Charyn - A Shriek Inside My SkullThursday, July 16, 2015
For years I wanted to read The Personal Memoirs of U.S.Grant. When I finally nailed a copy (a not too well preserved second edition at my Vancouver Public Library’s main branch) I was rewarded by this incredible first sentence:
My family is American, and has been for generations, in all its branches, direct and collateral.
A few weeks ago I received in the mail a copy of the latest (2015) book by one of my all-time favourite authors. It is Bitter Bronx – Thirteen Stories by Jerome Charyn.
Without looking at the first paragraph of the first story or the last of the thirteenth one, I picked Princess Hannah (the 9th story) which I thoroughly enjoyed. While that story sinks in I decided to give Bitter Bronx my first and last paragraph test. Here it is!
Lorelei, Page 19
Howell was still on the lam. He’d been a grifter most of his life, a guy without a permanent address. He had six Social Security cards, seven driver’s licenses, a potpourri of voter registration cards, bankbooks under a dozen names. He was Mark Crawford in Florida, Mel Eisenstein in Tennessee. He’d never declared any income, never paid any tax, never been caught. His grift was quite simple. He’d settle into a small town, deposit ten thousand dollars into the local bank, walk around in a very conservative suit, register at the best hotel, and wait: the women would always come to him. He never poked around, never asked questions, never made a list of wealthy widows.
The last paragraph of the last story is a killer but it reveals too much in its ending which is a surprise so I will skip it. What will do are the first two lines of the Author’s Note:
For a long time I couldn’t go back to the Bronx. It felt like a shriek inside my skull, or a wound that had been stitched over by some insane surgeon, and I didn’t dare undo any of the stitches.