From Publishers Weekly
These tame "excursions" (edited by the author's widow) are a far cry from past Plimpton adventures, where the inventor of "participatory journalism" famously cast himself as a boxer or a circus performer. The title essay is the only high-flying piece, as Plimpton merely listens to and reports the fascinating and tragic story of a man who strapped helium balloons to a lawn chair and took a ride high above the California coast. For the rest, the author, who died last year at age 76, relays the tepid tales of some of his more recent stunts, like performing on Amateur Night at the Apollo in Harlem and interviewing porn stars at a Las Vegas porn convention. While these more recent essays (published between 1991 and 2004) do not offer the nail-biting enjoyment of some of Plimpton's past work (like the bestselling book Paper Lion
), they do contain all of the typical Plimpton literary trademarks: elegant yet straightforward narration; boundless, infectious curiosity; and a palpable compassion and respect for the differences in personality that make us unique literary specimens. Lackluster or not, this volume is a suitable introduction to Plimpton's spirit and style.
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Reflecting their late author's curiosity about almost everything, these 19 pieces (1990-2004) are gathered from publications as wide-ranging as Gourmet, Men's Journal, The Exeter Bulletin, Playboy, Harper's
, and, of course, Plimpton's beloved New Yorker
. The subjects of the pieces are themselves fascinating; there's Hunter Thompson at the movie premiere of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
and Jackie Kennedy throwing a pirate party for her children and their friends. Other highlights are the author's piano performance at Harlem's Apollo Theater, his "anticlimactic" visits to the Playboy mansion, and an East African visit to his documentary-filmmaker friend Alan Root. Contradictorily, for a writer who so often places himself in the middle of his work, the strongest pieces here are those where Plimpton is least intrusive, as in his bittersweet account of Larry Walters' memorable flight (elevation 16,500 feet) using 42 helium-filled balloons and a Sears, Roebuck lawn chair. For collections where the author's books remain popular. Alan MooresCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved