Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Red Leather Diary

I'll admit right up front that I'm a sucker when it comes to certain subjects. I love stories about underdogs, social history of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, extraordinary oldsters, and eyewitness accounts of famous past events. Every once in a while, several of my "weaknesses" are combined in a way that I can't resist. I've been noticing some chatter about a new book, one that I will admit that I haven't held in my own hands yet, that intrigues me because of the way that it combines several of the very elements I've mentioned.

The book is descriptively called The Red Leather Diary and is Lily Koppel's account of how a long forgotten diary was discovered in a dumpster outside her New York City apartment building. Luckily, Lily is the kind of woman who could not stand to see something like that trashed. Even better, she decided to find the original owner of the diary and, amazingly enough, she found 90-year old Florence Wolfson and established a deep bond with the older woman. The diary covers the period 1929-1934, a fascinating time in New York City history, but Koppel's book also tells of the new relationship between the two women.

The book is scheduled for release on April 8 and there is a dedicated website out there for those, like me, who have become interested in reading it. I'm in the mood for one of those "feel good" stories that come along every so often, so I'm looking forward to seeing this one for myself.

And I'm curious: Have any of you guys seen the book or, even better, had a chance to read this one yet? If so, what did you think of it?

(As several of you probably have, I have received an email from Lily regarding the book...grassroots marketing at its best...and I am more curious now than ever.)

13 comments:

  1. I got an email directing me to her site about the book (which looks very interesting) but unfortunately, no copies in hand yet. I'll wait till it arrives at the public library.

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  2. This book intrigues me as well. I'll be on the lookout for it.

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  3. I also received that email and it piqued my curiosity right away for the same reasons as it did you! I put my name in the library queue, but I might just go out and buy it, it sounds so good (and I hate having to wait for library books sometimes--as I'm at the bottom of this list rather than the top).

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  4. I got the same email from the author. I already thought the book sounded interesting; I'm looking forward to reading it.

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  5. Wow, this sounds really good. I too share some of your weaknesses. Thanks for bringing this one to my attention. I hadn't heard of it before.

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  6. I received the email from the author as well and thought it looked fascinating. Wish she had offered me a review copy!

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  7. Well, guys, looks like this one is a "mystery" for now. I haven't seen a review anywhere yet but it looks as if a bunch of us are going to take a look at this one when it hits the shelves of libraries and bookstores.

    Thanks for the comments.

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  8. I read The Red Leather Diary and posted my thoughts here. The short answer is that it's a mixed bag: too long for the amount of content but still touching and effective. In places the writing sags. The original article—see here for a link—provides a hefty portion in the content in 5% of the space.

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  9. Interesting review, Jake. Thanks for the link. I'm a little disappointed by what you've written but I'll be taking a look at the book as soon as I spot a copy. Thanks again.

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  10. You're welcome WRT the link, Sam. I didn't enjoy writing the review, especially because The Red Leather Diary is actually the first review copy of a book I've received from a publisher, although more are allegedly on the way. I've been warned that eventually the euphoria ("Free books!" "Someone vaguely cares about my opinion!") eventually wears off when you get more than you can read and most of those you don't want to read anyway.

    The book also disappointed because I very much liked the NYT article it was based on, as I indicated in the article.

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  11. Jake, my best advice regarding review copies is to only accept those books that sound interesting or good to you right up front. Be honest with the publishers and publicists when a book just doesn't sound right for you or when you are overloaded already. They will, I think, appreciate your frankness and can use their limited resources and copies to get the review copies to someone who has the time and inclination to read them.

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  12. Hi Sam, I just finished reading the Red leather Diary and wanted to let you know what a great book it is. The author not only builds her story as if you are reading the original diary with her for the first time but also writes with a refined lyricism rare in nonfiction. Highly recommended.

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  13. I haven't read it yet, Wendy. Strangely enough, I don't even remember running into a copy of it anywhere yet. But thanks for the positive remarks...now I'll be looking for it again. :-)

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