Little slices of decades-old melancholy from Hamill (Tabloid City, 2011, etc.).
This collection of 36 short stories is largely culled from a series called Tales of New York that ran in the New York Daily News in the early ’80s. Like most of Hamill’s fiction, it’s a mix of nostalgia and cynicism. As the author explains in an elegant foreword, this is the world, “without personal computers, cell phones, tweets, digital cameras, or iPads. A world where ‘friend’ was not yet a verb.” And yet, the stories remain surprisingly timeless, full of regular joes, gangsters, lost souls and the cold, cold rain. There’s plenty of nostalgia, remembrances of that awe-inspiring feeling of the world being new, but also the harsh reminders of New York’s hard times, not least the wave of heroin and crack that swept the city in that time. From the title story, which finds the neighborhood teens forming a protective circle around a Holocaust survivor who is their age, to “The Book Signing,” the tale of an elderly writer returning home, the message is the same. As the writer explains: “I’ve never really left. Or, to be more exact: those streets have never left me.” In addition to that lovely last story, don’t miss the other anomaly, “The Men in Black Raincoats,” a noir story that feels right at home among its companions in this fine collection.
Lost treasures from a time gone by, brimming with affection for old New York.