir: A History

REVIEW Only a really bad headache? A Brain Wider Than the Sky

PHOTOGRAPHY Force of memory. The Art of Caring

EXCERPT Istanbul to West Philadelphia. Cultures in Counterpoint

EXCERPT An accidental family. What Else But Home

REVIEW Seeds of selfhood. The Smile at the Heart of Things


A singular first-person sampler.

After a recent spate of memoirs by Penn alumni crossed the Gazette’s transom, we decided to take a look, via excerpts and reviews, at a modest cross-section, encompassing a broad range of styles and subject matter.

Starting off, and bringing it all together, is an interview with Ben Yagoda, author of Memoir: A History—which is exactly what it sounds like, yet somehow more. The memoirs themselves range from a life spent with migraines, to the life journey of a museum curator, to the cultural odyssey of a Turkish-born Jew who came to the United States as a young man, to Michael Rosen’s What Else But Home: Seven Boys and an American Journey Between the Projects and the Penthouse, whose subtitle gives a pretty good hint of the content. We’re also including some striking images from the “Remembering” chapter of The Art of Caring: A Look at Life through Photography, compiled by Cynthia Goodman.



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The Art of Caring: A Look at Life through Photography (Ruder Finn Press, 2009) began its life as an exhibition at the New Orleans Museum of Art. Both the coffee-table-sized catalogue and the exhibition include a striking range of photographs by such giants as Annie Leibovitz, W. Eugene Smith, and Mary Ellen Mark FA’62 ASC’64 Hon’94, as well as powerful images by younger, lesser-known photographers. Guest curator Cynthia Goodman CW’71 Gr’82, who organized the exhibition, also wrote the main essay for the catalogue, whose final chapter is titled “Remembering.” In it, she quotes from Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past: “We are able to find everything in our memory, which is like a dispensary or chemical laboratory in which chance steers our hand sometimes to a soothing drug and sometimes to a dangerous poison.”

Above: “Navy CPO Graham Jackson,” by LIFE photographer Edward Clark, was taken during the 1945 funeral procession of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

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