I spent a good part of my childhood wanting to be a journalist – until I went to college and realized that reporting just isn’t for me. Like Paul LaRosa, in his memoir, Leaving Story Avenue, I was better at writing features. My interest in journalism made this book all the more appealing, since LaRosa spent years working at The New York Daily News and candidly writes about his brush with the Son of Sam, interviewing Joe DiMaggio, attending a “launch” for CIE perfume (featuring Candace Bergen, who appeared in their ads), and, yes, attending elementary school with future Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor.
Leaving Story Avenue starts off when LaRosa and his family move to a housing project in the Bronx. Although the Projects were nice at first, since the buildings were new and well-maintained, as the years went by, they became more and more dangerous as crime ran rampant. The chapters on LaRosa’s college years at Fordham University are brief, and one of the most interesting of them features the summer he spent working in California. After graduation, LaRosa starts off as a copyboy at The New York Daily News, eventually working his way up through the ranks to become a features reporter. This is where the meat of the story is, and I enjoyed reading every detail about the newsroom, the photographers, the characters that were his co-workers, and the fact that computers hadn’t yet taken hold — meaning that everything was typed on a typewriter. I found the terminology, the printing process and the details on typesetting to be completely fascinating.
LaRosa is a magnificent storyteller, and isn’t afraid not to whitewash his life’s story. Everything from the good (winning the Meyer “Mike” Berger Prize) to the bad (his childhood predilection for shoplifting) are included. The book is well-written and the story zips right along, without getting bogged down in too many details. LaRosa knows exactly what his readers want to read, and skirts around topics like his married life, his high school and college graduations, and every minute detail of his high school job working in a Deli. It takes a great storyteller to know how to tell just enough of something, without going completely overboard, and LaRosa obviously has that gift.
I highly recommend this book to not only journalist “wanna be’s” who are curious about how newspapers used to operate before computers, but to anyone who appreciates a good memoir.
Leaving Story Avenue by Paul LaRosa is published by Park Slope Publishing. The book is available for purchase on April 18, 2012. Check out the Leaving Story Avenue blog for additional information.
(Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided to me by the published in exchange for my honest review. For more information, please check out my disclosure policy.)