Brownstone and Other Short Stories
by Bob Tomolillo
Park Press Printers

"Newly installed brownstones come alive with an array of subtle tones that sparkle from the mica specs scattered throughout the block."

Bob Tomolillo is an artist, and master builder with a special talent for restoring historic brownstones. Here, in celebration of his 60th year, Tomolillo as writer showcases his choice literary skills through a collection of short stories that reveal his passionate work ethic, his creative eye, and a truly artistic soul. While this particular writing medium can at times be given short shrift, at its core and best, it will highlight a complete and well-defined idea, minus the superfluous additives that can detract from the essence of a tale.

In Brownstone and Other Short Stories, the Brownstone offering is a slice of life piece where the author draws us into the craft of his building profession. By including the history and rudiments of brownstone repair, and providing just enough details to help us understand the specialty of this work, Tomolillo's writing ultimately reveals the value in reviving and preserving the authenticity of these structures. The author undoubtedly takes great pride in his craftsmanship, as he eloquently describes "feeling the intensity of the moment, breathing life back into the aging stone, halting the process of decay, prodding the grains of sand into a distinct order." While this central story was originally intended as a technical resource for residents of the historic row houses, Tomolillo's daily work experiences, and personal encounters on the job soon evolved and surfaced as the focal point of the story. This shift clearly speaks to the writer's artistic sensibilities and connection to the nuances of his workaday surroundings.

Tomolillo introduces his story collection as "a series of personal encounters, slightly altered by the transposition of the written word." Here the words seem so honest and grounded, and the content so relative to the author's own life and background that the lines between reality and poetic license often seem blurred. In "Abstract Composition #2," a chance meeting with a woman in a coffee shop, and a shared interest in art, turns into a destructive affair. A twist reveals an imagined relationship, and later the woman is told about the story she inspired. The story is captivating.

While the Brownstone entry stands as the literary foundation of this book in both length and perspective, most of the other works in this collection are much shorter. Some selections read like poetry. With moderate intent, Tomolillo's discriminate words can give readers a sensory experience, as in "Gathering Trees," where we visualize children gathering up post-holiday pine discards, to build a refuge for a moment of extended joy.

Cultural and ethnic references are also effectively incorporated into several stories. Whether an Icelandic wife, a Chinese-American god-daughter, or individuals from Boston's melting pot neighborhoods, all bring flavor to the overall character collage. The author is clearly proud of his own working class Italian heritage. In his "Valachi Expose," Tomolillo recalls childhood memories of the local "La Cosa Nostra," with pointed awareness of their reputation, yet keeping a distance from their unsavory activities.

A prolific writer, Tomolillo's work has been published in numerous magazines. A member of the Boston Printmakers since 1983 and faculty member of F.A.W.C. in Provincetown, MA, his prints are included in both national and international collections, and his art essays have also appeared in several publications.

The concept of "less is more" evoked by Tomolillo's colleague for the preface of this book, is a perfect reference for the author's penned process. With his minimalist approach, a style often displayed in the contemporary worlds of art and fashion, or music, Tomolillo demonstrates a particular ability to rise to the challenge in relating a story, pared to its essence. From a personal perspective he provides action and memorable characters, while from a literary stance his words often provoke thought, as well as entertain.

Hopefully with his day to day experiences and talents, Tomolillo, the artful Renaissance man, will continue to share his world of classic renovations, and the seemingly ordinary lives of co-workers, parking ticket officers, drug dealers, and psychics; the characters and events that appear to fuel his creative efforts, to eventually find their way to the pages of his next literary endeavor.

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