So perhaps it was only fitting that at age 64, Jerry found himself contemplating that most alluring of puzzles: the lottery. He was recently retired by then, living with Marge in a tiny town called Evart and wondering what to do with his time. After stopping in one morning at a convenience store he knew well, he picked up a brochure for a brand-new state lottery game. Studying the flyer later at his kitchen table, Jerry saw that it listed the odds of winning certain amounts of money by picking certain combinations of numbers.
That’s when it hit him. Right there, in the numbers on the page, he noticed a flaw—a strange and surprising pattern written into the fundamental machinery of the game that, like his cereal boxes long ago, revealed something no one else knew. A loophole that would eventually make Jerry and Marge millionaires, spark an investigation by a Boston Globe Spotlight reporter, unleash a statewide political scandal and expose more than a few hypocrisies at the heart of America’s favorite form of legalized gambling.
As I follow him deeper inside the columbarium, we pass through the Rose Room. Urns here are not hidden in niches behind glass, but instead are on display in the open air. I prefer it this way. The glass cases remind me of the razors at the drug store—the ones you can only access by notifying a salesperson with a key. Deeper still, at the very rear of the room, lies a set of stained glass doors. Koslovski slides them open to reveal a hidden set of spy-movie doors, these made of metal. They are solid for a reason: Behind them lies the crematorium itself.
The doors open, and we stroll onto what looks like the floor of a factory, but one dedicated to a certain kind of deconstruction.
Not long ago, a woman several years older than me and very much more successful leaned across a table to offer some assistance: ‘I can see you’re at the point where you’re feeling that you need to have a child,’ she said. ‘And I just want you to know that you can wait that feeling out. It passes.’ We’d only known each other an hour or so. Clearly my anxieties must have been leaching all over the place. She elaborated: if I thought I might have important work to do in the future, I should consider writing off reproduction and doing that instead. Whether important work meant writing something good or fighting political injustice or some other thing entirely wasn’t spelled out, but either way, a baby would be draining resources that might be better used elsewhere. Though few people say it to your face, this idea is hard to escape. If you try to care for more than one kind of thing, the op-eds imply, expect to do it badly. One of the few accounts of women’s lives in which that notion feels utterly foreign is the work of Grace Paley, where the typewriter sits on the kitchen table and single mothers do their political organising at the playground. You don’t have a story, Paley warned her writing students, if you’ve left out ‘money and blood’, i.e. how your people make their living, and whom they’ve been forced to live alongside.
I’m aware that it’s embarrassing to begin speaking of her in this way, since Paley is known not as a purveyor of self-help but for writing some of the more ambitious and surprising American short stories of the 20th century. And while she did write about gossip, women’s friendships, long days alone with toddlers and other aspects of experience that were not, in the 1950s, generally considered the stuff of serious fiction, even some of the great men of the day were so impressed as to call her work ‘unladylike’ (in the blurbs at the front of her 1994 Collected Stories, she receives that compliment from both Edmund White and Philip Roth). Still, A Grace Paley Reader, the most recent posthumous collection of her work, in giving some of her lectures and occasional pieces equal space beside samplings of the poems and the better-known stories, celebrates Paley the person as much as the writer, and seems to invite a personal response.
Being young in New York — the romance of discovering oneself in a city whose capacity for mythologizing has been thoroughly mythologized — is an old story. But it’s still a renewable one, as Hermione Hoby proves with her smart, stylish debut novel, “Neon in Daylight.”
The Western Wind is as densely packed as all of Harvey’s work: it’s a historical novel full of the liveliness and gristle of the period it depicts; an absorbing mystery with an unpredictable flurry of twists in its last few pages; a scarily nuanced examination of a long-term moral collapse; a beautifully conceived and entangled metaphor for Britain’s shifting relationships with Europe. But most of all it’s a deeply human novel of the grace to be found in people.
Mr Freeman rolls up his sleeves and delves into the nitty-gritty of manufacturing. He successfully melds together those nuggets with social history, on the shop floor and beyond the factory walls, from union battles to worker exploitation and, in the case of Foxconn, suicides.