Paul Bauer's Reviews > Diary of the Century: Tales from America's Greatest Diarist

Diary of the Century by Edward Robb Ellis
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's review
Feb 25, 2012

it was amazing
Read from March 15 to May 18, 2012

Unless I live to be very old, I will have spent most of my life in the 20th century. And now that it's more than a dozen years past, I find myself wanting to understand it. I just read Shirer on the Third Reich and now this history in diary form by a NY reporter. A parade of terrific characters pass through this wonderful diary. Among these is the 20th century's greatest con man--Chicago's Joseph "Yellow Kid" Weil. Some of his cons were so elaborate, he failed to show a profit despite a big haul. Ellis describes him thus:

"At the age of 68 he is of medium height, slender, wears rimless glasses and sports a Van Dyke. When he was in the money, between prison sentences, he dressed in winged collars, colorful cravats held in place by a diamond stickpin, striped trousers, cutaway coat, spats and patent leather shoes. He picked ladies to match his cravats."

In addition to Weil, the sweet Jimmy Durante, the malignant Joe McCarthy, the normal Dr. Seuss, the genuine Harry Truman, and so many more. I think I like Ellis best of all. After a long day covering the crash of an airliner and surveying the carnage scattered across a frozen field on Staten Island, he returns home and to bed. He falls into his wife's arms, thankful for her warmth and her life. There's a real humanity about Ellis. And he was clearly as intrigued by Joseph Mitchell's New Yorkers as I am. Ellis may be our Pepys.
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message 1: by Philip (new)

Philip Turner Lovely write-up on Ellis's great book, Paul. So glad to know you enjoyed it, and him, so much.

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