Congratulations to Mary Stock, winner of last week's Friday Freebie: Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen by Mary Sharratt.
Lunch Bucket Paradise by Fred Setterberg. Billed as "a true-life novel," Lunch Bucket Paradise looks back on the author's California childhood in the 1960s. The publisher's jacket describes the novel's setting like this: "Working-class men, their fingers worn by honest labor, witnessed the invention of comforts designed to take the hurt off with a beer after a long day: frozen food, washer/dryer combos, and a square of unfenced grass called a lawn. Their sons dragged the perfumed streets, discovering James Brown and trying their damnedest to work less than their fathers and avoid the draft. Mothers experimented with neon-yellow cake mix and fresh asparagus year-round. It was a time even the new home movie camera couldn't capture: the silent hope of better things to come and the fleeting good fortune of mid-century. With the sharp wit of a master storyteller, Fred Setterberg chronicles his childhood in the postwar Eden of Jefferson Manor, a blue-collar suburb of Oakland. Like a Bay Area Garrison Keillor or Bill Bryson, Setterberg reveals the quirks of his family and neighbors with nuance and care. Each chapter propels him toward adulthood while poignantly exploring class, masculinity, and modern life amidst the intoxicating abundance of a new California."
Here's how Chapter One begins:
Folks in our town talked about the War only as it faded from recollection. Aiming to piece together what had actually happened, we spent Saturday nights at the Alameda Drive-In, absorbing the lessons of Mister Roberts and Teahouse of the August Moon.
When it finally arrived in the suburbs, my father praised the Rodgers and Hammerstein version of history: South Pacific featuring Mitzi Gaynor in Pan-O-Vision. Dad spoke pointedly of Rossano Brazzi's rich tenor voice as though it somehow modified the atrocities at Tarawa and cut short the bloodshed in Guam.
My uncle Win, a Navy veteran of both Pearl Harbor and the Solomon Islands, complained always about Hollywood's omissions.
In the movies, Win pointed out, nobody ever got sick. But in the South Pacific–not the musical, but the actual theatre of operations–Win had contracted malaria, dengue fever, and whenever possible, the clap.
In the movies, bullets passed through shoulders, hands, or the fleshy part of a thigh. Win assured me that hot flying metal was just as likely to tear the meat off the arm or shatter the bones or lodge in the intestines or snap the spine or strip the skin from the face and leave the skull glaring back, naked and white.
"Body parts," Win explained in a hoarse and confidential whisper as we stood in line at the snack bar, waiting out the twenty-five-minute intermission between Hell Is For Heroes and The Wackiest Ship in the Army. "Body parts is what they always leave out."
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