Cover image for My cold war
My cold war
Piazza, Tom, 1955-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : ReganBooks, [2003]

Physical Description:
245 pages ; 24 cm
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John Delano is in trouble. A professor of Cold War Studies at a small New England college, hetraffics in what others call "History McNuggets" -- gimmicky, easily digestible glimpses of our collective past. But as he struggles with his magnum opus -- a major new book on the "surfaces" of the Cold War era -- Delano's life begins to fall apart. In a series of dazzlingly rendered and escalating encounters, he revisits the treeless vistas of 1950s suburbia, the streets of Dallas and the JFK assassination, the Summer of Love, and other landmark moments, and finally travels into the heartland to reconnect with his estranged brother. What he finds there, and what he makes of it, forms this novel's poignant climax.

Bob Dylan has said that Tom Piazza's "stories pulsate with nervous electrical tension -- reveal the emotions that we can't define." Now, in a breakout novel of power, subtlety, and range, Piazza braids together the inner and outer life of our times, in a story that will leave readers both shaken and exhilarated.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

In his thought-provoking first novel, Piazza takes his readers on a nostalgic tour that includes his own version of growing up in Long Island's postwar suburbia.ohn Delano is the sole faculty member in the department of cold war studies at Hollister College, and his classes are wildly popular, focusing on personalities and big moments, what his critics call History McNuggets. ohn is writing a book on these themes, but after his father dies he is stuck in a big mishmash of history, myth, my own personal experience. He decides that to write about theennedy anding assassinations, Castro, fallout shelters,ent State, even Bob Dylan going electric, he must first confront his own past, starting with his estranged brother.ohn returns to his hometown, where they grew up with a bitter, anticommunist father, and, surprisingly, finds some positive memories lingering among all the sad ones. Piazza's journey down memory lane is enlivened by his witty take on competitive academia, and deepened by his poignant tale of a family broken, it may be, beyond repair. --Deborah Donovan Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

This richly textured but uneven first novel by Piazza (Blues and Trouble) opens with John Delano, a Connecticut college professor of Cold War Studies, trying, unsuccessfully, to pen John Delano's Cold War, an unorthodox opus that looks at events as "pure phenomena." Analyzing surface and image (instead of "boring history stuff," as a former student puts it) has earned John popularity in the classroom, but some disdain in the faculty lounge for his "History McNuggets." When his father, from whom he was estranged, dies, John's concentration fails him; instead of writing, he recollects his turbulent childhood: his father's steady decline into mental illness, his mother's struggles and love affairs, the growing despondency of his brother, Chris. John narrates his youth with spot-on 1960s details-Johnny Carson hosting Don Rickles, the Summer of Love, the pot fumes-and poignant personal memories, from meeting his wife, Val, at a labor conference, to the pain of his mother's death. Struggling to free himself from writer's "limbo," John calls Chris, to whom he has not spoken in years, proposing to visit him in Iowa; he imagines that he will scrap his Cold War book and instead write a memoir about their reunion. Their time together is awkward, poignant-and might have been the start of a renewed relationship. But John's discovery that Chris is involved in a racist group sparks another conflict, and John's subsequent decision to visit the house he grew up in provides the novel's heartbreaking final pages. The academic play of the novel's opening feels flat in comparison to the powerful longing at its end, but this is an incisive portrait of a man, his troubled family and their place in history. Author tour. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

A brooding look back at 1960s suburbia, this first novel from James Michener Award winner Piazza (Blues and Trouble) is told from the perspective of college professor John Delano. Delano's field is history and his specialty the Cold War period, but he is disdained by his fellow academics for his less-than-scholarly approach. His estrangement from his childhood and family is so complete that he doesn't use his birth name and hasn't spoken to his younger brother Chris in eight years. When Delano fails to progress on his latest book, a popular history of the images of the Cold War, he undertakes a journey to reconnect with Chris and the childhood he left behind. The result is not entirely happy-he finds Chris in a rented house in rural Iowa, living a marginal life and hanging out with a radical, racist element-but this dark, personal, sadly introspective work succeeds in bringing to life the troubled main character. Recommended for most collections.-Ann H. Fisher, Radford P.L., VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



My Cold War A Novel Chapter One My Mother had just moved to New York City from Eau Claire in 1949, when she met Marie Kelso. Marie was four or five years older and lived in the same women's residence on Thirteenth Street, operated by the Salvation Army. She always cut through in the little black-and-white photos they used to take, so sparingly, at parties. There she was, on the arm of the sofa, holding a cigarette and a highball like everybody else, laughing like the others, but as if she were having an inside joke with the viewer of the photo, a little voltage in the eye that spoke of knowing things the other girls didn't. She had been kind of wild -- code for premarital sex -- despite being a Catholic, but maybe because of that she became a sort of den mother to the younger women. She was in her late thirties before she finally got married, to a businessman named Bill. They never had any children. My mother left the women's residence for her own apartment in 1951 and -- you know how these things go -- saw Marie occasionally, but when she married my father and moved out to Atlanticville, on Long Island, it got harder to maintain the old friendships. A phone call now and then, and then no phone calls for a long while. Then, out of the blue, a call from Marie Kelso. It was 1962. She and Bill were living in New Jersey. "I wanted to see how the lovebirds were doing," she said. My mom talked to her for almost an hour, and by the end of the conversation, they had made plans for Marie to visit us in Atlanticville. As it turned out, Marie had something on her mind besides auld lang syne. She wanted my parents to join the John Birch Society. ♦ My Mother had come to New York to work in retail, for which she had prepared at Thellinger's department store in Eau Claire. New York -- the great dream, as it still was. Not just a vehicle for making money but a destination, spiritual and material, in itself. She got a job at Saks and, over a year and a half, rose steadily from counter girl to assistant buyer. Her life was dotted with glamorous parties, encounters with movie stars; her clients included Rita Hayworth, and once she even brought clothes to Mae West's apartment. In pictures from that time, her honey-blond hair spills down over the shoulders of a beautiful striped silk blouse or a gray tailored suit, always a cigarette in her hand, laughing ... She met my father one evening while she was pinch-hitting at one of the sweater counters during the pre-Christmas rush. Winking lights of Rockefeller Plaza, people rushing by on the sidewalks, the chill of December in the folds of their overcoats, smell of pretzels and chestnuts in the blue stove smoke ... He had stopped in to buy a sweater for his mother, and Mom had assisted him. He was still living with his parents on the far edge of Queens, working in the city, and he came back the next week, hunted her up, and they had a date, they began a courtship. My father was very handsome -- people said he resembled the actor Tyrone Power -- but he had a slightly withered left arm. You had to look for a minute or two to notice it, and then only with his shirt off. He was also, it turned out, epileptic, although he didn't tell my mother about that until after they were engaged. It had kept him out of the war. My mother had just come off a heartbreak. She was susceptible. Another year or so and she would have been a full buyer, and it would have been a corner to turn. She was at the corner already. In any case her life was rolling, but she was late getting married for those days -- twenty-six! -- and when the previous love withdrew, he left an emptiness that hadn't been there before. Suddenly New York and the life and the glamour were tinged with a hint of rue on the breeze, a rue that she knew could roll in heavier as the shadows grew. This is all speculation, basically, but that's where she was when my father entered the picture. He wasn't making a lot of money, but he was doing something, electrical engineering, that had the potential for growth, something technical that had required lots of training, and he was smart, he could be funny, he had a good family -- or, let us say, a large extended family with some material comfort. They got married. ♦ Atlanticville. They bought the house for twelve thousand dollars, a decent chunk of money at the time. Everybody else, it seems, had the same idea. Your own house, your own yard. All those boys and girls who had grown up in the tenements and alleys of Brooklyn and Queens or the Lower East Side and who had shipped out to fight the war, cigarette by cigarette, boot by boot. No particular education, except for those who came back for technical school on the GI Bill at CCNY or NYU. Atlanticville, and all the other towns like it, grew up for them overnight. Land that had been potato farms or marsh before the war was now bought up, filled in, and carved into little squares, like a tray of brownies. The developers named the streets with Indian words peculiar to tribes that had long since been driven off, or they named them for trees or for the developer's own children. My parents moved there because that was what they could afford; I don't think they necessarily planned on staying ... My Cold War A Novel . Copyright © by Tom Piazza. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from My Cold War: A Novel by Tom Piazza All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.