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Friday, September 30, 2011

Justin Torres and 'We the Animals'


I gobble up the New York Times Book Review and anything related to books and then I go to the library and reserve myself a shelf full of new releases. Eventually these titles arrive and I have no memory of wanting them, no idea why I asked for them. I can't even remember how I heard about them. Such is the case of We the Animals by Justin Torres

Well, I thought. It;s a slim book. Why not give it a shot. I read it in one sitting and was nailed to the floor. This is a memoir as fiction or fiction as memoir tale of a young boy growing up in the boonies, with two brothers. There's a n abrasive, violent and adoring Latino father and a long suffering devoted white mother. There';s poverty and despair, violence, hope, love and most importantly: wonder. This young boy, our protagonist, learns and discovers-people, the country, trees, sex and sexuality.

The boy and his bothers are spanked, yelled at, loved protected and cared for. Papa leaves for another woman and returns. The kids at least take this as business as usual, but the juxtaposing of their acceptance against their mother's anger and depression is remarkable.

I say this all the time. Make me care about your characters and you get yourself a loyal reader. Bravo to Justin Torres!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

We Needed Some Music


I could have taken a course with this guy at Boston University.
A wonderul opportunity, sadly missed.
Stupid was stupid in 1975.

"One semester I learned that there were several classical musicians signed up in my course. For the very last class of the semester I stood aside while they sat in chairs up front and played a Mozart quartet. Not a customary finale to a class in political theory, but I wanted the class to understand that politics is pointless if it does nothing to enhance the beauty of our lives. Political discussion can sour you. We needed some music."

---You Can't be Neutral on a Moving Train by Howard Zinn

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

One of my favorite pictures


My beloved maternal grandparents, Anne and Patrick Duddy, in the back yard of their house in Arlington, Massachusetts, around 1960. Until I met my wife and my daughter was born, they were absolutely my favorite people. Brogues thick as honey, wonderful dry wit and filled with love. I miss them and think of them often .

They would have loved their great-grand daughter!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

My Other Grandmother


I grew up with my mother's family and I loved her parents dearly.
I never met my father's parents. They died before I was born.
He never spoke of his childhood; it was as if there was a horrible secret.
I'm told by cousins that their mothers (my father had six older sisters) never said much either.

My cousin Deborah has become the family historian and every so often she shares a new discovery. Today its this picture of my father's mother, Florence Leora Curtis -taken around 1887. She died in 1947. My father adored his mother, I know that much (from letters). Florence had her first child at 16. The baby was taken from her and raised by her mother-in-law, the legendary (to us) Grandma Smith.

Five more daughters followed and even Grandma Smith probably gave up.
My father was last in 1919-the only boy.

I only have one photo of Florence taken toward the end of her life, sitting on a stoop in Ithaca New York. Her hands appear to be crippled by arthritis.
It's nice to look at this lovely child and see my own daughter in her eyes.