From the jacket copy:
“These stories, for the most part, are about the young, and the various kinds of loss suffered by the young—which is to say, the loss of innocence at the hands of experience. Those moments when we experience loss are defining moments. They shape character, serve as platforms upon which lives are built. In fascinating, and often painful ways, they expose life’s mysteries. They enrich us.
The settings in this collection are varied: Atlantic City, Key West, upstate New York, the back roads of the South and—for many of the stories—the streets of the Bronx. Place, like loss, is also a transformative force. It lives inside these characters, shapes desire and the actions that derive from desire.”
Excerpt from the title story, “A History of Things Lost or Broken:”
My brother Massimo, known to everyone except our parents as “Max,” fancied
himself a student of the dark side of human nature, an unofficial investigator of the
mysteries of the universe. In our East Bronx housing project, he was the neighborhood
historian, having won the St. Helena high school history medal four years in a row. He
was obsessed with the origin of things, the turning points, the moments of crisis that
shaped the lives of heroic or infamous figures in this world’s drama.
He told me once he liked the order history superimposed--illusory, of course, and
always in retrospect--on the otherwise random events of our lives. Day to day, he
explained, there seems no overall purpose to what we do; but after you die, history steps
in and says see, there was a pattern after all, your life did mean something, too bad you
couldn’t see it.
From as far back as I can remember he filled me with stories about our section of
the Bronx, Orchard Beach and the swamps of Pelham Bay, and the Catholic Protectorate
with its wide, grassy lawns that gave way to our housing project in 1940: a
“revolutionary” residential community designed to maximize space by clustering twelve-
story hi-rise buildings around park-like ovals of trees and grass. On Saturday mornings
when he was in junior high, he conducted walking tours around the project, moving from
building to building, explaining the mythological significance of the terra-cotta gargoyles
that graced our entranceways or softened the sharp edges of our walls, the winged angels
and reclining maidens, the beastly kingdom of bears, lions and eagles that distinguished
our housing development from the dozens of other projects throughout the five boroughs.
In the years between 1958 and 1963, Max--who was five years my senior—
introduced me to the hidden life of our world . . .