Thursday, November 7, 2013

Sweet Holy MotherWHATing??? What a book!

A “fictionalized” memoir with the unlikely title of “Sweet Holy Motherfucking Everloving Delusional Bastard?” I wasn’t even going to bother with it. But then I read, in the prologue, that jail time is involved, though he warns that this book is no jailhouse confessional. Instead, he says, it’s the story of what happens to his fictionalized self between college graduation and incarceration. (You’ll have to read the book to understand this trajectory.) Now I became at least curious. Could the author manage to avoid the pitfall of poor-poor-pitiful-me whining that infects post-jail memoirs?
Oh, man. Could he ever.
Jerome Segundo may have been born to be a stand-up comic. At the very least, he’s a hell of a good writer and storyteller, whose next book will be about the ultimate diet regimen: punishment. But sticking to the present topic, Segundo’s tongue-in-cheek adventure in the world of self-discovery, friendship, dating and sex is one of the liveliest, most entertaining stories I’ve read in years. Really. He’s witty, in a self-immolating sort of way. He’s smart, and a clever writer. With his best buddies, he’s coarse—but aren’t they all. Bottom line: his heart is really, really in the right place, even if his head is reeling with confusion.
Segundo will swear it’s fiction, but the truth lies within the pages, and draws readers deeper and deeper into his crazy young life, then breaks their hearts before he’s finished with them, incarcerated as the result of a complex set of circumstances that don’t add up to a well-defined crime.
Segundo is, however, one of those people who grows and finds a new self in the process. His book does not concern jail time—it covers the crazy set of circumstances which put him there. Throughout this preposterously named book (and the title fits once you’ve read it), Segundo’s misadventures with his friends, his conversations with women and the trials of his goofy 20-something life make a great read. He and his two main pals are sardonic and blissfully unaware of life’s pitfalls, experiencing one after another with aplomb. Though na├»ve, they mature within a society that sees fit to ignore them—especially in the job market. They are the temporary slobs, slackers and posturers of society, the brothers every sister loves and can’t stand at the same time.
Segundo is young during the time period of this memoir. He is at once hopeful and skeptical—and far from politically correct. Yet he is the boy next door, who captures a unique story in a fresh style; his writing skills prove that he paid attention, at some point in his life, to good literature and good writing. Skirting the sharp edge between fiction and reality, with a tale of quite credible impact, Segundo leaves the reader hang-jawed, shouting, “Don’t do it, you idiot!” as he ventures into each mishap. Pick your favorite, whether it involves borscht and burritos, angry bees, prostatitus cures, “schlepping” flowers, or “speds” field trips (I warned you—not politically correct). This memoir, with its hard-to-remember but impossible to forget title, will win you over.
His gift for description and dialogue is well established, and sure to bring readers much more fun down the line.
Because of the way the book deals with the incident that puts him in prison, however, any young man out on his own ought to read this book—forewarned is kind of important here.
“… The verdict was the malformed product of a binary system of jurisprudence that proclaims either guilt or innocence and ignores the plight of those caught in between. A reasonable case could be made that I am both guilty and innocent. Or neither guilty nor innocent. I’m still grappling with the issue myself,” he writes.
I don’t mean to get into a lecture on the rights or wrongs of criminal acts. I mean only to say this is a good book, a funny book and—in fact—an important book. It has a bit more sex than I like to read, but younger (and more contemporary) readers will like it just as much. I am, after all, his mother’s age.
Segundo—keep writing. You’re un-holy funny and pretty darn smart about yourself and your friends. But next time, choose a title that won’t keep you off the shelves, ok?

Saturday, November 2, 2013

New England's authors aren't idle for long - what's new

With the October release of the much-anticipated sequel to Maine author Stephen King’s “The Shining,” namely, “Dr. Sleep,” readers welcome the first in a raft of pending releases from favorite authors. I’m not referencing the umpteen new releases by self-published authors, but those who are traditionally published, as book clubs tend to prefer. Scribner published this one, in which Danny is a middle-age alcoholic working at a hospice in New England. But, dear us, he’s in for some trouble with a caravan of weirdo human parasites seeking children with “the shining.” Gulp.
Others with New England ties are busy publishing, or preparing, new work:
Andre Dubus III, who grew up along the Merrimack River (read “Townie”) and teaches at UMass Lowell, has just released “Dirty Love.” He can write heartrendingly about emotional loss, and in this series of linked novellas he explores our deepest, most painful needs and weaknesses.
Longtime Massachusetts resident and Dedham native Anita Shreve releases a new novel, “Stella Bain,” in November. The title character suffers from shell shock (we call it post-traumatic stress disorder) and is taken in by a London surgeon’s family during World War I. An American nurse, she has no recollection of what happened to her on a French battlefield.
Jenna Blum, of “Those Who Save Us” and “Storm Chasers” fame is a Boston regular now living in the Midwest. She says she just finished a novella called “The Lucky One” for an anthology to be released next summer. All of the contributors to “Grand Central” are women writing about World War II, with the action in each set within Grand Central Station on the same day in 1945. Pretty cool sounding. “I had the joyous surprise of falling in love with my own story while writing it,” Jenna said. “I hope you’ll enjoy it too.”
Hank Phillippi Ryan—yes, the indefatigable journalist and mystery writer who ferrets out the dirt in consumer fraud for WHDH TV, Boston—is on a book tour now for “The Wrong Girl.” Her latest in the new Jane Ryland series, ‘Wrong Girl’ is winning kudos among reviewers. You can meet and greet her at a reading on Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. in Southboro Public Library. This “nerve-wracking” thriller (mystery writers love to hear that!) delves into an adoption agency scandal.
On tour lately as well is Chris Bohjalian, Vermont columnist and author of numerous novels, including “Midwives” and “The Sandcastle Girls.” His latest, released three months ago, is “The Light in the Ruins.” I flew through this World War II-era mystery, which includes a little romance, thank you. He’s unpredictable in his book topics, and this one’s a thriller which takes place on an Italian estate during the Nazi “collaboration.” Be prepared for romance and murder.
When Jodi Picoult addressed a packed Hanover Theatre in 2012, she was speaking about “Lone Wolf,” a new novel. Now, a year later, she has been touring for a newer novel—“The Storyteller”—which is about the Holocaust (paperback will be out in February). Picoult, of Hanover, N.H., is already at work on another book for release next year, “Leaving Time.” It’s a novel about grief, loss and, umm … elephants.
Concord resident and presidential biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin releases her latest, “The Bully Pulpit,” next week. This history explores the friendship between Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft leading up to their battle for the presidential nomination in 1912. Their fight divided the progressive wing of the Republican party and resulted in Woodrow Wilson’s election. Kearns Goodwin also writes about the legendary “muckraking” press, which gave birth to a spirit of reform supporting Roosevelt. On the side, she writes about baseball.
Speaking of history, Cape Cod resident and Pulitzer Prize-winning historian (twice) David McCullough completed his French fixation with “The Greater Journey” (about American artists who lived in Paris) and is researching a work on early aviation history by reading dozens of books on the subject. Expect it in a year or two! On his own, though, he’s an avid Ruth Rendell mystery fan.
Book groups in the region
NOW Book Group in Worcester will discuss “At Home in the World” by Joyce Maynard on Nov. 11. Maynard was only 18 when she received a letter from author J. D. Salinger, who claimed that they were soul mates—although they’d never met. After a few visits, Salinger persuaded her to leave college and move in with him. This is a memoir of their relationship and Maynard’s struggle to move beyond it.
The Douglas Library Book Group reports, through member Ellie Chesebrough: “We're reading ‘And the Mountains Echoed’ by Khaled Hosseini, for discussion on Nov. 12, 6:30 p.m., a novel about how we take care of one another, and how the choices we make resonate through generations.” Call the library 508-476-2695 to reserve a copy of the book. New members are welcome, and homemade refreshments inspired by the title will be served.
The C.S. Lewis Society Book Club meets Nov. 2 to discuss the second part of Edith Nesbit’s “Five Children and It.”Meeting is at 9 a.m. in Auburn public Library. A second session, “Fifty Years On: Reflections on the Life and Legacy of C.S. Lewis,” is slated for 9 a.m., Nov. 16. Members also plan to watch and discuss the film, “The Life and Faith of C.S. Lewis: The Magic Never Ends.”
The Pearle L. Crawford Library in Dudley has begun a book group, reports Karen Wall, director. On Nov. 7, at 6 p.m., members (readers welcome) will discuss Jenna Blum’s “Those Who Save Us,” an absorbing novel about a mother’s courage in tragic circumstances during World War II. Coming up on Dec. 5 is “Clara and Mr. Tiffany,” by Susan Vreeland.