Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Introducing Barney and Gienka of Meriden, Connecticut.

If you enjoyed Ania and Charlie, I'd like to introduce you to Barney and Gienka. They are the parents of John Surowiecki, a Connecticut poet. They are also the hero and heroine of the book, Barney and Gienka. I finished the book this past weekend, but I haven't left their neighborhood, mostly post-war Meriden, where what matters is Jell-O, backyard telescopes, and nurses with false teeth. The tenderness, poignancy, and humor are all perfectly pitched. And the language is efficient and expansive and delightful.

Moreover, one of the people you meet has the world's best name: Mr. Szmykleszczwladeczaryniecki.

I know just enough Polish to convince myself that I have successfully pronounced this name. Several times. I think I should get a prize.

Here is my review of the book, which I posted on Goodreads:

What a joy are Barney and Gienka and the people who make up their Polish-American community in Meriden, CT. This book is a neighborhood, viewed with tenderness and honesty by a writer and son who sees the subtle ways in which love succeeds and fails, and how people find consolation in a television movie, a cabbage garden, a bowl of Jell-O. Funny, sad, and beautiful, this book reminds us of what is extraordinary in an ordinary life.

I don't know how much attention this book has received in Connecticut. I think it should get a lot. There and everywhere.

Read one of the poems here.

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