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New York Echoes

Warren Adler

Sitting here on her favorite bench, lifting her eyes to observe her favorite view, and reading a classic novel, was her version of nirvana."

Reviewed by Jason Makansi

Warren Adler is not only a native New Yorker, he’s a self-proclaimed “proud product of the New York City public schools,” and “happily lives in New York City after a 40-year absence from his native soil.” I lived in NYC, Manhattan specifically, longer than I’ve lived anywhere else: 12 years, from 1974-1987, then commuted in for another ten years. I am a sucker for most anything written about the city, and what I am often seeking is fiction that captures the city’s energy, bad or good. 

The collection is certainly aptly named. Think of Adler’s four-decade absence as a canyon he’s trying to traverse. I think he has captured the echoes of his native soil, but not necessarily its essence. 

One exception is The Mean Mrs. Dickstein. Now here’s a character that represents New York’s finest, and I don’t mean its cops, but its elderly population that refuses to let the city or its younger inhabitants get the better of them. The story is a dark, stark power play over space on a park bench. If control over precious space doesn’t make up the essence of New York City, I don’t know what does. 

Ironically, one character who exhibits genuine passion, in Better Than Donna Reed, is not a New Yorker but a lady, a mother, from Iowa visiting her daughter who is struggling to make it in show business. Here’s what she says to a co-worker at the local Wal-Mart who has uttered disparaging words about her daughter’s ambitions (which are her mother’s as well): “What does a fat ass ignoramus like you know about such things, Daisy? Your kids are ignorant dropout scumbags with the ambition of petrified turds and an intelligence that registers lower than a snake’s asshole.” Let’s just say it gets even better when she gets to the city after watching her daughter in a bit part in a play so off-Broadway, it’s like it’s in New Jersey. 

Unfortunately, these examples are exceptions. While the stories are competently written, many of them, including The Seed That Grew, A Dad Forever, and The Obituary Reader include long passages that read more like essays than stories. Several of the stories could have been lifted out of New York and set most anywhere, including A Dad Forever, Pregnant and Gone. There are also stories that really could have used the eyes of an expert editor. In Subway Love Story, the word “sometime” or “sometimes” is used four times in three successive short paragraphs. In Gone, four out of six sentences in two short successive paragraphs begin with “There was, there were, or there had been.” 

New York Echoes has a gem, though. It’s the twenty-second and last story (before the first chapter of the author’s coming novel, that is), entitled My Father, the Painter. It’s hard to describe this story without giving it away. Just imagine a daughter being abandoned by her artist father more than two decades ago only to find out she wasn’t. 
Even though New York hardly looms as a unique place in this story, somehow you can’t imagine what happens in this story happening anywhere else. This collection may not capture the energy that is the essence of New York City, but this story captures a certain something about the city that is almost impossible to put into words.

Read one of the stories from this collection on Amazon Shorts.com (paid)

Jason Makansi has published six short stories, some poetry, three non-fiction and professional books, and numerous magazine articles. He is president of Pearl Street Inc, an electricity industry consulting firm. His latest book, Lights Out: The Electricity Crisis, the Global Economy, and What It Means To You, was released in June 2007 (John Wiley & Sons)

Jason's other Short Reviews: Susie Bright (ed) "The Best of Best American Erotica "   

PublisherWarren Adler/Stonehouse Press

Publication Date: Feb, 2008

Paperback/Hardback? Paperback

First collection?No, fifth.

Author bio: Warren Adler is a novelist, short story writer and playwright. His books have been translated into more than 25 languages and two of his novels, The War of the Roses and Random Hearts, have been made into movies. Three short stories from his collection The Sunset Gang have been adapted as a trilogy and shown on Public Television stations. His stage adaptation of the novel The War of the Roses is currently being produced in Italy, Berlin, Hamburg, Prague and countries in Scandinavia. Mr. Adler has acquired his complete backlist and converted this entire library to digital publishing formats. He lectures on creative writing, motion picture adaptation and the future of Electronic Books, runs his own short story competition, and is the founder of the Jackson Hole Writer's Conference.

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Publisher/Author: WarrenAdler.com

Author's recommended bookseller: Barnes & Noble




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