Friday, May 15, 2009

How To Train A Rock. Paul Steven Stone.

How To Train A Rock. Paul Steven Stone. (Blind Elephant Press) (Cambridge, Mass.) $15.

Paul Steven Stone, the author of the novel “ Or So It Seems,” has just released a collection of columns he wrote for the Scituate Mariner, a local costal Massachusetts paper. The columns deal with Stone’s recurrent theme in his work: what is and how do we handle this thing called life? Now this isn’t a self-help or self-important collection. Stone is too much the Bronx kibitzer for that. The column has a style that can only be described as a comic, Twilight Zone-like showcase of Stone’s views on the world and the players on its stage.

In these Bernie Madoff days I was interested to read “ In-Transit Report of Henry J. Worthmore, Jr. Here Stone writes about a Madoff-like clone:

“ Born to money, child of privilege and class, member of the bar, Henry J. Worthmore, Jr. unfortunately squandered all opportunities for growth, brotherhood and the pursuit of truth offered to him in a lifetime. Ill-disposed to use his considerable assets or high social standing for the good of others, he became a human sucking-and-eating machine, amassing a great fortune, expensive holdings, and a life devoid of friends or congeniality. His funeral drew a large crowd, though relief and celebration were more in evidence than mourning.

And Stone is equally adept at waxing poetic in his evocative little piece “ Pretty White Gloves.” Here the frostbitten hands of a homeless man become a frozen metaphor for white gloves and a happier place and time:

“Just like the marine office he once was, just like the sweet innocent daughter he once knew, just like the young man grown suddenly old on a frozen sidewalk, his hands are beautiful and special in a way these strangers will never understand.

“White gloves,” he insists proudly.
“Pretty White Gloves.”

Ah, an O’Henry taste of irony…I like that flavor.

Stone, the Director of Advertising at W. B. Mason in Boston, riffs on the advantages of adversity, the murder of a temp worker, and of all things how to train a rock. This is a book that has a light style, and can be read in the course of an evening, or in tasty snippets over a few weeks. Keep it on your bed table…read it when you are able!

Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update

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