Reviews ...

Silver Stringer Ed Boyd's new book

... "Stories that keep popping up into my head." is the title of this collection of delightful, nostalgia-provoking short

by Joe Sullivan

 Dr. Ed Boyd
Ed Boyd is a Silver Stringer. We get a story from him every month for the Melrose Mirror. Like the rest of us here he’s retired and enjoys participating in the work that results in a new edition every month.

Five or six weeks ago, he passed me a slim, glossy cover, paperback book. “Let me know what you think about this,” he said. I understand why he’s asking when I look at the book’s title, “Stories that keep popping into my head.” The author? Ed Boyd.

At our weekly Silver Stringers meeting we discussed the appropriateness of a Mirror story about Ed’s book. Ed was dealing with things at home and was not there. Would readers think we were providing him free advertising? It certainly wasn’t the intention and the story would be about the book and not selling it, so we decided to go ahead.

I knew that there was a perfect situation that would provide me time to read his book. I would be attending a reunion with some guys I had worked with at Sylvania. The reunion was to be in Temecula, California and I would be flying Jet Blue non-stop to San Diego, a perfect time to read Ed’s book.

A plan goes awry.,

My plan was to read half of the book on the way to San Diego and finish up on my return trip to Boston. But something happened. Once I started reading the book I didn’t stop until I finished. It’s a delightful collection of nostalgia-provoking, short stories, 21 of them, devoted to incidents that happened during Ed’s life time.

It’s not his life story but stories about his life. When I got home he asked me how I liked the book, I told him I loved it. I asked him was the book a goal? Did he write each story with the intention that it would be part of the book? He said no, when he first started writing he’d think of situations and then write about them. Like the title says, they would pop up into his head.

When he realized he had a collection of them he assembled them into a general chronological order and then published them as a book.

A life-time span of experiences.

The stories cover his growing up in the Depression-soaked 1930’s, his teen years, joining the Navy, meeting the girl who would be his wife, trying to carry on a romance while he was in the service, their eventual marriage,the huge seven-kid family that would result, the places they lived while this family was expanding, and his education at BU that would eventually lead to his  Ed.D. in counseling psychology.

He pulls story after story out of that background. He has a great style, you get the feeling he is explaining things to you. It results in a wonderful read. If there is ever a Pulitzer Prize for nostalgia this book should be a contender.

Particularly enjoyable to me are the things he relates about his grade school adventures, they reflect an irony that you’d laugh at today but seemed absolutely normal when Ed was in grade school.

Ed grew up in Everett, Massachusetts. If you were Catholic you went to parochial school. Nothing unusual about that, but that was not all of it in Everett. If you were Irish you went to Immaculate Conception School, if you were French Canadian you went to St. Joseph’s School.

Ed’s pal Joe lived very close to St. Joseph’s School but he was Irish so he walked almost four miles to Immaculate because that’s where the Irish kids went. Ed’s grandmother was French Canadian and persuaded Ed’s mother that he belonged with the French Canadian nuns at St. Joseph’s. Ed lived closer to Immaculate.

Joe wasn’t Irish and Ed wasn’t French Canadian, they were both Americans. But neither one of them thought of that when, on their way to school, they walked by one another going in opposite directions

It’s delicious little pieces of ironic humor like this that make this book a pleasure to read.

Although this is not a book about growing up it has some especially good stories about Ed’s time with the French Canadian Nuns.

"Sister says..."

In fourth grade in an effort to justify the necessity of punishment Sister told the class about a 10-year old girl who was not punished by her parents when she did bad things. The girl died. When the parents went to her graveside to grieve the girls arm came up out of her grave and her finger pointed at her kneeling parents.

Terrified they went to their pastor to determine what they should do. He told them to return to the grave. When the girl’s arm raised up this time, first the father and the mother slapped the girl’s hand. The girl’s arm and hand the went back into the grave.

Hair-raising horror was part of the arsenal of stories that the good sisters had at the ready to impart the necessity of discipline. Stories even when you laugh at them now, would be remembered by the 10-year olds until they were into their eighties.

There are other stories that occur when Ed is in maturity. The meeting, falling in love, and marrying Catherine Harrington. Marrying Catherine was the happiest day of his life and Ed devotes a story to how they met, how their relationship developed, and finally married. The open, unhesitating honesty with which he describes this courtship is one of the wonderful moments of
this little book.

There are moments of anxiety and personal turmoil, like when he or his kids are sick and there are questions about whether full recovery will happen. There are mild anxieties, like when he breaks his ankle stepping into a hole, while playing golf at the local Bellevue Country Club. The anxiety expressed is much more intense with his daughter Martha’s long recovery from a hip

Ed’s favorite form of writing is the short story. His book is an example of this affection. Ed not only enjoys writing stories he is a student of writing itself. He frequently submits stories to the Melrose Mirror about individual writers and he uses samples of what they write to illustrate why they’re so good.

Included in this group are Truman Capote, J. D. Sallinger, Richard Yates, Holden Caulfield, Flannery O’Connor., and Raymond Carver.

A writer to live by.

Ed’s favorite is Raymond Carver, a writer who devotes himself exclusively to short stories. Carver has never written a novel. In writing about Carver, Ed provides reasons why Carver is his hero.

It is difficult to write a review when you know the writer. I know Ed Boyd and I like him and I like his book, too. Not exactly a testimonial to objectivity.

A better summation comes from Marie Pappas who was a doctoral student when Ed was. Here’s what she said. “I very much enjoyed your book and love the directness and openness of such a natural way to tell the events and people and ideas/experiences that have shaped the person you are, and I resonate to situations and struggles to be in tune and real with whatever shows up in this
mystery of life.”       

Joe Sullivan  July 28, 2014

August 1, 2014    

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