Hoboken Book Club: Four Hoboken Stories

Hoboken Book Club: Four Hoboken Stories
Daniel Pinkwater. (Photograph by Cory Doctorow) Daniel Pinkwater. (Photograph by Cory Doctorow)
If you’ve ever searched on ‛Hoboken’ in a moment of boredom, you’ve probably come across a book called The Hoboken Chicken Emergency, published a few decades ago and telling a whimsical story about a man who brings home a huge chicken to Thanksgiving, with hilarity ensuing. Maybe you tracked down a copy, or forgot all about it. You might not be aware that the author, Daniel Pinkwater, is a prolific author. He’s written dozens of children’s books, Young Adult books, and even some adult fiction and non-fiction. He’s got a dedicated and passionate following, and if he isn’t a household name it’s probably mainly due to the limited number of households in your social circle. He’s been a radio personality on NPR for years, and even once narrated a series of radio commercials for Ford. He also revisits Hoboken as a setting and theme over and over again, as he did in one of his most recent books, Four Hoboken Stories. This is a collection of four stories is officially classified as Young Adult, and one of the stories is extremely silly to be sure—but anyone who knows Hoboken will appreciate the details, and one of the stories—Jolly Roger: A Dog of Hoboken—is based (supposedly) on an actual dog who actually lived in Hoboken years ago, and was actually kind of famous. While these stories are reprints of previously published works, their original editions are long out of print, and this mini-collection serves as an excellent introduction to Pinkwater. It even includes a story set in the Chicken Emergency universe, which Pinkwater has returned to time and again.

Vintage Hoboken Spirit

Pinkwater’s love of Hoboken comes honestly, as he and his wife Jill lived there in the 1960s, back when it was an affordable if rough alternative to Manhattan. Pinkwater hadn’t started writing yet, but was working on art and sculpture. Needing space, he found his way to Hoboken—just like a wave of artists and musicians would over the next two decades—and fell in love with the town. Many of his works are set in Chicago, where he grew up, or Hoboken, sometimes in disguise, sometimes overtly. In his Hoboken-based stories anyone familiar with the town (or at least the town up until a few years ago; some of the landmarks have disappeared) will recognize it from the descriptions. Pinkwater’s obvious love for Hoboken makes each of his stories a special treat for anyone with a Hoboken connection, actually. Four Hoboken Stories includes, you guessed it, four stories including Jolly Roger: A Dog of Hoboken: The Magic Moscow, involving a very special dog, dognapping, and a chaotic dog show; Attila the Pun, which is just as silly as it sounds; and Looking for Bobowicz, a story set in the same universe as The Hoboken Chicken Emergency—which is to say, Hoboken,but with an enormous chicken. Final verdict: If you’re unfamiliar with Daniel Pinkwater’s work, this is the perfect book to check out. If it leads to a full-on Pinkwater obsession, that’s fine.

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  • Jeffrey Somers