book review: the measure of a man

Our town recently held a writers’ festival. I’d read at least something by most of the writers beforehand, but not JJ Lee. Well, his readings and talking about other people’s books completely sold me on his book The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit.

It’s a story about becoming an apprentice tailor, and about Lee’s childhood, and about his troubled relationship with his father, and about how important the clothes that we wear are, how they are ways we express our identity and the selves we want to be. Reading this book I learned how the lapels are the sexiest part of a suit, and how ticked off old Chinese tailors still are about jeans.

But Lee writes compellingly about his family too. At the festival his performances were incredibly crowd-pleasing and funny, and then he’d read a bit about sinking into the closet filled with the smell of his now-gone father and you’d want to cry. It’s an impressive impressive piece of work about intimacy among men. And now I kind of want to dress a little better.

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2 thoughts on “book review: the measure of a man

  1. Hmmm, my mum bought me a copy of this book from when JJ Lee was at a similar Writers Fest in Edmonton. Been sitting next to my computer for a few months now and I’m thinking I should really get around to reading it.

    • Did you read it? I don’t know how much you would like it. I have a bit of a fascination with difficult father-son relationships and how that plays out for people who had them. Hearing JJ Lee talk about baseball and suits and that kind of “male” stuff as the way fathers and sons are allowed to be intimate was totally fascinating to me in a way it might not be for everyone.

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