History on a Personal Note
From New York City to the former East Germany, from rural Virginia to affluent suburbia, the characters in these short stories grapple with love, loss, greed, perversion, and other awful truths as they try to transcend their limitations with occasional humor and dignity. In "History on a Personal Note," Lorraine, a Southerner, wonders if her German paramour will find the inspiration to leave his wife amidst the destruction of the Berlin Wall. In "Viewing Stacy from Above," a pregnant woman descends into a pit of despair as she contemplates the constraints of motherhood. In "Money Honey," a young adulteress who ditches her husband is reprimanded by an extended family of elders whose morals are even more dubious than her own.
Contemplative, allegorical, and witty, History on a Personal Note takes us into a world laced with black humor and makes us laugh -- until it hurts.
Deceptively light in tone, these stories nevertheless carry weight, as do the characters, transplanted Southerner Lorraine and her unnamed friend, the Jewish woman from New York City who narrates several of the stories. In ``Halfway to Farmville,'' the pair buy a couple of wigs at a Goodwill store, don outlandish clothing and sunglasses and, speaking only French, browse for antiques in backwoods Virginia. This may sound like a lark, but Lorraine, who is married to an alcoholic redneck, is struggling against a paralyzing depression and her friend has an unspecified, possibly fatal disease. They are self-described outsiders, whether in the former East Germany or in the town where The Andy Griffith Show was filmed. A wide variety of styles and voices, from an unabashedly sentimental tribute to the narrator's parents to wry and acerbic stories of the Jewish immigrant experience, demonstrate Kirshenbaum's versatility and wit. Several exquisite period pieces set in the 1960s, nostalgically re-create a suburban middle-class childhood, often evoking the shock of recognition while irreverently skewering the notion that childhood--or the Kennedys' Camelot, or the anti-Vietnam War years--was ever a time of innocence.