cover image American English, Italian Chocolate: Small Subjects of Great Importance

American English, Italian Chocolate: Small Subjects of Great Importance

Rick Bailey. Univ. of Nebraska, $19.95 trade paper (204p) ISBN 978-1-4962-0119-5

Bailey (The Creative Writer’s Craft) finds inspiration in everyday mundanities—buying a cup of coffee, helping his wife replace a duvet cover—to create short memoiristic essays that can jump, say, from his Michigan boyhood to the plays of Shakespeare. The essays read like the best of short stories: their significance extends beyond what is on the page. Bailey demonstrates a genius for locating a telling detail and employing it sparingly to evoke a setting or character trait, keeping the writing concise and the pace swift. Bailey’s voice is genial and ingratiating and he expertly mixes literary allusions from his career as an English scholar with his Midwestern charm. His humor is the type to inspire smiles of recognition rather than full-on belly laughs. The book encompasses a wide variety of tones, from the earthy, with essays inspired by toilets, nail biting, and the rising trend of vomit in TV and movies, to the picturesque, in travelogue vignettes about Bailey’s experiences visiting Italy. Not every entry in this collection of 40 essays (some previously published in literary journals) feels completely realized, but overall the book delights and will makes readers stop and notice the individual pieces of their everyday lives. (July)