STREETS AND ALLEYS by Syd Lieberman

STREETS AND ALLEYS

Stories with a Chicago Accent
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A schoolteacher and storyteller tells his own story with scant success. Lieberman tries in these 18 episodes to evoke his childhood and youth in 1950s Chicago, his Harvard College experience, his sexual awakening, married life, teaching, parenthood, and aging. What emerges instead are snippets of a fairly full life with little emotional punch. His childhood is reduced to a list of street games; Harvard becomes generic freshman insecurity followed by a disastrous midterm period; love is at first sight, of course; teaching is a pale imitation of Bel Kaufman's Up the Down Staircase. These reminiscences are punctuated with enigmatic episodes (as when his grandfather tells him that ``the main important thing'' is to ``put apples in your refrigerator'') and tired epiphanies (``Twisting like we did last summer. . . . Twisting time is here''). In fact, this book would be merely a collection of clichÇs were it not for some aspects of the author's life that are anything but typical: for example, his car salesman father's obsessive gambling and criminal past, which Lieberman attempts to draw as colorful, but which is actually an ugly and underexplored factor in his life. His own adulthood is more standardmarried to his childhood sweetheart, two kids, a house. He describes going bald, his deteriorating body, his growing gut. He goes to aerobics classes and to synagogue. There are a few affecting moments, as when he discusses his elderly mother's zest for life, a zest he cannot seem to muster himself. And there is also some humor: When he and his girlfriend are caught naked in bed by his mother, the woman doesn't bat an eye but instinctively offers them a tuna sandwich. But the good moments are far between, hardly worth slogging through the rest for.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-87483-424-4
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: August House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1995