Harpo Speaks… About New York BOOK review [Harpo Marx/Rowland Barber]

Book Reviews
Harpo Speaks... About New York BOOK review [Harpo Marx/Rowland Barber]
Feb 9, 2001, 04:58

HARPO SPEAKS… ABOUT NEW YORK by Harpo Marx with Rowland Barber; The Little Bookroom, 2001

This charming memoir by Harpo Marx is a vivid, endearing portrait of life in New York City at the dawn of the 20th century. The Marx family was poor but cheerful, making ends meet despite having nine or more mouths to feed daily. Young Harpo left school at the age of eight, due in no small part to being thrown out of the classroom window every day by two Irish bullies. There was nothing Harpo missed about school, “…it was all wrong. It didn't teach anybody how to exist from day to day, which was how the poor had to live. School prepared you for life—that thing in the far-off future—but not for the world, the thing you had to face today, tonight, and when you woke up in the morning with no idea of what the new day would bring.” Quite a realization for a young boy. Soon Harpo was educating himself in the streets, hustling merchandise, shooting pool, riding the el train, and scraping by. He does speak fondly of his parents and their relationship, his father Frenchie, a tailor by trade, and his mother Minnie who was instrumental in pushing her sons into show business. Smart, funny, and wise, this short volume is like a perfectly preserved daguerreotype from long ago, and will stay with you long after you've finished reading.

-Wade Iverson

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