A candid, personal look at the geography of memory.
In this warmhearted memoir of a retiree’s tour of his old haunts, Junker tries to do for 1950s Brooklyn what James Joyce did for Dublin in Ulysses: rebuild a city, from memory. For readers looking for more accessible, albeit less remarkable, prose than Joyce’s, Junker’s tale is quite appealing, as he reconstructs Brooklyn in a specific place and time. The author spends a single winter day in Brooklyn walking the streets that defined his childhood, visiting the homes, churches and baseball fields where much of his story played out. Though not entirely idyllic–for example, the author’s German father suffers the indignities of discrimination after the war and dies relatively young–on the whole, the story will engage readers with animated recollections of a boisterous Italian neighborhood. Constructing the narrative around specific places like Coney Island, Kings Highway and Prospect Park, the author firmly ties each to the people in his life, remembering his rabble-rousing friends and ribald uncles with equal parts warmth and reserve. Junker reflects Brooklyn through the prism of his childhood, but he makes the archeology of the place vibrant and meaningful, even for readers who have never set foot in the New York borough. It’s the details that make it delicious, from recollections of the Brooklyn Dodgers that tap the country’s collective love of the underdog, to the sing-song cacophony of immigrant voices living the American dream. The author fittingly thanks Pete Hamill for inspiration–Junker infuses his childhood stomping grounds with the same affection with which Hamill writes about Manhattan.
A good-natured tale about a lost world that lies over the Brooklyn Bridge.