The Boys, Girls of Summer
May I recommend “Wait Till Next Year” by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian / author Doris Kearns Goodwin? I’ve just finished this memoir of Goodwin’s colorful ‘50s childhood growing up in the shadow of Ebbets Field. It was a glorious time to be a Brooklyn Dodger fan, and young Doris--defending her team from the neighborhood’s Yankees and Giants supporters--developed a lifelong passion for baseball. I especially enjoyed reading her book after seeing her speak so eloquently about the Dodgers in Ken Burns’ “Baseball” documentary series on PBS.
Goodwin’s earliest memories are of “those wondrous days when baseball almost ruled the world!” Since the author is a historian, her accounts of a New England childhood rooted in the rituals of baseball seasons, the Catholic Church and traditional family life (marred by serious illness) are presented on a broad historical canvas. Were the ‘50s an “innocent” time, as so often portrayed? Hardly, points out Goodwin, when one considers the threats of McCarthyism, polio and the atom bomb, to name a few. Can a serious 1998 Los Angeles Dodger fan (like myself) take something of value from “Wait Till Next Year”? Yes. The title.
For the record:
12:00 AM, Jul. 27, 1998 For the Record
Los Angeles Times Monday July 27, 1998 Home Edition Life & Style Part E Page 4 View Desk 1 inches; 18 words Type of Material: Correction
Book title--Michael Jahn won an Edgar Award for “The Quark Maneuver.” An incorrect title was given in Thursday’s Life & Style.
“Chump Change” by Dan Fante (the son of novelist John Fante of Los Angeles) begins in a treatment center in New York after an alcohol-induced suicide attempt and tracks three weeks in the life of Bruno Dante, a failed and crazy ex-telemarketer. Bruno is notified by his unfaithful, Valium-popping wife that his father, a scenarist named Jonathan, is about to die of diabetes in Los Angeles. Bruno and his wife, ever not speaking, catch the next flight west with disastrous results.
In L.A., Fante’s alter ego goes head to head with every emotional brick wall from Malibu to Compton: a 7-Eleven store manager; Jonathan’s drug-addicted bull terrier, who is dying of cancer; a 15-year-old stuttering hooker who reads Faulkner; an accountant brother who stop-watches his car rides; and a dating service that gives a new and perverse dimension to the notion of compatibility. Fante’s airplane scene alone is by turns the most touching, hilarious and upsetting piece of writing since the best of Charles Bukowski.
Don’t miss “Chump Change.” It is passionate, obscene and quite wonderful.
English writer Jill Gascoine’s “Lillian” was in my beach bag last week, and because I couldn’t put it down, I left the beach extremely sunburned.
“Lillian” tells the story of Jessica, a 50-year-old British woman who is suffering from severe depression despite the unconditional love of her husband, Bill, and her three grown sons. When she is invited by her best friend, Norma, to spend time in a lavish mansion in Los Angeles, Jessica thinks it will be the perfect antidote to her unhappiness. Yet Norma’s glitzy life and adulterous husband push Jessica further into her shell, and it is only when she meets Lillian, a dynamic older woman, that she is able to enjoy life again.
The women develop a strong friendship, which grows into a love affair. Gascoine does a remarkable job of portraying a convincing and beautiful relationship between two older women. The writing is funny and fluid--and the story is addictive.
Easy, fun and informative summer reading for every woman, and maybe even the guys, is a new paperback by Dr. Carole Lieberman and Lisa Collier Cool entitled “Bad Boys: Why We Love Them, How to Live With Them, and When to Leave Them.” Start with the quiz in Chapter 2 (“What’s His Problem Anyway?”) to determine which one (or more) of the dozen categories fits your man. I found it uncannily accurate--so much so that it encouraged me to plow into other chapters with such titillating titles as “The Self-Absorbed Seducer,” “The Compulsive Flirt,” “Misunderstood and Married,” “Mr. Power Mad,” “The Man of Mystery,” “The Lethal Lover,” “The Prince of Darkness” and many others.
Each chapter begins with a fairy tale and takes the reader through all-too-familiar scenarios, offering practical suggestions for understanding your lover and your choices.
Since so many mysteries in recent years seem to be obsessed with cemeteries, funerals and how the body is handled, it is a pleasure to come across an author who gives his protagonist a plot more involved with the live world around him. In Michael Jahn’s “Murder on Fifth Avenue,” Det. Capt. Bill Donovan is an Irish cop from New York’s West Side who recently (after many false starts) has married wealthy, multiracial Marcy, who at one time worked for him.
Marcy is in the hospital about to deliver their first child when Donovan goes to buy the baby a rattle at F.A.O. Schwarz. Suddenly, the air is rent with screams, shots, the sound of breaking glass and the wail of a burglar alarm, which plunge Donovan into fast-action mode. Author Jahn won an Edgar Award for “The Quick Maneuver,” and his Bill Donovan series grows better with each offering.
CATHEY L. PINCKNEY
* What’s that book in your beach bag (or carry-on, or on your night table)? Is it any good? Send us a review! We’re especially interested in hearing about fiction that you don’t find reviewed in The Times, but feel free to send us your opinions of whatever it is you are reading. Keep the reviews short (200 words, tops) and send them (with your phone number) to Readers Reviews, Life and Style, The Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles CA 90053, or fax them to (213) 237-0732. We’ll print the most interesting ones every other week. Sorry, but no submissions can be returned.
* Next week: Cathy Curtis reviews art books.