Just about everybody I run into these days asks me, “how’s the book going”?
My reply has been consistent – right on track where I projected, but I really need more ratings and reviews to move on to the next steppingstone of the The King of Kreskin Avenue’s journey.
However, this post is not a plea for those who have read the King and who have not done a rating/review on Amazon. (Although …..)
It’s about a simple comment my brother said to me the other day after he finished the book that floored me:
“Dad would have loved this book and would have been very, very proud of you.”
Wow. How my Dad, Dave Vitberg, would have responded to The King never entered my mind at any point when I was writing and editing, but when I quietly reflected on what he said, I saw my Dad’s fingerprints.
Dad passed away about 10 years ago, and in the last five years or so of his life, we had a bitter, rancorous relationship. He had slipped into a form of dementia that stripped him of all social filters and he became an embarrassment and a source of family friction. Twice a week I made the 140 mile round trip between Buffalo and Rochester to see him and my mother, who also suffered from dementia. It was a foregone conclusion that every trip was going to be an agonizing, stress filled visit full of problems to be solved, finances to be juggled, and apologies to be made.
When he died, I felt more relief than grief.
We were opposites and did we ever have our differences which grew to enormous proportions over time.
Education. Intellect. Political persuasion. Perspectives on social liberalization. Choice of music and literature. Clothing. Hair length. Ricard Nixon. And of course, the war in Vietnam.
Our discussions about Vietnam, were particularly acrimonious, as was the case in many households. Some of the discussions between David Shumstein and his father Abe in the book, and certainly the emotions and vitriol of their relationship, were carved from memories. Even after I drew a number in the draft lottery that was so high that I wouldn’t have been called up even if Commies were floating down the Potomac River, he incredulously suggested that I enlist.
Some of my friends were not so lucky. A few never made it back from the jungle. A few went to Canada. A few served their time as conscientious objectors in a spiteful and antagonistic military.
But I will say this for my father: he gave me a love of books and reading that to this very day are a part of me. Once a week we would visit the North Park Public Library in Buffalo on Hertel and Delaware and get a new book to read. That’s where I got my introduction to everyone from Captain Nemo in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea to Lenny in Of Mice and Men.
Dad was a voracious reader and we would talk about what we had read – not just plot lines, but also discussions of characters and motives and surprises. We explored a lot of fiction that way, a little bit of nonfiction. As we both got older, our tastes – my tastes actually – changed and this part of our relationship faded away.
Yes, I do think my brother is right. Dad would have loved the story of the book and would have recognized the bits and pieces of the north Buffalo neighborhood and characters beneath the story arc. And yes, he would have been proud of the accomplishment and all the hard work and effort it took to bring Mario Colucci and Robbie Shumstein to life.