Memories of a Michigan upbringing proceed to anecdotes on retirement in Italy, as a writing professor writes what pleases him, which is often about what doesn’t.
In this collection of short essays, Bailey (Emeritus, English/Henry Ford Coll.; co-editor: The Creative Writer's Craft: Lessons in Poetry, Fiction, and Drama, 1999, etc.) skips back and forth across time and place. Many of these pieces have been published in literary journals and small magazines, and they weren’t necessarily intended (or sequenced) to be read as a whole. However, there are certain themes that pervade throughout. Some touch on mankind as part of nature and apart from it: “The outhouse was where man met beast, and the beast was himself.” Some decry the ways that regional differences (especially in food) have given way to cultural homogenization. “Much of the United States looks like Ohio warmed over,” he writes in the concluding title essay. “Pull off the freeway...and you’ll see the same thing. When you pass the Bed Bath and Beyond, you’ll know that Chili’s is not far away.” Bailey writes of flip-flops and sweatpants, of the idiosyncratic differences that a long, loving marriage encompasses, and of living in the very different cultures of the Midwest and of Italy, land of his wife’s familial ancestors, where both of them feel comfortable. He writes of dreams, nightmares, and memories while recognizing of the last that “memory is capricious, frequently a liar.” If readers identify with what he writes, that’s fine, but one never gets the sense that he’s writing for anyone but himself and that his essays represent the written equivalent of thinking out loud—or musing, wryly and wistfully. Maybe he writes because that’s what academics do, write to publish, and because that’s what writers do, observe to write.
Easiest to digest in snack-size portions.