Title: Those Days: A Collection of Stories, by B.J. Glassel
Date Published: 2023; Self-published.
Reviewed by: Doris Green
B.J. Glassel looks back at his life through a series of reminiscences first conjured to regale friends and story slam audiences. The thirteen tales relive events from Glassel’s boyhood to the present with a focus on young adulthood. The book’s trajectory loosely traces Glassel’s journey from 1970s Milwaukee to California escape to Midwest return in 1988.
The stories march forward un-chronologically, not according to the calendar but in sync with the author’s internal rhythm and style. Each chapter begins with an apropos photo and quotation. For instance, a Henry Miller quote, “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things,” sets the stage for chapter 3, “How I Became the W.J.,” a story about the roots of Glassel’s wanderings.
Each story is its own chapter, embellished and enhanced with an epilogue exploring the context of place and time. Following each epilogue, Glassel presents a song title that harmonizes with the tale’s circumstance and ambiance. Glassel closes chapter 3 by selecting as its soundtrack “Find the River” by R.E.M. and interpreting its theme as “the exploration of life with the flow of water from rivers to the ocean and the need for all of us to change over time. [Thus] I flowed from Wisconsin to the ocean, wandering, exploring, and gaining unique life experiences.”
In most of these stories from Glassel’s youth, freedom prevails and adventure appears around every twist in the road. Multiple lucky breaks follow errors in judgment, and eye-popping risks, and Glassel unabashedly admits them all. (Who hasn’t accumulated a few—or a lot—of youthfully enthusiastic escapades?) Reflection brings acceptance, and often humor.
The last chapter, “These Days,” begins with ae Jackson Browne quote: “That’s maybe the most important thing each generation does, is to break a lot of rules and make up their own way of doing things.” Glassel ends his final chapter by choosing as its soundtrack, Jackson’s “These Days.” Its lyrics highlight the theme for this collection as a whole:
These days I'll sit on corner stones
And count the time in quarter tones to ten, my friend
Don't confront me with my failures
I had not forgotten them.
Thanks to Glassel’s well-told tales, readers may take courage, embrace their own past, and welcome the surprises to come.
Reviewer Doris Green authored Elsie’s Story: Chasing a Family Mystery and Wisconsin Underground: A Guide to Caves, Mines, and Tunnels. Her latest title is Minnesota Underground: A Guide to Caves & Karst, Mines & Tunnels, co-authored with Greg Brick. Contact http://henschelhausbooks.com, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
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