A random assortment of over 100 short texts that reflect on a life well-lived.
Lubow (Wild Notes, 2015, etc.) presents vignettes in haphazard fashion without attempting to organize them thematically or chronologically. Spanning several decades, many take place in the Chicago area and focus on his family life or his career in the field of advertising. Some of the more endearing moments involve his wife, Donna. In one of his longer pieces, “The second call,” Lubow demonstrates how the trait of persistence served him well, not only when first meeting Donna at college, but also as part of his eventual profession. The inclusion of “footnotes” following many pieces allows the author to reflect on events with the benefit of hindsight or to provide updates, perhaps most effectively in “Four refusals and a footnote,” where he recounts creative differences with the talent in the field and then unexpected resolutions. “Summertime,” easily one of the most touching sketches, imagines an encounter between the author, Donna, and their now-deceased parents, where all appear to be in the primes of their lives. Generally, Lubow is at his best when he allows himself room for vivid sensory descriptions, as in “Halloween, 1949,” which conveys the palpable excitement for all ages surrounding that particular celebration. Again, a footnote adds value; the author modestly explains that even though the physical elements of a story may have faded, “they’re here in rambling words that compel themselves to get written down and are not much, but better than nothing.” As is often the case with this type of format, not all pieces carry the same weight. For instance, the flattening of a squirrel evokes 11 different glimpses of accidents or near misses involving vehicles, humans, and animals. The final piece in this largely entertaining volume occurs in a London eatery in the early 1980s. Dining with his wife and two sons, Lubow feels a sharp sense of pride and then mentions that the bistro in question is no longer open. Tellingly, he writes: “But the past never closes.”
Overall, a satisfying collection of vignettes about family and career suitable not only for fans of the author’s previous works, but also for new readers.