If you’re trying to escape all this cold weather, maybe it’s time to take a trip to the past.
“New York Hustle – Pool Rooms, School Rooms and Street Corners” by Stan Maron (Hard Ball Press, $15) is a highly entertaining autobiography.
It focuses on the challenging childhood of the author, who grew up in New Jersey and New York in the 1930’s and 40’s. It offers intriguing insights into his varied experiences there and in Florida in the 1950’s and
Exploring his strained relationships with family members, the 248- page paperback opens with the mysterious death of his 42-year-old mother.
Maron witnessed frequent arguments between his parents; his father was a gambler.
Growing up, Maron faced many educational problems; his teachers were rarely patient or understanding. He also had to deal with anti-Semitism and racism, which was prevalent in the neighborhoods and the school
As a shy, dysfunctional boy with glasses, Maron became an easy target until he took steps to defend himself against bullies.
His father was no help; after frequent moves (as other family members went off to serve in World War II), Maron ended up in foster care in Brooklyn when he was eight.
Growing up, he frequented pool halls, hung out on the streets, gambled and drank. He dropped out of high school and took on a variety of jobs, including working for relatives, often serving as a waiter.
He was frustrated and didn’t have much direction. He vividly describes his association with assorted pool hustlers and gamblers; colorful characters abound.
Maron joined the Army shortly after the Korean War; life there wasn’t at all what he expected. An unexpected encounter with Mabel, the Marvelous Midget results in his going AWOL for a short time.
After getting out of the Army, Maron takes on numerous unglamorous jobs, eventually becoming a successful New York City street peddler. He gets married a few times and has a couple of kids.
Always scrambling to make money and survive, Maron’s lifestyle changes as he expands his horizons. He confronts his aging father but gets little satisfaction.
Maron’s fascinating, compelling autobiography showcases his smorgasbord of work-related experiences, his union involvement and changing attitudes, providing wonderful insights into the recent past.
Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop, has reviewed books regularly since 1987. His parents worked in New York in the 1940’s.
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This review was originally published by the Lansing State Journal on January 18, 2014.