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Book Bag: “All the Difference” by Patricia Horvath; “Comedy and Tragedy on the Mountain: by Jacueline T. Lynch


Thursday, May 11, 2017

ALL THE DIFFERENCE

By Patricia Horvath

Etruscan Press

patricialhorvath.com

“This is not a redemption narrative,” Patricia Horvath writes in her memoir about a childhood and adolescence marked by her painful struggles with scoliosis. Yet considering what she’s overcome, it’s hard not to think Horvath, in no small measure, has moved from darkness into light.

In “All The Difference,” Horvath, who teaches English and creative writing at Framingham State University, examines what for most kids and teens can be one of the most difficult things to contend with: feeling or looking different. It began in her childhood, with a curved spine that made her unbalanced, awkward and a failure at sports and schoolyard games.

“My lack of coordination,” she writes, “was on display every single day.”

Yet things got worse as Horvath moved into adolescence. After physical therapy and special orthopedic shoes failed to address her problems, she was forced to wear a bulky, corseted brace 23 hours a day starting at age 13. A few years later, she had spinal fusion surgery, leaving her bedridden for months in plaster and fiberglass casts; she had to relearn to walk afterward.

Then, years later, when she was living in Northampton and pursuing an MFA in creative writing at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Horvath discovered she was actually shrinking; though her doctors doubted her
fears at first, she was in fact now struggling
with osteoporosis.

That condition might have come about from years of skimpy eating, she writes, her way of trying to divorce herself from her own body. “My bones have always been treacherous, and once again they had betrayed me.” 

But “All the Difference,” despite the pain it recounts, is never self-pitying, and it’s much more than a litany of medical problems. Horvath looks back at other landmarks from her youth — a mean-spirited elementary school teacher, an icy relationship with her stepfather, listening to rock and roll, her first tentative relationships with boys — with a sharp eye and often a dry sense of humor.

In elementary school, for instance, she developed a love of the tales of the Greek Gods; they become a reference point for describing the special shoes she had to wear to correct her imbalanced walk. “They were heavy things, nothing like Hermes’s winged sandals. They made me feel earthbound, and I loathed them.”

And Horvath’s physical problems, if nothing else, cemented her love of reading and writing at an early age, an interest she’s now made good on. She’s published short stories and essays in numerous publications, won a number of awards and fellowships, and today is an editor of “The Massachusetts Review.” 

Ultimately, she says, “All the Difference” is an exploration of the connection between disability and self-identity and what happens to one’s sense of self when a physical disability ceases to be visible.

“You have the bones of a seventy year old, my doctor has said,” she writes. “Yet they support me, these geriatric bones. In their own crooked way, and despite my neglect, they hold me up. They are, in no small sense, miraculous.”

COMEDY AND TRAGEDY
ON THE MOUNTAIN: 70 YEARS OF
SUMMER THEATRE ON MT. TOM

By Jacqueline T. Lynch

www.jacqulinetlynch.com

Mount Tom in the Holyoke Range is known today primarily for its hiking trails and views, and of course it was also home for decades to an amusement park and a downhill ski center.

But in a new book, Chicopee novelist and playwright Jacqueline T. Lynch revisits the Holyoke peak as a site of summer theater. “Comedy and Tragedy on the Mountain” recounts 70 years of acting and entertainment on Mount Tom, from 1895 to 1965, including theater’s heyday there in the late 1940s and 1950s.

Using many old photographs of stage scenes, playbills and other settings, Lynch describes how the Pavilion Theatre began under modest circumstances in 1895, as a “raised platform with a tent cover,” with the audience sitting on a grassy slope to watch vaudeville performances.

In the 20th century, plays were performed in an indoor theater, the Mount Tom Playhouse, and the Valley Players, a regional theatrical troupe that staged many shows there, featured significant names like Hal Holbrook.

Lynch’s account includes a number of photos of Holbrook, such as a shot from a 1952 performance of “A Streetcar Named Desire” and a 1957 solo show in which he played Mark Twain.

Beset with declining attendance, however, and a fire that destroyed other buildings at Mount Tom Park, the theater finally shut its doors in the late 1960s.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.