Herb’s Pajamas, Stories by Abigail Thomas ’59. New Yorkers are trained not to wonder what is behind the mask as they pass anonymously by fellow New Yorkers. Herb’s Pajamas tells of the poignancy, humor, and emotion that goes unnoticed in four denizens of a neighborhood way up on the west side of town, whose lives marginally intersect as they go about their business. If they are in any way representative of the millions of lives in the city, then it is no wonder that we are reluctant to delve too deeply. What is going on with our neighbors risks overwhelming us. Walter, for instance, recites Dover Beach, Matthew Arnold’s powerful argument that love can be the antidote for the loss of faith, as a sort of mantra even as the love that sustained him evaporates. Edith, a fifty-two year old virgin, out to buy fish, worries about future memory loss. “Edith wondered what it would be like when she could no longer be sure of carrying the word fish in her head long enough to buy some. As if the word would slip away, swim back to some dark place, some liquid grotto in her brain. . .” Abigail’s language is infused with freshness, and her tender treatment of her characters imparts to them more love and understanding than they experienced in their lives.
Jul 31, 2018
War Stories by Lew LeBlanc, edited by Susan (Elvers) LeBlanc ’82. This is one of those “lift the curtain” books, where we get to view from the inside a workplace we normally know only from the outside. Lew, a seasoned firefighter, lets us in on what goes on in a series of anecdotes. At first I thought each tale would be “we went to fire and then we put it out.” It turns out that every fire is different, more and more the firefighters in this suburb of Boston are called upon for medical emergencies, and humans can be counted on to make mistakes and get in trouble. One fire, apparently set by an arsonist, failed to burn down the house because the windows and doors were so sealed up that there was not enough oxygen to sustain a fire. The fire flashed, making a lot of smoke, and then went out on its own. This is a book to have on your Ipad – you can read an anecdote while in a waiting room or when your waiting for your grandchild to come out of school. The picture emerges of a man who had the right job for his talents and temperament; he really enjoyed the excitement of tending to emergencies, working with brother and sister firefighters, and finding the humor in everything that goes wrong.