Monday, 22 June 2015

Book Review of Jerome Charyn's Bitter Bronx

The Overnight Bestseller is pleased to be participating in the Tribute Books Blog Tour for Bitter Bronx by Jerome Charyn.

Book Summary

Brooklyn is dead. Long live the Bronx! In Bitter Bronx, Jerome Charyn returns to his roots and leads the literary renaissance of an oft-overlooked borough in this surprising new collection.

In Bitter Bronx, one of our most gifted and original novelists depicts a world before and after modern urban renewal destroyed the gritty sanctity of a land made famous by Ruth, Gehrig, and Joltin' Joe.

Bitter Bronx is suffused with the texture and nostalgia of a lost time and place, combining a keen eye for detail with Jerome Charyn's lived experience. These stories are informed by a childhood growing up near that middle-class mecca, the Grand Concourse; falling in love with three voluptuous librarians at a public library in the Lower Depths of the South Bronx; and eating at Mafia-owned restaurants along Arthur Avenue's restaurant row, amid a "land of deprivation…where fathers trundled home…with a monumental sadness on their shoulders."

In "Lorelei," a lonely hearts grifter returns home and finds his childhood sweetheart still living in the same apartment house on the Concourse; in "Archy and Mehitabel" a high school romance blossoms around a newspaper comic strip; in "Major Leaguer" a former New York Yankee confronts both a gang of drug dealers and the wreckage that Robert Moses wrought in his old neighborhood; and in three interconnected stories—"Silk & Silk," "Little Sister," and "Marla"—Marla Silk, a successful Manhattan attorney, discovers her father's past in the Bronx and a mysterious younger sister who was hidden from her, kept in a fancy rest home near the Botanical Garden. In these stories and others, the past and present tumble together in Charyn's singular and distinctly "New York prose, street-smart, sly, and full of lurches" (John Leonard, New York Times).

Throughout it all looms the "master builder" Robert Moses, a man who believed he could "save" the Bronx by building a highway through it, dynamiting whole neighborhoods in the process. Bitter Bronx stands as both a fictional eulogy for the people and places paved over by Moses' expressway and an affirmation of Charyn's "brilliant imagination" (Elizabeth Taylor, Chicago Tribune).

 Price/Formats: $12.59 ebook,
$24.95 hardcover
Genre: Short Stories
Pages: 320
Publisher: Liveright
Release: June 15, 2015
ISBN: 9780871404893

Author Bio

Jerome Charyn's stories have appeared in The Atlantic, The Paris Review, The American Scholar, Epoch, Narrative, Ellery Queen, and other magazines. His most recent novel is I Am Abraham. He lived for many years in Paris and currently resides in Manhattan.

The Overnight Bestseller's Review of Bitter Bronx

Having previously reviewed Under the Eye of God by Jerome Charyn, I was already aware of the intense hold that the Bronx of his childhood has on his imagination. As he writes in the "Author's Note" to Bitter Bronx:
I realized that I had been shaped as a writer not with the words I didn’t have, not with lavish pencil cases, not with library books I had never borrowed, but with some ghost’s vocabulary. I’d filled that amorphous void of the South Bronx with my own imagination.

There is both nostalgia and comedy in Bitter Bronx, and it is written in Charyn's lyrical prose that speaks of eyes bleeding “the viscous color of tears” and of Jackson Pollock's paintings “with their lashing rhythm, as if colors could cry out," to give only two examples of his lyricism.

The thirteen stories in this book are populated by an exotic blend of characters who surprise us with their eccentricities at the same time as they touch us with their unrequited love, losses, and thwarted dreams. There is Lorelei, who lives with her father in a Bronx apartment, never able to move beyond its sad confines. There is the story of Adonis, which is particularly poignant in its depiction of the lonely mob widows who are never able to feel loved once again. There are three stories of the Silks, reminiscent of Salinger's fictional and dysfunctional families. In “The Major Leaguer,” we are reminded of Charyn's abiding interest in the players of a lost era of greatness who emerged from the Bronx such as Joe DiMaggio, the subject of Charyn's book, Joe Dimaggio: The Long Vigil. And, in the background, as in Under the Eye of God, outside forces conspire to destroy the author's beloved Bronx through development and land grabs. The shadow of Robert Moses is felt in each of these stories, a man who created a highway that irrevocably divided the Bronx into north and south.
Bitter Bronx will appeal to fans of Charyn's Isaac Sidel series, short story lovers in general, and those readers seeking a refreshing book with unconventional prose and colorful characters brought lovingly to life.

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Monday, 15 June 2015

Pleasant Discoveries

This weekend the Kemptville District Hospital Auxiliary held its fifty-fifth annual Heyday! garage and yard sale in the North Grenville curling arena. It's almost always raining, parking is impossible to find within a couple of blocks, and I try never to miss it each year. I was there Friday night, circulating with the dense crowd, elbowing my way in to the tables, searching for a bargain.

Among my purchases this year was a pleasant discovery: a Canon PowerShot A550 digital camera in its original box. When it came out in 2007, it was considered a decent, affordable model that retailed at $149 in what was at that time a burgeoning digital camera market. I took it out of the box, found that it still contained batteries and a memory card, and was able to turn it on. I shot a few pictures of boxes filled with cables and power bars and junk, and since it seemed to work all right I asked the volunteer behind the table how much he wanted for it. Five bucks. I gave him a nearly-new plastic fiver and dropped it into my bag.

Yesterday morning, nursing a sore head after a massive migraine attack that lasted all day Saturday, I took my new purchase out into the back yard for a test run, taking random shots, just enjoying being out in the warm morning air. Back inside, I uploaded the photos to my computer for a closer look. No problems. I brought one of the pictures into my copy of old-school Paint Shop Pro 5 (circa 1998) and added a text caption. Something to get the creative juices working before I tackled the manuscript in progress.

When you figure that the camera is eight years old, which is ancient for lifestyle technology and one step away from the local landfill site, picking it up at 97% off its original price was a decent deal. Everyone uses their phone to take pictures now, but I'll carry this little PowerShot in the canvas messenger bag I throw in the back seat of the car whenever I go out, and use it for impulse photography when I'm on the road. Et voilĂ :

Monday, 8 June 2015

Writer Beware®: Tools for Writers

If you're a writer and you haven't had the opportunity to check out the Writer Beware® website and blog, you might like to do so. Writer Beware® is sponsored by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and other professional writers' associations and is devoted to bringing writers the latest news on publishing, as well as information on literary scams and schemes. There is also a Facebook page which contains articles of interest to writers and provides a forum for discussion.

An example of a recent post concerns the need for an online licensing system for copyrighted works. It can be found at

Writer Beware® also publishes a "Thumbs Down" list of publishers and agents that have been the subject of numerous complaints. Please see

Monday, 1 June 2015

Turning the Raccoon Loose on Facebook

Call me a reluctant independent, if you will.

Just like anyone else, I'd love to be working under contract with a traditional publisher, but since that's not currently in the cards it's important, for the sake of morale and courage in the face of the manuscript in progress, to embrace my independence.

Yea, to celebrate it, even.

I have fun with the @PlaidRaccoon Twitter account. For example,

The Raccoon Twitter persona has sort of taken on a life of its own. I have fun tweaking the beak of the Random Penguin while promoting our publications and otherwise fishing for notable trout in the ever-flowing Twitter stream.

So why not, in the spirit of embracing independence, spread the fun to Facebook? This way, the rascally raccoon isn't limited to 140 characters. Hmmm, on second thought......

Check out the Plaid Raccoon Press on Facebook, and if you're so inclined, LIKE us! You may be sorry you did, but oh well. What's life without risks? Just tap your paw on this link: