Running with Trains

A Novel in Poetry and Two Voices

By Michael J. Rosen
(Wordsong, Hardcover, 9781590788639, 102pp.)

Publication Date: April 2012

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Description
Is the grass greener on the other side of the train window? Even a brief brush with a stranger can change our lives. It's 1970, and Perry feels adrift in turbulent times: his father is missing in action in Vietnam, his mother is studying to become a nurse in the city, his older sister has become a peacenik in college. Traveling between his hometown, where he lives with his grandmother, and his mother's house in Cincinnati, Perry notices Steve, whose farm lies on the B&O railroad line. Steve likes to race the train as it blows by his fields; Steve skillfully sends his collie after an escaped cow; Steve watches the Cincinnatian, longing for its speed, longing for adventure. In alternating voices, Michael J. Rosen's poems weave a tale of two boys--one wishing for the stability of home, the other yearning to travel--and the unexpected impact of their fleeting encounter.



About the Author
The editor of More Mirth of a Nation: The Best Contemporary Humor, Michael J. Rosen has been called the unofficial organizer of the National Humor Writer's Union, a pretty good idea for an organization that could offer all kinds of benefits to its struggling members (currently numbering more than 300 who have never been published in The New Yorker or aired on NPR). He has been called other things as well, like in third grade, and then in seventh grade especially, by certain older kids known as "hoods," who made his life miserable, specifically during gym class, lunch period and after school. Later, much later, the Washington Post called him a "fidosopher" because of his extensive publications on dogs, dog training, and dog-besotted people. The New York Times called him an example of creative philanthropy in their special "Giving" section for persuading "writers, artists, photographers and illustrators to contribute their time and talents to books" that benefit Share Our Strength's anti-hunger efforts and animal-welfare causes. As an author of a couple dozen books for children, he's been called...okay, enough with the calling business.

For nearly twenty years, he served as literary director at the Thurber House, a cultural center in the restored home of James Thurber. Garrison Keillor, bless his heart, called it (sorry) "the capital of American humor." While there, Rosen helped to create The Thurber Prize for American Humor, a national book award for humor writing, and edited four anthologies of Thurber's previously unpublished and uncollected work, most recently The Dog Department: James Thurber on Hounds, Scotties and Talking Poodles, happily published by HarperCollins as well.

In his capacity as editor for this biennial, Rosen reads manuscripts year round, beseeching and beleaguering the nation's most renowned and well-published authors, and fending off the rants and screeds from folks who've discovered the ease of self-publishing on the web. Last summer, Rosen edited a lovely book, 101 Damnations: The Humorists' Tour of Personal Hells; while some critics (all right, one rather outspoken friend) considered this a book of complaints, Rosen has argued that humor, like voting and picketing and returning an appliance that "worked" all of four months before requiring a repair that costs twice the purchase price, humor is about the desire for change. It's responding to the way things are compared to the way you'd like things to be. And it's a much more convivial response than pouting or cornering unsuspecting guests at dinner parties.

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