Book Twenty-Eight of 2014: SAMMY, WHERE ARE YOU? by Ira Spector

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Author Ira Spector played poker for years with an artificial turkey inseminator, and had after-tennis “prayer meetings” with his pals where they screamed and shouted at each other and solved all the worlds problems in one hour. He was slowly infected with an itch to document the most memorable episodes in the jar of jelly beans that has been his life.
He chronicles his story in seventy-one essays and poems which are frank and at times outrageous. His eventful and unusual romps through six continents and eighty one countries, the diversity of his career and the characters he met are amply described in this rich narrative.
He talks about: 
Losing his virginity in a whore house in pre-Castro Havana Barely avoiding a mid-air collision when another airplane flew through his four plane formation. An atheist says a jewish prayer for the dead with his hand on one of the one hundred skulls wall mounted in a Cambodian prison. The very first piece of art work he ever did-a 24′ X 6′ sand cast mural for a major department store.
This enticing memoir is a journey through the exciting highs and memorable adventures encountered in one hell of a lifetime.

Upon beginning this book, there were a few things that popped into my head: Mr. Spector has an interesting sense of humor, he doesn’t back down in his writing, and his storytelling reminds me of my Papa. Grandpapa, my mother’s father, is a great storyteller and even though sometimes his humor goes over my head, his enthusiasm and style always made listening that much more enjoyable. Mr. Spector is the same type of storyteller.

As a memoir, or an attempt at one, I would have liked more organization. Centering it on one aspect of his life (like the traveling or his military career), I think, would have made the book more enjoyable. It was sometimes confusing when a story you had just read happens after the current story you are reading or when the reader is jumping from 6 to 16 to 26 back to 16. That said, his writing isn’t bad and I could see everything he described. Granted, some of the stories (mainly in the middle) lacked in spirit. However, that doesn’t make him a bad writer or his stories any less important.

I loved that he decided to make a memoir for himself and his family. I wouldn’t have been able to do this for fear that no one would care, but Mr. Spector doesn’t care about that. All that matters to him is that some stories hit a certain resonance in the reader, and a number of those stories do (the story about Cambodia, being one of those).

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