My Father’s Guitar and Other Imaginary Things By Joseph Skibell

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Mishmash_bookPerhaps Joseph Skibell’s unusual approach to life’s occurrences is related to his family’s unusual
pronunciation of the truncated version of its European name.

Americanized — sort of — Skibelski became, “against all orthographic convention,” SKY-bell, which, the author says, almost everyone mispronounces.


The author also has experiences and views not always conventional, as shown in this little 16-piece dessert of a book. The liner notes claim that “these stories are 100 percent true,” but Skibell says early on that “my sisters have always insisted, especially when it comes to family history, that my grasp of reality is … less than firm, that for me, memory and imagination are like two converging rivers.”

They say he misremembers things — or makes them up. “Even I will admit that the two of them seemed to have grown up in an entirely different household from mine,” he says.

In the title chapter, he realizes that his memory misled him to think that the guitar his father left him is a cheaper substitute for the one promised.

Another chapter tells of turning the tables on soliciting callers by asking them for money so he can attend an international Esperanto convention in Sweden. He says he’s worked for years to learn that invented, would-be world language, he says, “to the derision of almost everyone,” including wife and daughter.

Skibell’s written three novels, among them “A Blessing on the Moon,” and has won the Rosenthal Family Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Sami Rohr Award in Jewish Literature and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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