March 12, 1995 New York City The phone at my desk rang and a crusty, vaguely familiar,…
By Josh Hanagarne’s account, the consistent presence of books is the base on which his life finds its stability. Particularly in the context of the public library, to which a substantial chunk of The World’s Strongest Librarian is an unabashed yet clear-eyed love letter, Hanagarne finds his larger purpose and his story’s shape. For certain, the structure and culture of librarianship — with its endless subject classifications and the necessary absurdity of public spaces dedicated to contradictory knowledge — lend the book its shape.
I started dog-earing this book right away. It’s not a story about Michael finding out how his father really died. Okay it is, and it takes up a lot of space, and it’s the perfect engine. But this is about his mother, how he finds out who she really is, and what Michael means to her. I loved the childcare by dresser drawer, potatoes on the neck, and eggs “polish-style”, which sound delectable. Michael and his brother are left father-less, but their mother is a tough bird.
Resolutions are such empty things, worthy of being thrown out with the January 1st trash. Reading this diary anthology, you can learn what people really committed their lives to on any particular day. What they fought or played through in the dark, because we’re all in the dark about any particular day we’re living. 1923 may be past, but turn to the page of someone who is still living it in their diary entry.
Hijuelos grew up in a small apartment in a rough, ethnically diverse Morningside Heights neighborhood. After falling ill following a trip to Cuba to visit his mother’s family, Oscar finds himself for a year in a children’s convalescence hospital, separated from his family, his native language Spanish, and ultimately his heritage that creates a lifelong crack in his identity.