Sculptor John Safer’s delightful memoir REFLECTIONS AND REMINISCENCES is more than just a chronicle of an interesting life, it’s a snapshot of personal and political history.
Safer’s rich life has run a gamut of Air Force tours of duty rebuilding post-World War II Europe, diplomatic assignments, Harvard Law School, work in political campaigns, high-ranked business positions in real estate and banking — and his art. One of his sculptures is the soaring “Ascent” at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington and “Judgment” at Harvard Law School.
The book is structured into fifty short anecdotes, each building to an interesting or unusual point. He makes no secret of how useful high-level cronyism is when dealing with lower level bureaucrats (especially when it comes to placing his art in embassies). He was never shy about using his contacts to further his interests, and contacting someone he knew higher up the food chain to smooth the way. Stories of his first experience viewing Michelangelo’s David contrast beautifully with remembrances of the sharp-edged life in the early days behind the Iron Curtain in Bucharest. The contrast of those with anecdotes of Arnold Palmer’s start in golf, how a famous photo of Einstein was snapped, a parody of Sherlock Holmes and Watson, and forcing truth in late-night television vacuum cleaner sales creates a lively variety.
Safer also offers insight into some of the earlier political machinations around the Kennedy, McCarthy, and Humphrey campaigns are eye-opening to outsiders and show how little has changed over the decades. Some of his final comments in the individual anecdotes are ironic; at least one, (a rape reference using Latin for “the law does not concern itself with trifles”), is infuriating and chilling in the current climate because it is even truer and sharper now than when the event described actually occurred.
The writing is bright, crisp, and clear, with a voice that is confident and somewhat wry. The only disappointment is that there isn’t more about the inspirations for his sculptures and the actual processes in their creation.
REFLECTIONS AND REMINISCENCES is often funny, sometimes disturbing, and always interesting, in its scope of personal history against events of often historical significance.
~Eva Schegulla for IndieReader