Thomas Croisdale, Buffalo Soul Lifters: A Homespun Collection of
New Yorkers like beer, football and fatty foods, but we love ourselves.
If there's a reference to Buffalo on a hit TV show, we crowd around
the set to bask in the glory. Nobody in town knows what Buffalo 66
was about because we were too busy saying, "hey, that's that place,"
and bookstore shelves are just crammed with pointless blocks of paper
that get snapped up because Irv Weinstein's on the cover.
2002, alleged Niagara Falls journalist Frank Thomas Croisdale found
a flaccid purple balloon near a creek. A note attached explained that
it was sent aloft three days earlier in Utah, by a little girl who had
just pledged to be drug- and violence-free. While Croisdale should have
been inspired to write a book about irresponsible environmental damage,
or at least to fire off a missive to the little girl about the shame
of littering, he instead chose to keep the crap train rolling, squeezing
out a literary turd packed with stories starring Western New Yorkers
just like you and me.
Soul Lifters ($12.95, WNY Wares) is a collection of over 30 "inspirational"
tales including, of course, Buffalo Bills Hall of Famer Jim Kelly and
his Hunter's Hope Foundation. While that story has inspirational appeal
(as does any story of any family with any sick child), this reviewer
couldn't stop remembering Kelly's stupid face mugging for the camera
at the Republican National Convention, eagerly supporting a candidate
who would gladly end stem-cell research and deny other families their
It's a word used plenty in the book. Only once is it justified, in the
case of Roger Woodward, who was swept over Niagara Falls in 1960, and
lived to tell the tale.
the book touches on some bona-fide inspirational stories, such as parents
with sick kids, or people overcoming disabilities, it is overstuffed
with fluff that seems included just to draw interest. Former WKBW news
anchor Irv Weinstein is on the cover as a tie in to a story about the
origins of the old "It's eleven o'clock, do you know where your
children are" line, which, rather than being inspirational, illustrates
how local media has been screwing over freelancers for over thirty years.
Another segment concerning the Herschel Carrousel Museum is just tourist
any book that starts with two pages of acknowledgments and dedications.
The late short story writer Raymond Carver dedicated his last book,
the book he knew was his last and greatest work, to his wife with a
simple "Tess, Tess, Tess...." Croisdale, whose dedication
actually has paragraphs, also ends his book with a two-page sappy love
note to his wife. An excerpt:
could hire an airplane to write her name in the sky, but it wouldn't
capture one iota of her best attribute, her laugh. Her laugh is bold
where she is not. It is boisterous where she is meek. It walks on water
where she refuses to dip even a temperature-testing toe beneath the
surface....Will you be my valentine?
you mop up after Croisdale's ego masturbation, you will be left holding
the Kleenex and wondering, "This? This from a frickin' balloon?"
balloon epiphany is hammered to death in an effort to wrestle a cogent
inspirational metaphor from a relatively unremarkable occurrence, which
Croisdale, of course, thinks miraculous.
to the book’s promo write-up, “…Croisdale realized that the balloon
symbolized the best qualities of all Western New Yorkers. It was resilient,
determined and driven by fate." A balloon.
gets worse: "...all the folks in this book share a common trait.
In their unique ways, they are all purple balloons sent to remind us
that hope is our lifeblood."
it possible to laugh and vomit at the same time?
Vidler, Beyond the Awning
popular was East Aurora shopkeeper Ed Vidler's 2003 memoir "From
Under the Awning," he has given his fans a sequel. Vidler, proprietor
of Vidler's Five and Dime, an East Aurora retail landmark, has penned
Beyond the Awning ($9.95, self-published, distributed by WNY
Wares) a collection of 28 short takes on life in a small town and a
career in retail.
the stories are little more than vignettes that twist and turn on humorous
details, they are not meant to inspire you, and Vidler has no intention
of educating you. Rather, the book reads like stories an old neighbor
might tell you out on the front porch. Sometimes funny, sometimes interesting,
Vidler's down-home delivery, which works so well with most of his simple
tales of crazy customers or grandma's jawbuster cookies, leaves the
reader perplexed. In a story called "Murder Confession at Wally's,"
Vidler recounts with whimsey a double homicide carried out by a mill
worker. "The prearranged early whistle blew, " Vidler writes,
"and the unsuspecting Hod went home to the sight of a delivery
wagon in his yard and the aforementioned hanky-panky in the bedroom.
With no apparent commotion, Hod took his shotgun and dispatched the
offending parties." What a riot!
readers will like best is the writing, which is crisp and devoid of
the flowery dreck that infects so many self-published local books. A
businessman, Vidler knows to just get to the point. Fun illustrations
by Bob Fisk set the right comic tone for Vidler's tales.
Vidler's store, Beyond the Awning offers readers nothing they
need, but there's no harm in poking around a bit, just for fun.