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Novels also by Steven Schindler
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A NOVEL BY STEVEN SCHINDLER
No balls? No money? No problem. Just have your buddy hold you by the ankles and lower you into a sewer, armed with a bent coat hanger. There are plenty of balls down there for ready for scooping. And odds are, a couple of them are perfectly good for stick-ball or king-queen. So what if they're sewer balls. Oh, and one more thing: You better trust the guy who's holding you. I mean really trust him.
JFK was shot dead. Oswald was shot "live" on TV. Girls were screaming like idiots over guys from England with long hair going "wooooh." And Sister Fidelis called the girls "tramps" right in front of the whole class. After seven torturous years at Presentation Grammar School, eighth grade was turning out to be more exciting than anyone ever thought it could be.
For best friends Whitey and Vinny, every day was an adventure into a new, forbidden world of hidden kisses, stolen beer, and songs sung by guys with Moe Howard bangs that made the girls get weird. Little did they know that each of those adventures would take them a little bit deeper into a fast, unpredictable world where fun can turn into tragedy in a New York minute.
Set against the backdrop of the Bronx in the early 1960s, Sewer Balls is a blunt, smart, quirky novel of how city kids with no money but lots of imagination make the most out of what they have.
Was it fun? Was it scary? Was it the best time of their lives? Fuhgedahbowdit!
"Sewer Balls" is about growing up in the Bronx, NY, in the sixties, and Schindler writes with a style that reflects the best of Betty Smith's "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" and Philip Roth's "Portnoy's Complaint." Every kid who grew up in the East knows what sewer balls are: those prized rubber balls that were always going down the corner sewers and retrieved by daring poor kids. Schindler brings the '60s alive with images as clear as if the were photographed; his sentences are deceptively simple but full of euphony. It won't be surprising if someone in the next millennium writes that this was probably the best novel produced by the small presses in 1999.---The Small Press Review (March /April 2000)
The Bronx has an allure. Maybe it has a muse. "The Wanderers", "Marty", and "A Bronx Tale" quickly come to mind when contemplating the presence of the Bronx in the arts...Steven Schindler's novel "Sewer Balls" adds to this fine lineage of the artistic depiction of the borough and its people.---Streetplay.com (June 2000)
A Reader from Queens, NY: I enjoyed it so much, not only for the nostalgia but for its literary presentation. The dialogue and incidents were delightful. Actually I came from an older generation and am Jewish, but the writings of Catholic school and life were an eye opener. Everything was such a pleasure to read! The feelings and knowledge about the Irish growing up in New York are marvelous. In my book, Schindler rates alongside Meyer Levin and James T. Farrell.
A Reader, from Los Angeles:
Brazen Adolescence in the Big Apple!
SEWER BALLS is a fast, funny reminiscence of boys and girls growing up on the neighborhood streets of New York City during the 1960s. The events related by Vinny, the book's 13-year-old narrator, showcase Steve Schindler's singular storytelling style, one that reveals a documentarian's eye and ear for sights and sounds and a beat-poet's gift for the slanguage of the streets.
Within just a few pages, SEWER BALLS boldly establishes itself as a compelling, contemporary coming-of-age story, evocative of Twain's HUCKLEBERRY FINN and Hinton's THE OUTSIDERS, while staking a unique claim to the hilarity and brutality of the rock 'n' roll urban jungle that was Schindler's native Bronx borough. SEWER BALLS is a colorful story of tortured friendships and family dysfunction that's rough, tough and thoroughly authentic. For anyone raised living and loving Soupy Sales and the Mouse, Murray the K and the Beatles, Mickey Mantle and the Yankees, Coney Island, the New York World's Fair, Rockaway Beach, Mad Magazine, Brylcreem, pizza slices served on wax paper and endless searches for spaldeens in the city's sewage system...SEWER BALLS has all the impact of a shotgun-blast to the heart.
Sewer Balls brought me back to my stoop in the Bronx!
I grew up in the Bronx, New York, at the same time that this coming of age story is set. I find that as I now get older, my heart and mind hearken back to the days of eggcreams and pretzels, and of hanging out on your stoop with a transistor radio tuned into the WMCA Good Guys. The streets, parks, subway and elevated trains were our domain, and we felt like we ruled them. The book Sewer Balls takes you back to a time when life was sweet. I am having my teenagers read it so that they can better understand me and where I came from. Anyone who was ever a teenager will enjoy this book!!
P.B. (New Jersey):
Excellent read! A "Catcher in the Rye" for city kids!
Vinnie and Whitey take us through the daily challenges and excitement of coming of age in The Bronx. We get to experience the feel of a real neighborhood where people are respected for who they are and not measured by what they have. These fourteen year olds take us on a journey of "first's" that will send your memory reeling. If it has been a while since you thought about your first love, the first beer in the park, the first visit to Yankee Stadium or your first time to the St.Patrick's Day parade be prepared to laugh out loud as you read this book.With great literary style this book will answer questions like,"what were the last latin speaking altar boys of the milenium really thinking about?...Why do kids lie prone in the street coat hangers in hand fishing spauldeens out of sewers?...and finally, why does every apartment building in the Bronx se em to have a maniac patrolling the halls with a baseball bat?
"Sewer Balls" captures the joys and sorrows of life in the real neighborhoods of New York. If you are curious about growing up in The Bronx or the Parochial school experience in the 60's this is a must read!
A reader from Highland Park, Illinois:
"Sewer Balls" is a nostalgic masterpiece.
Be prepared. When you sit down to read Steven Schindler's eloquent tale of growing up in the Bronx in the 1960's, you're going to feel it. Every page of it. You'll feel like you used to feel. With that old familiar pain in your heart, lump in your throat, butterfly in your stomach. Never before has a book so brilliantly captured the innocence and discovery of youth. It doesn't matter if you grew up in the Bronx, NY or in Boise, Idaho, you'll feel like this book was written just about you and your childhood friends. But be prepared. When you sit down to read "Sewer Balls", you just may feel something you haven't felt in years. Young again.
A reader from Los Angeles, California:
Destination: The Bronx. A Trip Worth Taking!
If The Bronx isn't on your travel itinerary, you can still go there in Steven Schindler's terrific first novel "Sewer Balls." Never has a place been rendered in such vivid and quirky detail that you wanted to spend so much of your spare time hanging out on those gritty streets. An hilarious and brilliantly realized portrait of city life in the 60s, by the end of the book you'll feel that Vinny and Whitey were your best friends too. Savagely funny and honest, your heart will ache as you laugh through every page. Only a writer of unique skill can weave several tales of one's personal childhood into something this universal. "Sewer Balls" is so alive and truthful that you can actually smell the pizza wafting in the streets and feel the joy of finding a pristine sewer ball. And if you've never played pin darts, after this book you won't want to start. It is details like this that make this novel an extremely satisfying read. Hey, who woulda thought The Bronx could be this much fun! I can't wait to read Schindler's next book.
A reader from East Texas:
A remarkable book for baby boomers or the cognoscente.
Steve Schindler has captured a bit of the '50s '60s and '70s that we all shared, but didn't share in quite the same way. Mr. Schindler may well be the J.D. Salinger of his generation.
A reader from New York, NY:
A realistic mid-Sixties New York coming-of-age story.
Coming of age stories are a familiar literary form, but "Sewer Balls" is fresh and compelling in that its events parallel a "coming of age" in American society. If you're old enough to remember the Kennedy assassination or the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show (or even if you're not but are curious about that time in history), you know that the nation was never quite the same afterwards. Author Steve Schindler expertly weaves these historical events into the story of his protagonist, who is about to enter high school, adolescence, and the beginnings of adulthood. It's a transition we've all made and "Sewer Balls" will take you back to a time in your life that will put the present in perspective. The book also reminds us of a time when living in the inner city was a bit less harrowing than it is today, when drugs were just beginning to evidence themselves in society, and when kids didn't need designer sneakers to have a good time.
This is not, however, a book for children; the language is rough, but not gratuitously so. There is violence, but it's not the mean-spirited stuff found in most Hollywood movies today. "Sewer Balls" is a realistic portrayal of urban life that will remind anyone who grew up in such a world of just what an achievement surviving one's youth can be. It carries us into the adolescent mind and reminds us just how fragile such psyches really are (something to think about if you have kids) when a person is still young enough to be impressionable. "Sewer Balls" delves into friendship, music, self-potential, and all of the other things that really matter. It's a hilarious, terrifying life-affirming tour seen through the eyes of an astute observer, one too young to filter it with the jaundiced eye of adulthood, but street-smart enough to know how to survive amid some genuine neighborhood crazies.
Also, the book portrays an aspect of urban living that's often overlooked amid the "Bright Lights, Big City" style of fiction so popular today. The vast majority of New Yorkers don't live in Manahttan's Upper East Side or go to trendy clubs. This is a book about a middle-class family in the New York borough of the Bronx."Sewer Balls" is for real. It's one of the best books I've read in a long time, and one of the best books I've ever read, period. I strongly recommend it.
J.S. (Washington, D.C.):
A Dickensian immersion into Da Bronx during the 60s.
Mr. Schindler vividly portrays life for a young man coming of age in the Bronx during the 60s. In the shadow of Yankee Stadium a young man learns about life, love and lost innocence from the streets of New York. At once hilarious and harrowing, Sewer Balls grabs you by the throat and thrusts you into the world of Catholic school nuns smacking the knuckles of mischievous boys and the wisdom gained from observing the world from one's stoop. Mr. Schindler's attention to detail is uncanny... the reader hears and feels the rattle and hum of life under the elevated subway, the smell of summer streets and feels the joy of playing out life in the shadow of Yankee Stadium. I highly recommend this novel, I truly could not put it down. I can't wait to read it again.
J.G. (Bronx, NY):
Oh sweet memory!
I enjoyed looking back on my childhood, remembering how kids enjoyed themselves without access to computers arcades or money. Being a "Presentation" graduate one year prior to the author, the stories and characters brought me way back. To Steven Schindler, thank you very much.
P.M. (New Jersey):
Right on target for those of us who grew up on 238 St.
Steve Schindler brings back so many absolutely right on memories of what it was like to be in the eighth grade in that Bronx neighborhood. The games we played, the 'spaldeens' in the sewer, the neighborhood characters, the parish school, Van Cortlandt Park, the elevated, etc., I can hardly wait to read it again about two weeks from now. I'm busy sending it to old friends from the neighborhood for Christmas.
A time when being bad wasn't so bad at all...
A tale that takes you to the core of your adolesence, no matter where you happened to live. Reading their journey was like traveling in an emotional timeline of my own youth. Every adventure reminding me of the good and the naughty. Whitey and Vinny remind us how much we have in common with one another when we're vulnerable and freshly exposed to the onset of puberty. A tale of youth when youths didn't act like adults. An adventure of sweetness and innocence that will remind you how good it was before you grew up, wherever you grew up.
D.R. (New Jersey)
Sewer Balls is a wonderful book about growing up in the Bronx in the sixties told from the point of view of a kid. Because of the author's descriptive power, the neighborhood and characters came to life in such a real way, that at times I felt like he was telling my story of growing up. Along the lines of "Stand By Me" or even "Lord of the FIies," the child's/author's honesty is the book's power. Schindler's novel is often hilarious and at times, quite moving. I had so much fun reading Sewer Balls, I was actually disappointed that it had to end. But I'm looking forward, hopefully, to his next book- maybe about high school and college?
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