From Publishers Weekly
Taking a cue from the Mexican Day of the Dead, on which they build altars to deceased loved ones, "tell the sad stories and the noble ones... celebrate and mourn at once," author and NPR personality Winik (Rules for the Unruly) chronicles her life through glimpses of the late members of her adopted Pennsylvania home, Glen Rock, who have influenced her over the years. Most are friends of friends and the like; a few others are artists and authors. An eye doctor who passed away when she was a child, for example, had been a friend of the family, a former classmate of her father, and among the first deaths that touched Winik personally. She talks of neighbors who committed suicide, men who died of drug overdoses and women who battled cancer; she writes also of "The Art Star," Keith Haring, whose "adorable symbology-the crawling baby, the barking dog, the blowjobs and dolphins... made perfect sense to me the moment I saw it." ("I must have taken the same acid he did at a Grateful Dead concert when we were fifteen.") Winik treats her subjects with grace, sensitivity and a great deal of her own personality, bringing to brief life the known and unknown, giving each a fitting tribute and the town itself a winning pageant.
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Much of literature is elegiac in nature. Much of Winik’s propulsive, come-clean writing has been about coping with loss. So it makes sense that her newest essay collection comprises tributes to her dead. Glen Rock is the quiet place she lives; Spoon River Anthology was her template. Bold and funny, Winik is the queen of pithiness and punch, and the micro-lives she has created here are far more difficult to forge than their brevity and blithe tone might suggest. Each family member, friend, lover, or neighbor is identified by occupation, temperament, obsession, or curse, such as The Art Star, The Junkie, The Mah Jongg Player, The Bad Influence. And each portrait is a window onto some aspect of Winik’s life, one that has been pitted and torn by deaths accidental, suicidal, and simply tragic, including many due to AIDS. It is a fine and noble act to remember the dead as Winik has with candor, bemusement, and sorrow, and her gracefully crafted miniatures will inspire others to summon memories of their own lost ones. --Donna Seaman