Warner Library serves Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow. There’s a big browsing section of what new books the library bought.
Author: David Rakoff [illustrations by Seth]
Publication Information: New York: Doubleday, c2013 (1st ed.)
Library of Congress Classification: PS3618.A436
Dewey Decimal Classification: 813.6
Library of Congress Subject Headings:
Men—United States—Social conditions—20th century—Fiction
Women—Social conditions—20th century—Fiction
Gay men—Social conditions—20th century—Fiction
Man-woman relationships—United States—Fiction
Sexually abused children—United States—Fiction
This is a very cleverly-written series of short stories. Two of the chapters were originally broadcast on NPR’s This American Life. And that’s what these stories are about: living in America, an America from the past, the late 1930s through the 1960s. The stories are written in verse, and I’ve always found it interesting to see how authors rhyme the sentences. I remember in eighth grade, Sister Camilla Mary making the class write one poem, composition and book report every month. The poems were the hardest (it took me a while to fully understand what is a composition), and these poems only had to be eight lines.
Each chapter stands on its own, but there are links between each story that are revealed as you read. For example, the twelve-year-old who is raped by her step-father in the first story, flees and is kept warm in a frigid railway car by a man in a warm coat. In the next chapter we find out that he’s the father of the main character in the next story. He remembers seeing her freezing and, feeling sorry for her, wrapped her in his arms–he was in a big winter coat–and sang Yiddish songs to her before she fell asleep.
We have Denise, the self-center, pretentious young woman who detests her boyfriend Nathan, who never lets anything bother him. So while they are on vacation with Nathan’s friend Josh, Denise decides to seduce Josh. In a later story, Nathan is the main character in the story and he is has been asked to deliver a toast at Denise and Josh’s wedding. Then there’s Clifford, who discovers he’s gay when he’s in an art class and faints when he sees his first naked man; his cousin, who remembers that Clifford once drew her partially nude and it was the perfect day in her life; and we have Josh, who is now much older and alone, reflecting back on his past–and what he did to Nathan.
There’s sadness here, but also a lot of truth. It’s well-written and very entertaining. The pictures by Seth are powerful, and fit the characters that they portray. Sadly, there will be no further books from Rakoff, who died shortly after finishing the book.