Friday, May 24, 2019

FFB: LET HIM GO

(from the archives)
I am a big Larry Watson fan and LET HIM GO did not disappoint. It is a great followup to books like WHITE CROSSES and MONTANA: 1948.

After their adult son is killed in an accident, his widowed wife marries again and leaves the Blackledge's home to go with her new husband to Montana. She takes their grandson with her, of course, and therein lies the problem.

"With you or without you," Margaret Blackledge insists, and at these words George knows his only choice is to follow her.
 

George takes to the road with Margaret by his side, tracking down the Weboy clan quickly. When Margaret tries to convince Lorna to return home to North Dakota, bringing little Jimmy with her, the Blackledges find themselves mixed up with the entire Weboy clan, a horrific family determined not to give the boy up without a fight. It's more about possession than love with a family like this. 

This slim volume contains a heart-pounding story, unforgettable characters, terrific atmosphere and some of the most beautiful prose you will ever read. I liked it almost as much as MONTANA: 1948.

Saturday, May 04, 2019

This is the hardest chore yet. The clothes.
I could ask someone else to do it-to fold them and bag them up. But clothes were very important to him and so now they are important to me. Folding each piece carefully as if he will be judged by their presentation at a donation center.
He had beautiful shirts. None were just a dull oxford blue. They were peacock colors, dozens of them Linen, a special favorite. Hell to iron though.
The same with the sweaters, Cashmere. Fitted.
He was not an extravagant man in any way, but he loved looking nice. A friend referred to him as dapper. That's about as close to it as I can get. I have heard stories about widows holding onto things years later. It always seemed crazy until now.

Friday, May 03, 2019

FFB: MUDBOUND

Sometimes belonging to a book group makes you read books you would never have come across on your own. This is one of them.

The story takes place in the years of the Second World War in the Mississippi Delta. It's told in multiple voices, which gives us insight into a number of characters, all of them wrestling with the lot fate has dealt them.

Two returning soldiers both struggle with what the war has done to them--one white, one black. The black soldier has actually been treated better as a soldier in Europe than he will ever be in the South of the 1940s.

The black soldier's family, sharecroppers, wrestle with the indignities forced on them in that era (leaving stores by back doors, taking what's left over of virtually everything).

The wife of the land owner (and they are not rich either) is college-educated but must live in a shack when her husband loses their potential house to a sharper bidder. Their marriage is not an easy one.

All of these characters have noble moments and lesser ones. This is a sad book but one that will stay with you. Netflix made a good movie of it too.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Things That Are Making Me Happy

As you can imagine-not too much

And yet, Phil's memorial service was simply beautiful. I asked about eighteen of our friends, family, and Phil's students to remember him through reading from his own work, through poetry he loved, through reminiscences of their years with him, through music. It turned out wonderfully. About 150 crammed into the place. People came from St. Louis, DC, NY, Flagstaff, Ohio, etc. People postponed trips to be there and if one word resonated throughout the service, it was kind. His students, and there were many of them, all concurred on his kindness to them

Some very good friends, hosted a party afterward. The Abbott family felt bathed in the affection every one expressed.

I'll be back. Keep the lights on.




Friday, April 26, 2019

C'est Fin


Philip Reading Abbott was born on October 18, 1944 in New Hope, PA. His father, William Harvey Abbott was in the Merchant Marine  and overseas. Bill Abbott would return and become a shop owner, taking over a business, which had been previously run by his father-in-law, Joseph Reading.  Phil's mother, Beryl, helped run the business.  In 1949, a second son, Billy, was born.
Phil earned a bachelor's degree from American University in D.C. in 1966 and Master's and Ph.D degrees at Rutgers University in 1971. He began teaching at Wayne in 1970 at the age of 25. During his years at WSU, Phil published 14 books, more than 40 articles and countless book reviews.  I will cede a recitation of his academic career to his colleagues.
Phil and I met in the summer of 1965. I was seventeen, he was twenty. We married in 1967 and moved to New Brunswick. In the years since, there has never been a day that Phil didn't make brighter. He was my biggest supporter, my biggest champion.  When I finally found I enjoyed writing, he read early (and later) drafts of every story I wrote and always claimed they were perfect and didn't need a word changed. We always has so much to say to each other, so much to enjoy together. He was the one I most wanted to tell something to, and I know he felt the same way.
His childhood was a hard one and the lesson he took from it was to be the best husband and father he could. I'm sure his colleagues believe he devoted his entire life to scholarship, and indeed he was a very productive scholar, and a devoted teacher. He understood Wayne students were mostly first- generation college kids. Phil was the first in his family to finish high school. His parents did not imbue him with confidence and ambition, and he felt many of his students were also very much on their own too. Every class he taught got his full attention. Every exam he graded did too. He felt it was his duty to talk in class about books, movies, and other cultural events that his students might not hear about otherwise.  He didn't use the classroom to proselytize.  Hopefully educated students would make good decisions about politics through the historical lessons he spoke and wrote about.
But Phil's greatest devotion was always to his family. He was available to us whenever we needed him. And it was all the time. President of the PTO at Grosse Pointe North High school, managing and then coaching baseball teams, taking Megan to art classes at CCS on Saturdays, being the room parent that went to Toronto twice with fifth grade classes on buses. He was very glad his kids were never embarrassed about having him around at school and at other functions. He was so proud of his two kids, both of whom strived to succeed in school, in their professions, as moral people, in life. And having a grandson, we were able to spend a lot of time with for his first ten years was the ultimate pleasure.  And both of his children's achievements were a great source of pride.  
I am sure the time ahead of me will be as difficult as these last years have been. But I so many good memories to sustain me. How lucky I was to have such a long time with such a good and generous man. I want to thank the many people who have helped us shoulder the load of these last years. I am sure it would have been immeasurably worse without the help of family and friends.  As I was lucky in a husband, and lucky with my family, I am lucky with my friends.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

SHORT STACK, Reed Farrel Coleman






This is a collection of stories and poems by Reed Farrel Coleman. The terrific cover is by his son, Dylan. Debuting today, it can be purchased at the usual places. Some mighty fine reading if the stories of his I have read in the past are any indication.