Debut author Aboulafia highlights absurd and memorable events from his life in humorous autobiographical essays.
The author writes that he envisions memory as a series of still images strung together, and his strategy in this episodic memoir is to provide back stories for those snapshots. One of his first memories of growing up in the Bronx is a moment of disappointment when he fell and crushed a school diorama project. Many of the scenes that follow are more lighthearted, though, with good comic setups and patter. “Soft Ball,” one of the most tightly constructed narratives, relies on the title’s double meaning: while playing softball, the author was hit in the nether regions and endured days of internal bleeding and swelling. Doctors suggested that he might need a testicle removed; luckily, he sought another opinion and avoided surgery. Later pieces echo previous ones in satisfying ways; for example, the sports theme returns in an essay about the author’s father’s forged baseball autographs, while anatomical jesting resumes in a story about picking up his dog from a neutering. In chatty, self-deprecating prose, Aboulafia shakes his head at his youthful high jinks. He realizes how lucky he is that his recklessness never turned out worse; at various points, for example, he ate six moldy Devil Dogs while engrossed in a horror film, ran out of gas on a freezing night in Maine, and had a sewer cover fly toward him on the Long Island Expressway. Even in his adult life, haplessness followed his family: a honeymoon mudslide, an ill-fated kayaking trip, food poisoning, and so on. Although Aboulafia generally plays the clown, one of the best pieces, “Revelation,” is a serious one in which a scrap of shell he spots on a gloomy beach walk restores his sense of wonder: “We can forget that we are blessed with the good things in our lives and that we are surrounded, everywhere, by the divine music of this world. It is there for those of us who choose to hear.”
The funny bits in this Everyman’s true-life stories will remind readers to look on the bright side of life.