Last Days of Summer

Last Days of Summer

4.6 55
by Steve Kluger
     
 

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Last Days of Summer is the story of Joey Margolis, neighborhood punching bag, growing up goofy and mostly fatherless in Brooklyn in the early 1940s. A boy looking for a hero, Joey decides to latch on to Charlie Banks, the all-star third baseman for the New York Giants. But Joey's chosen champion doesn't exactly welcome the extreme attention of a persistent

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Overview

Last Days of Summer is the story of Joey Margolis, neighborhood punching bag, growing up goofy and mostly fatherless in Brooklyn in the early 1940s. A boy looking for a hero, Joey decides to latch on to Charlie Banks, the all-star third baseman for the New York Giants. But Joey's chosen champion doesn't exactly welcome the extreme attention of a persistent young fan with an overactive imagination. Then again, this strange, needy kid might be exactly what Banks needs.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Mixing nostalgia, baseball and a boy's mostly epistolary friendship with a 1940s baseball star, this inventive but sentimental novel consists entirely of letters, fictional newspaper clippings, telegrams, war dispatches, report cards and other documentary fragments. Growing up Jewish in a tough, Italian Brooklyn neighborhood, Joey Margolis is troubled by anti-Semitic neighbors, by Hitler's rising power, by his parents' divorce and by his absent cad of a father. Craving a surrogate dad, Joey strikes up a correspondence with Wisconsin-born New York Giants slugger Charlie Banks. The boy's outrageous fibs, tough-guy posturing and desperate pleas grab the reluctant attention of the superstar, whose racy vernacular guy-talk (peppered with amusing misspellings and misusages) hints at his deepening affection for Joey. Charlie is a politically enlightened proletarian ballplayer with a heart of gold. His liberal views find an echo in Joey, whose best friend, Japanese-American Craig Nakamura, gets shipped off with his family to a wartime internment camp. In a plot that swerves from Joey's Bar Mitzvah to a White House meeting with President Roosevelt to a tearjerking climax, Kluger keeps changing the pace and piles on a slew of period references with a heavy hand. Despite these flaws, this debut novel is at its best a poignant, golden evocation of one boy's lost innocence. Author tour. (June)
Library Journal
Steve Kluger uses letters, newspaper clippings, war bulletins, and report cards to tell the delightfully quirky story of 12-year-old Joey Margolis. Growing up in 1940s Brooklyn, Joey is "a real pip," sending memos to Franklin D. Roosevelt advising on foreign policy and "Top Secret" missives to The Green Hornet, a.k.a. his best friend, Craig Nakamura. Joey's letter-writing leads to an unlikely friendship with his sports hero, New York Giants rookie third baseman Charlie Banks. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The late Ring Lardner might just be reading now over our shoulders, for Klugerþs epistolary novel of 1940s Brooklyn baseball is right up his genre. And if he were reading it, Lardner would likely have these admiring words to say about Klugerþs creation of the character of New York Giants third baseman Charlie Banks, who is a pen pal of the very young Brooklynite Joey Margolis: þSo you mussle in on my turf, the baseball novel of letters, when you know itþs my ballpark. But I'm not bitter just because you create a nice guy in Charlie Banks, while Jack Keefe in my novel You Know Me, Al is a braggart and egotist who the reader despairs of. And Chas. Banksþ loudmouth correspondent Joey Margolis is a little heart-tugger, too. Okay, I pretty much play on one string throughout, while you hit some bigger chords, like war and the Depression and that chowderhead FDR. Well, back in 1915 when my novel was wrote, I didn't have any world wars to wring my readersþ hearts with. You give a swell sense of Brooklyn in the late thirties and after, and I very much enjoy the cards sent between Joey, better known as The Shadow, and his upstairs neighbor Craig Nakamura. I suppose what stands out is your variety in a story told entirely through letters, postcards, report cards, baseball scorecards, Winchell columns, letters from FDR, and big written sighs of disappointment from Joeyþs rabbi and his disgusted homeroom teacher, with no author seemingly on hand. And Iþll admit itþs clever how you get the reader to empathize with this jocko 3rd baseman Joey idolizes.þ And Lardner would have reason to conclude: þIt hurts, but I got to say youwrite good and do well in the tears department. I feel honored by having inspired you. The hardest part is over, fella, aside from the reviews.þ

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061564819
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
06/03/2008
Edition description:
Revised
Pages:
368
Sales rank:
135,829
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.82(d)

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Prologue

The White House

November 26,1936

Dear Joseph:

Please allow me to express my deepest gratitude for the dollar you contributed to my campaign. Although I have indeed considered lowering the voting age as you suggest, I am afraid I would have to draw the line at eighteen. Nine is out of the question. I wish it weren't. In any event, I am touched by your support.

Mrs. Roosevelt joins me in thanking you for your kind words. I hope that the next four years will justify your continued faith in us.

Yours very truly,

Franklin D. Roosevelt

It's funny how the years have changed everything about Brooklyn geography. Time was when uptown meant Nathan's — if you were in the mood for an orange pop, a neurotic hot dog, and some front-line scuttlebut from a lonesome GI — or the old Paramount, where Veronica Lake once sold war bonds and kisses, and nearly financed the entire Normandy invasion herself. The business district was really the Citizen-News building, where if you hung around long enough and practiced your eavesdropping you might learn that Bataan wasn't just the name of a movie; and downtown, of course, was Flatbush, where on the Fourth of July the 433rd Infantry marched from Grand Army Plaza to Anzio with only an Irving Berlin cadence pointing them in the right direction.


Slugger Banks Whips Iowa City 5-0

Springfield, Ill., May 14 — Nineteen-year-old rookie sensation Charlie Banks propelled theSpringfield Bluejackets to an easy win over Iowa City here, with a solo haymaker in the second inning and a slammer at the bottom of the eighth. The volatile third baseman has become something of a local legend since early April, when he failed to make the squad cut during tryouts but was issued a uniform regardless after refusing to get off the team bus.

Brooklyn is where I grew up. It's where I learned what a storm trooper was, what an egg cream was, what "flak attack" meant, and what rubbers were used for outside of keeping your feet dry. It's where I discovered the true market value of a steelie versus an aggie and the queasy sounds your stomach made whenever you saw a hundred thousand hobnail boots goose-stepping through the Pathé News. It's where any kid could tell you that "Captain Colin Kelly shot a tiger in the belly, then he sent the ship Haruna to the bottom of the sea" but not know the capital of Michigan. It's where the nearest you were likely to get to heaven was smelling the popcorn at Luna Park, or seeing a real-life Dauntless dive-bomber — blue with white trim — taking off from the Navy Yard, or falling asleep with your blackout curtains drawn tight while Glenn Miller played "Moonlight Serenade" over the radio, live from the still waters of the Glen Island Casino ("mecca of music for moderns"). Brooklyn is also where I learned that I was a kike, that my second-to-best-friend was a Nip, and that my father was never coming back home.

"Nana Bert, is my Dad there?"
"He's busy, dear. We're going to Monte Carlo, but with all those Germans, you can't get a reservation. Call him after the eighteenth."


Banks Downed by Food Poisoning;
Goes 5-For-6

JOPLIN, Mo., June 24 — The Racine Rocket lost his bid for 38 consecutive hits this afternoon when an attack of food poisoning brought about by a tin of tainted anchovies caused him to ground into a double play against Joplin in the eleventh inning after having hit safely in his first five at-bats.
"I thought they were sardines," mumbled a sheepish Banks as he was carried off the field with a fever of 104. Asked where he had learned such stamina, the nineteen-year-old third-sacker retorted, "In the 3 C's [Civilian Conservation Corps]. Unless you were dead, you kept going."

After the divorce, my mother moved us from a largely Hasidic community in Williamsburg to an old brownstone at the corner of Bedford Avenue and Montgomery Street, where the mailboxes in the vestibule presaged the special fabric out of which my adolescence was to be woven. "Corelli. Verrastro. Fiore. Bierman. Di Cicco. Fusaro. Delvecchi. Margolis. "This told me all I needed to know. Of course, as the newly appointed resident Jew, I couldn't be entirely certain what recreational activities the neighborhood was willing to offer, but I had a pretty decent hunch that bleeding was among them. Not that my mom or my Aunt Carrie did much to promote my cause: they openly lit Shabos candles on San Gennaro Day, walked to shul through the Our Lady of Pompeii street festival, and helped feed the Italian-American War Widows with a tray of stuffed derma and potato knishes. The day we unpacked, I figured conservatively that I had a week left to live; one look at Lenny Bierman and I pared the estimate by half. But I was determined to fit in.
"Get it, Margolis? Sheenies walk on that side of the street.
*SPLAT!*


Banks Clips Association's Top Tomato

Chicago, Ill., December 18 — On a ballot that surprised absolutely no one, the Midwestern Association today unanimously voted Charles Banks the 1937 Henry Chadwick Award, marking only the second time in the league's 61-year history that the honor has gone to a rookie. (Turkey Mike Donlin, in 1898, was the first.) Twenty-year-old Banks was notified via telegraph at his home in Racine, Wisconsin, and purportedly wired back, "Who in Hell is Henry Chadwick?" Springfield Bluejackets officials have turned down several lucrative offers for purchase of the rookie's contract, including a bid from the Brooklyn Dodgers which purportedly involved the

By the time I turned twelve, the Dodgers made me vomit. There was a popular misconception floating about the borough that they were lovable losers; for my money, one might just as easily have dispensed with the adjective altogether and developed a much clearer rotogravure of the truth. They had neither brains nor breeding — forgivable shortcomings in and of themselves if perhaps they had owned even one shred of talent. But they didn't have that either. What they had was a hartebeest at first named Dolph Camilli, a hop-o'-my-thumb at short they christened Pee Wee and thought it cunning, and something at third base called Cookie Lavagetto. Nobody had the balls to ask why. Then there was Craig Nakamura's idol, Leo Durocher, who plainly belonged behind bars-at a precinct house or an animal sanctuary, the need to distinguish was purely moot and predicated solely upon space availability. All things considered-and given the way my luck was running-about the last thing I needed was a bedroom window that overlooked Ebbets Field. And the only hurdy-gurdy in Flatbush.

Leave us go root for the Dodgers, Rodgers,
They're playing ball under lights.
Leave us cut out all the juke I jernts, Rodgers,
Them Dodgers is my gallant knights.

Of course, it never would have occurred to me that my father's lifelong passion for the damned team might have had something to do with my utter loathing for them; this, after all, was 1940, and we hadn't heard about pop psychology in those days. The only thing I knew for sure was that I wasn't going to be finding any heroes in Brooklyn. So I looked where I could-but the results were kind of disappointing.

The White House

February 14, 1940

Dear Joseph:

President Roosevelt has asked me to respond to your most recent letter, and to assure you that he, too, is keeping an eye on Denmark. No doubt you will understand that it is far too premature to consider arming the Royal Air Force as you suggest, although your reminders relative to the Lusitania are sobering indeed. In any event, I am sure the President will pass your recommendations on to Neville Chamberlain at his earliest convenience.

Sincerely,
Stephen T. Early
Press Secretary

April 9, 1940. I have decided to turn to a life of crime. My dad was supposed to take me to Coney Island but he never called back, my left eye is black-and-blue again, the Japanese say they're only borrowing Nanking temporarily but nobody believes them, and Hitler is beginning to scare the holy heck out of me.

Last Days of Summer. Copyright © by Steve Kluger. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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