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by Robert Flanagan — In this new collection of stories, Robert Flanagan again works muscular magic — bobbing, jabbing, and weaving with vivid dialogue and lively movements. We come across chiseled characters boxing, acting, attending Catholic grammar school, surviving Marine Corps basic — they grunt, swear, sweat, tell lies, and stumble over truth cloaked in a rueful, gimlet-eyed Irish humor. In my favorite of this collection, a Chautauqua actor makes his way as John L. Sullivan, owning fame, pain and shame, preaching temperance beside Sojourner Truth, reaching for redemption as life and time glide on. Each of these stories is a fine little film, speckled with credible dialogue from nuanced personae, shaded with bittersweet longing and generous humor.
Oral history gathers important material that might otherwise be lost forever. Not everyone can write, but with a keen and devoted listener and recorder, even those who might not write can weave a life story that has value for others — for families and friends, descendants, and a wider audience for first-hand history. Among our[ Read More → ]