Sidney Poitier - The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography

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Sorry Oprah! Measure of a Man didn't make me want to dine with Sidney Poitier

Feb 26, 2007
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Interesting man and subject matter

Cons:Boring, dry, jumps around alot, book doesn't do subject justice

The Bottom Line: I sadly don't recommend this book. My opinion of Poitier was higher before reading it and the book (even though he wrote it) doesn't do him justice.


The Measure of a Man by Sidney Poitier revealed to me the vast difference between the spoken and written word. I have listened to interviews of Sidney Poitier many times and I simply love hearing the man speak. He has such an eloquence and charm to him that when he speaks you feel like he is just oozing wisdom. I have a great deal of respect of him as a person and for his accomplishments. I wanted to like this book - I really did - but his eloquence and wisdom just does not come across nearly as powerfully when written down.

Measure of a Man is a spiritual autobiography of Poitier's life. He talks a great deal about his childhood on Cat Island, his move to the Bahamas and then New York and how this change from the primitive to civilization affected him. He also talks a great deal about his family, particularly about his parents. Latter chapters in the book focus more on his career and he concludes by attempting to articulate his spiritual beliefs. All in all, it was not a bad premise for a book.

So what went wrong? The beginning chapters about his childhood and early life drag. He jumps from one story to the next and never allows you to fully invest in any one particular story. I found the beginning very boring and had to force myself to continue. Likewise, I found the chapters on his movies a bit self congratulatory but worse -- boring. The final chapters were his best and most controversial. But I didn't really understand his "theory of opposites" and thought that he came off somewhat arrogant in parts. There was a little bit of - this is what I believe and if you don't believe as I do then you must be stupid - kind of thing going on.

Finally, this book drove me nuts stylistically. I envision he sat down with a tape recorder, told stories, and then had someone transcribe them. The problem is that it is okay to talk in run on sentences, they sound good sometimes but it is not okay to write in them. And it is certainly not okay to write an entire book full of them. Normally, I like a conversational tone in a book, but this was way too conversational for me. It came across as very stream of conscious and unpolished.

With all that being said, I would like to have dinner with Sidney Poitier. I would love to hear him talk and listen to that great voice of his. In addition, I think he has some really interesting stories to tell. This book just doesn't do his voice or his stories justice.


Recommend this product? No


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