New York is constantly documented throughout film, television, literature, Facebook, Twitter, etc. The glitz and glamour that have become pseudonymous with this city are contrasted by dark and tragic tales of the city that once was. It's rare to find any piece of culture that appreciates New York's dark and gritty past, while also understanding where New York has come to be. It seems like most people prefer one or the other, there is very little middle ground. I just wrapped up Bobby's Song and Short Stories, a book written by Richard Ascher, and was pleasantly surprised at how a balance and appreciation can be highlighted through the use of short and interesting stores.
Readers are treated to a variety of very different characters the 10 contrasting short stories, each of which incorporates a uniquely New York twist into the plot and essence of chapters. "The Fat Girl," documents a gritty, lower middle class crime of passion straight out of Brooklyn. The story documents a twisted and shallow love affair one man has with a big-boned woman named Stephanie. Ascher's vivid imagery and syntax help readers dive head first into the tragic story that is just 12 pages in length. Along the way, Ascher is able to incorporate a strong storyline with several ties to the city the characters call home. The tragically flawed characters work into the nearly foreclosed city in which the characters live.
That is one of the special things about living in a city like New York, being able to see a completely fictional story play out as if it really happened. New York is a city of a million different people with a million different lives all coming together in a chaotic mess of a city, to ultimately make this one of the most interesting places on Earth. Ascher sheds light onto just that, and helps expose readers to New York's diversity as well. Each story shows how New York is a community of micro-communities, all with good, bad, and everything in-between. The characters in the book all share certain New York traits while also sharing very little in common with characters from other short stories in this compilation. This is seen in everyday life as tales from the Upper East Side would be hardly relatable to those from Red Hook, but at the end of the day, everyone calls this city home.
As a New Yorker who is now out of the NYU bubble, I feel as though Ascher's comically flawed characters can all teach me something. There is a light, both good and evil, that is shed on each person, each scene, and each chapter of this book. He does a beautiful job of clearly tying in different personas to create a tone and feel that is as New York as the Brooklyn Bridge. Ascher does this by showing just how many different types of people live in this city from a perspective that appreciates that good and the bad. As my first bookshelf runs out of real estate, I am glad to say there was still room to showcase this great piece of New York literature.
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