There’s a section in this veteran journalist’s memoir that may make you wish people still communicated as they did in the good ol’ days. The section encapsulates more than 100 letters written by Roberts’ parents to one another during their long courtship in the mid-1930s. Written during the throes of the Depression, the letters record the couple’s intellect, ambitions, anxieties and flirtations with Marxism and with each other as they slowly and cautiously fall in love.
Roberts’ book offers this level of poignancy, intimacy, and respect throughout as he wanders through his family’s history from his grandparents’ roots in Russia (where his great-uncle was an editor at Pravda), to his own childhood and coming of age “on the Block” in Bayonne, New Jersey.
Roberts’ love of words was instilled early; his father was an author and publisher of children’s books and his uncle worked as a critic and short-story writer. Roberts attended Harvard, where he met his Catholic wife, Cokie (of media fame), and carried on his family’s legacy, having worked at the New York Times for 25 years and U.S. News & World Report for seven years before becoming a syndicated columnist and television news commentator. His recall of details, such as eating lunch at the Horn & Hardart Automat, will strike a nostalgic chord in any reader who grew up in the New York City area during the 1940’s and 1950’s.