Red Hook Road by Ayelet Waldman read by Kimberly Farr

Two mothers.

Iris, mother of the bride, is pushy, ambitious, Jewish, overpresent, and proud of her Red Hook genealogy, which can be traced back to the Battle of the Bulge. But Iris is not exactly a local. Yes, every summer Iris comes back to the oceanfront Queen Anne house, chats up the Red Hook Ladies, attending “every last bean supper and blueberry breakfast of the season,” where she tries to befriend the wives of lobstermen by feigning enthusiasm for rummage sales. But every Fall, Iris returns to New York, to art and to work, and will never, in the eyes of the locals, be anything but a “from away”.

Iris’ father, Mr Kimmelbroad, is indeed “from away”: a real gentleman,  a refugee violinist from Prague who still smells of polished wood, rosin, violets and 4711 Kolnisch Wasser.   The family are immigrants: bustling, displaced, well educated.

Jane, mother of the groom, is a local: by temperament, by income and by genealogy. Jane is strong from “clomping up and down stairs and hauling laundry and vacuum cleaners.” Jane has been taking care of  houses for the “from aways”  for a long long time, as had her mother before her. One of these houses is Iris’, which she cleans in the summers and tends all year long.

She [would get] the furnace and the propane tank filled, turn on the water,   take down the storm windows and put up the screens, mow the meadow and lawn, replace the water filter, have the piano tuned, and replenish staples like flour, sugar and the fancy teas ….

The story begins in the middle of the wedding, detailing the  profusions of fresh flowers, mismatched vases, white lace tablecloths, blues band,   bar, hanging lanterns, crab-cakes and lobster puffs and champagne of  the  reception at Grange Hall, where the mothers find out that the bride and groom are dead.  What becomes of the mothers and their other children is part of the story of the wedding, because the wedding  joins not only the bride and groom but the mothers; makes them, in Yiddish, Machatainisteh.

Beverly Hills Dead by Stuart Woods read by Tony Roberts

The House of UnAmerican Activities Committee (on which sits Dick Nixon) is looking for Communists, and finds a few poor schmucks in Hollywood. Some Jews are inquisitioned, black-listed, and disappeared from the credits. Their words are found in screenplays by unknowns from Wyoming and Maine.

Other Jews give advise. Like Hyman Greenbaum:

Don’t buy a car until you can pay cash for it. And it should be used. You should live modestly. And don’t go to expensive restaurants unless the studio or somebody else is paying. You keep putting money in the bank. You don’t marry a co-star. You don’t buy a house until you can pay cash. You don’t ever take a job because of the location or the costar or even the director. You take jobs for good scripts, that’s all. If you can stick to that program you’ll become very rich. . . They’re going to want you to see a dentist… I’ll make them pay for it.

Good advise for any post-war generation.

Nerve Damage by Peter Abrahams read by Alan Nebelthau

In the yard a piece of shiny scrap metal from a nuclear power plant is waiting for Roy to see it. But Roy is reading a not yet published New York Times obituary:

Roy Valois a sculptor whose large works are displayed in many public spaces around the United States and in several prominent museums, died today at INSERT. He was INSERT. The cause was INSERT according to INSERT. The self taught Mr. Valois worked almost exclusively with recovered materials, usually scrap metal but he was “no primitive” according to Kurt Palmeteer …. Roy Valois was born in the western Maine town of N. Grafton on TO COME. He went to local schools where he excelled at sports, eventually entering the University of Maine on a hockey scholarship. But it was while working at a summer job that involved welding and other metalwork that Mr. Valois found his true calling…. It was also at Georgetown that he met his wife Delia Stern, an economist later employed by the United Nations. She died in an airplane crash off Venezuela in TO COME…

Delia is also the name of the sculpture that occupies the center of his house, and reminds his next ex-girlfriend that he is still, in some sense, married. The obituary is wrong about his wife, he tells the journalist at the NY Times. Delia worked for the Hobbes Institute, not the U.N. The journalist is killed the next day.

And Roy himself is not well. He has a cough. His nose bleeds. His arm breaks. A doctor tells him that he has asbestos-caused cancer: . After his treatment in a Fung-Shui designed office, a man in a wheelchair, his age, but skeletal, is wheeled out or wheeled in by a nurse. Roy doesn’t want to be anywhere near the man in the wheelchair, because from the point of view of the unconscious anywhere near = anywhere like. And Roy scales his way through the world more or less unconscious, feeling his way around like a hockey player or a hydraulic excavator.

Roy has shovel fulls of partial information. From Dr. Choo. From his now dead wife. From the past. And we imagine that Roy will piece together something like the truth out of what remains. Scrap metal, memory, curiosity.

The Prisoner of Guantanamo by Dan Fesperman::David Colacci

According to Cheney and the gang, some torturers are more equal than others.

This is the story of how one American becomes unequal. How an average guy, born of poor fishing folks of poor Maine stock, becomes a torturer. How a guy who knew boats, and joined the Marines, and learned Arabic, and went to Washington ended up scraping the truth from the bodies of men, like clams.

The guy lives a simple life. He dresses, he goes to work, he has lunch, he goes back to work. Sometimes, he dates. Indeed, there is nothing remarkable about this guy. Except that his job is to interrogate prisoners, and the prisoners are on a little island, outside humanity. Continue reading “The Prisoner of Guantanamo by Dan Fesperman::David Colacci”