THE PEAS WERE COLD by Barry Damsky

THE PEAS WERE COLD

The Columns of Barry Damsky
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A new anthology of the previously published musings of an upstate New York newspaper columnist.

Damsky may not have achieved his goal of becoming a famous actor or a popular singer, but he has worked in show business, advertising, radio and journalism during his full life. The latter vocation inspired this collection of past columns that he wrote mostly for the Boonville (New York) Herald. It consists of slice-of-life stories, often drawn from Damsky’s personal experiences from his childhood to the present day, with a tone similar to those of the late Andy Rooney or Charles Kuralt. Usually, a column begins with a present-day situation that triggers a flashback: a date with Linda Eastman before she became Mrs. Paul McCartney; a phone conversation with Clint Eastwood about an actor Damsky represented; or a foul ball that the author snagged as a child during batting practice at Yankee Stadium. There are many lighthearted moments along the way, such as when a 14-year-old Damsky accidentally drove the family car through closed garage doors. Other recollections are more poignant and serious, including his trip to the Holocaust Museum in Israel; his observations during a visit to communist Cuba in 1957; and his son’s return home after a tour of duty in Iraq (“seeing him come through the entranceway of that giant hangar, I have a newer and clearer understanding of what pride means”). Each column usually imparts a moral lesson or words of wisdom, as in a 2005 column about the recently deceased Rosa Parks: “It’s really quite incredible, for all she did to alter history, was utter only one rather tiny word—‘No.’ ” If there is a running theme, it’s perseverance, as in the story of his attempts to release his own gospel album. The book’s prose style is simple and lively, presented in a conversational tone. Some may not find the G-rated, folksy tone of the stories to their fancy, as there’s nothing cynical or snarky about them. Yet they don’t come across as overly sentimental, either. If anything, they reveal the personality and character of a columnist who always seemed engaged with the world around him.

An often uplifting collection about life’s joys, wonders and quirks, shared by a writer who experienced them all.

Pub Date: May 21st, 2014
ISBN: 978-0692021231
Page count: 321pp
Publisher: Barry Damsky
Program: Kirkus Indie
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