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Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite
Poteet Victory by J. Robert Keating is a non-fiction biography about the acclaimed modern artist of the same name. Born in Oklahoma with the given name of Robert Poteet, the culture, tribal history, and immense influence his paternal Choctaw-Cherokee grandmother, Willie Victory, had on his transformative years is reflected in his name, his life, and his career. Victory was extraordinarily fortunate to have found himself discovered by another famous Oklahoma pop artist, Harold Stevenson, who saw Victory's potential. Victory describes Stevenson's introductions into the New York art scene as significant. We're able to read of Victory's verbal accounts of stories that run the gamut from rubbing elbows with the likes of Al Pacino in a theater and Andy Warhol beckoning to him from his Brownstone to heartfelt conversations about cyclical alcoholism, guilt, and, of course...art.
I knew absolutely nothing about Poteet Victory prior to picking up J. Robert Keating's book. This turned out to be advantageous to me as the book progressed because everything I was being told was fresh and new. Readers who are familiar with Victory will likely have heard some of his stories before, the man being renowned as great a storyteller as he is an artist—and his stories are incredibly entertaining. Keating does not dampen Victory's strong drawl and it's charming. This matters because the book is written almost entirely in dialogue and in a conversational interview style, without any genuine arc or descriptive elements except for what Victory tells us. Poteet Victory the book is Poteet Victory the artist telling Keating and readers his life story.
There are deeper moments where he speaks of historical inaccuracies and the emotional pain that comes with a rich native legacy that is impossible to ignore. Then there are others, such as when a story is shared about a famous playwright who was homosexual, that clearly serve as reminders of pain among other minority groups that are still made light of today. Overall, this is an entertaining book for readers who enjoy conversational interviews and a look back into the mid-to-late 20th century and the titans of art and culture that formed them.