Sunday, June 7, 2009

Gerald Grant

Gerald Grant is the Hannah Hammond Professor of Education and Sociology, Emeritus at Syracuse University. His latest book is Hope and Despair in the American City: Why There Are No Bad Schools in Raleigh.

Recently, I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
Tobias Wolff's collection Our Story Begins, just out in paper, is the book I can't put down. Wolff deserves all the praise that has been heaped upon him. He really is the American Chekhov, only funnier. Take "Her Dog," for instance, in which a widower reluctantly walks his late wife Grace's dog who constantly berates him:

"And when they kicked me off the beach, remember that? No way you were going to get stuck back here. No, Grace had to walk me in the swamp while you walked along the ocean. I hope you enjoyed it...

"You ignored her. She would call your name and you would go on reading your paper, or watching TV, and pretend you hadn't heard. Did she ever have to call my name twice? No! Once and I'd be there, looking up at her, ready for anything. Did I ever want another mistress?

"... [No! But] you did. You looked at them in the park, on the beach, in other cars as we drove around."

Let me also mention a book I bought while in Tarpon Springs FL a few weeks ago: Myrtle Scharrer Betz's Yesteryear I Lived in Paradise. It's her story of growing up on Caladesi Island in the early 1900s and why it was paradisiacal, though there were hardships, too, for a girl who rowed two miles to school each day in Dunedin. Betz and her father were virtually the only inhabitants of the island and lived off the land and the sea. She is a wonderful storyteller. A great book to read to your children and grandchildren.
Read an excerpt from Hope and Despair in the American City, and learn more about the book at the Harvard University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue