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Bitter Bronx: Thirteen Stories by Jerome…

Bitter Bronx: Thirteen Stories

by Jerome Charyn

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With a title like BITTER BRONX, there has to be a villain. And that man, according to Jerome Charyn, is Robert Moses, the man who cut the borough in two.

He came in his white hard hat, posing for pictures and shoving his expressway project down people's throats. He didn't know how much long-lasting damage he was doing at the time, believing he was a savior figure to them. But what he did was create a irreparable rift through the seam of intersecting cultures that continues to grow even wider.

Moses is the antagonist that ties the collection of thirteen short stories together. Generations of Bronx residents are the sacrificial victim to his short-sighted legacy. In "Major Leaguer" the impact of the Cross Bronx Expressway (built from 1948-1972) lives on, "And the heartless din of traffic from that highway had been ringing in Will's ears now for a good quarter of a century." It becomes something that has to be endured, long after the tall man, who handed out lollipops to yesterday's children, departed without having to justify his actions to the adults of today.

Charyn goes on to blame Moses for the Bronx falling into a state of "permanent recession." He's the harbinger of nightmares for those who regret calling the place home. Charyn even likens the highway to a not so silent character, "a phantom that crawls between the lines." And the most perplexing thing is—Moses didn't even benefit financially from his idea. He didn't get rich by bulldozing these neighborhoods. He had a noble aim, a charitable ambition, that ended up sullying his reputation for generations to come.

It's amazing that one man could wreak so much havoc in such a short period of time. But thanks to him, the melting pot bubbled over. The drug lords control the turf now, forging sharp divides between all differing races and ethnicities. There's a pecking order to the lineup that continues to shift based on whoever's on top of the totem pole at any given moment. It makes for a very unstable environment, one cops won't even patrol anymore. The residents are left to fend for themselves against the outbursts of violence and petty extortion.

Sometimes, the moral of the story is: It's better to have left things alone rather than to have meddled with them at all. The North Bronx and the South Bronx should be united as one, not forever divided into two. The aching rib is slow to heal, probably because it never will.
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  LenaBourne | Nov 27, 2015 |
This was a tough one for me to read. Had I grown up in the Bronx, or lived in New York where I was more familiar with its history, I might have made better connections to this book. Instead I felt disconnected. I was able to get a sense of what life in the Bronx was like and the changes it went through after Robert Moses split it in two. I have to agree that the changes were not for the best. I know my first husband came from the Bronx and his parents would talk about their reasoning for living was how bad it had grown and how gang filled it had become. His writing was wonderful to read. It made me long to see the Bronx before the expressway went through cutting areas in half. It almost reminded me of the Berlin Wall that cut off the two sides. Each side grew in a different way and at a different rate. Sometimes the things we do in the name of progress have the opposite effect. The division created is one that has been a struggle for years and will continue for many more to come. This was an honest look at what once was, what it is now and hopefully a glimpse into what it may become one day.
I received a copy to facilitate my review. The opinions expressed here are my own. ( )
  skstiles612 | Jun 8, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0871404893, Hardcover)

Bronx native Jerome Charyn brings to life the pre– and post–Robert Moses world of New York’s northernmost borough in these thirteen bittersweet stories.

Brooklyn is dead—long live the Bronx! Jerome Charyn returns to his roots and leads the literary renaissance of an often-overlooked borough in this surprising new collection. One of our most original novelists depicts a world before and after modern urban renewal destroyed the gritty sanctity of a land made famous by Ruth, Gehrig, and Joltin’ Joe. In classic “New York prose, street-smart, sly, and full of lurches” (John Leonard, New York Times), Charyn recalls the mean streets of his youth. In “Lorelei” a lonely-hearts grifter returns home to a former sweetheart; in “Milo’s Last Chance” a guidance counselor has a disastrous affair with a student; and in “The Major Leaguer” a former New York Yankee gets entangled with a gang of drug dealers near the wreckage that Robert Moses wrought. In these and ten other stories, Charyn crafts a funny, sad, and loving tribute to the Bronx with his own masterly touch.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:17 -0400)

Brooklyn is dead. Long live the Bronx! In Bitter Bronx, Jerome Charyn returns to his roots and leads the literary renaissance of an oft--overlooked borough in this surprising new collection.

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