STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
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This area is a special, beautiful place.
Beth Kephart, an author, newspaper columnist and memoir professor at the University of Pennsylvania, offers her take on why that is with black-and-white photography and poetic, but surprisingly succinct, essays in “Love: A Philadelphia Affair.” The book is a bright-and-tight 127 pages.
Temple University Press will release this love letter to the region — which also waxes romantic on Glenside, Ardmore, Bryn Mawr, Lancaster County, the Poconos, Wilmington, Del. and Beach Haven, N.J., among other places — on Oct. 15. It will cost $24.50 in electronic and book format. Kephart will be at the Free Library of Philadelphia at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 7. Check http://libwww.freelibrary.org/authorevents for more information.
The opening chapter, about the writer revisiting her grandmother’s old neighborhood in Southwest Philly, is a rather depressing beginning. But you have to keep pushing forward to reach the hopeful reflection on the Fairmount neighborhood, and the unlikely preservation of the abandoned Eastern State Penitentiary.
Kephart manages to make riding the SEPTA regional rails — watching “the seasons unmaking themselves … the acrobatic tags of graffiti,” among the other “discordant” sights — sound like a thoroughly interesting pursuit. Ditto for wandering the crowded Reading Terminal Market, which she finds especially meaningful during the month of November.
“Love: A Philadelphia Affair” has a stirring chapter on the sports complex in South Philly, linking the gone-but-not-forgotten Spectrum and Vet with the 2010 Men’s World Cup at Lincoln Financial Field and Bruce Springsteen’s “Wrecking Ball” tour at the Phillies’ 11-year-old ballpark.
There’s detailed, heart-on-sleeve vignettes about the Art Museum, Independence Mall, the Devon Horse Show, the New Hope area, Port Richmond, the Wayne Art Center, Old City, the Schuylkill River, Memorial Hall … all by someone who really gets it.
Then there’s places you might have forgotten about, but should go visit because of what Kephart writes about them — The Woodlands, where “men and women who cared about the consequential, who got things done” are buried; The Louise Reed Center for Dance on Philadelphia’s North Broad Street; Chanticleer in Wayne; or the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Berks County.
Is there more she could’ve written about? Probably — but Kephart’s not one to be at a loss for words. Besides 19 other books, she blogs daily at www.beth-kephart.blogspot.com.
For more on “Love: A Philadelphia Affair” visit www.temple.edu/tempress/titles/2386_reg.html.