THE LOVE SONG OF A. JEROME MINKOFF AND OTHER STORIES
By Joseph Epstein
Ms. Hen came into possession of this book by accident. She was at her chicken friends’ artist apartment building, and there was a box of books outside one of the doors in the building. Ms. Hen is always eager to grab a free book, so she picked this one because it had an interesting title, similar to the poem, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” It took her a while to get around to reading it.
At first Ms. Hen wasn’t really interested in the characters in these short stories, who are all old, rich Jewish men. Ms. Hen is not an old, rich Jewish man, so she thought she would hate this book. But she didn’t.
The stories are all about the same type of character, but each character is looking at and thinking about a character that is completely different from him. In “The Philosopher and the Checkout Girl,” a retired Philosophy professor takes an interest in a cashier at a grocery store and thinks about her life and it changes the way he thinks about his life. They become friends, then more, and they both come to realize what life is as a result.
In the story, “Danny Montoya,” a man runs into an old high school friend who is working at Home Depot. His friend used to be the best tennis player in Chicago for his age. The narrator worshipped Danny when he was young, and he knew he would never have Danny’s talent. The story was about the having the ability or the gift to be the best at something at one point in your life.
The aspect of these stories that Ms. Hen enjoyed was that every story had something in it that everyone can relate to. One of Ms. Hen’s teachers at writing school said that there should be something in her writing that should be universal. These stories succeed in that aspect. After finishing each story, Ms. Hen would stop and take a breath and think, oh, okay, that’s the way it’s supposed to be. And she would think about her own life.
There is much controversy about Joseph Epstein and his homophobia. The beginning of his Wikipedia page is all about that issue. Ms. Hen didn’t know that before she read the book, but when she found out about it afterwards, it didn’t affect her opinion of his writing. You can’t judge the artist for the art. If we did, most art would be judged unworthy. Most brilliant people are tainted or crazy in some way.
Ms. Hen likes to think she’s crazy enough to be considered brilliant. But she has a long way to go to prove this to the world. After all, she is a hen. Hens don’t become geniuses. Or do they?