College routine goes awry

in ‘Life’s What Happens’

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” is the John Lennon quote that inspired Life’s What Happens, the title of a new book by Bob Kat, the name Kent State University alumnus Alex Parker and his wife, Kathy Clark, are using for their collaborative novel.

The book follows the senior class of a Kent State fraternity in 1969-1970, as they register with the objective of scheduling enough credit hours to qualify as full-time students, thereby avoiding the draft. The boys go through the year studying and meeting girls. The depiction of fraternity life is realistic, with rush parties, a road trip and brothers trying gamely to repair the boiler to heat the chapter house. Though they expect to make it through school without being sent to Vietnam, things go south on Dec. 1, when the draft lottery is held, and continue to the inevitable tragedy on May 4.

The book is more a narrative of daily life than a plot-driven novel, with the effect that the reader, like the brothers, is settled into the college routine. This makes the arrival of men with guns and the burning of a campus building as shocking here as it was in 1970.

Life’s What Happens (364 pages, softcover) costs $15.99 from online retailers. Kathy Clark has written many romance novels; the couple lives in Round Rock, Texas.

‘Piscazzi’s Pizza’

Another novel with references to the Kent State shootings is Piscazzi’s Pizza by Cuyahoga Falls resident Don Fred.

The story begins on an icy night in 2001 in Cuyahoga City, a fictionalized version of Cuyahoga Falls, where a woman’s brutal murder shocks the community. Police investigations briefly include reporter Dick Sandrini, the victim’s neighbor and sometime lover, but he’s only a nominal suspect.

Sandrini’s editor assumes his new assignment will be keeping him too busy to look into murder: a story about the 1970 Kent State shootings, on which there apparently is a new lead. But the publisher has given him the go-ahead to cover the murder, and Dick also is very busy thinking about women’s bodies and his own genitals, and making up infantile words about them.

Police captain “Mack” Mcintar, a friend of Sandrini, thinks the murder is tied to the body found earlier near the riverfront Piscazzi’s Pizza shop, but he can’t convince the chief to allow him to warn residents that a serial killer might be on the loose: The chief insists, in language full of malapropisms, that a local exhibitionist is responsible for the first murder.

The depiction of Cuyahoga City is almost identical to the real Cuyahoga Falls, including references to restaurants, the Gorge and High Bridge Glens. Piscazzi’s Pizza, the first book in an announced trilogy, ends without resolving the murder; Book Two is called Only Nothingness and Book Three, listed on Fred’s website as “undeveloped,” is Murder on the Cuyahoga.

Piscazzi’s Pizza (401 pages, hardcover) costs $23.99 from online retailers. Don Fred will talk about and sign his book at 7 p.m. Monday at Cuyahoga Falls Library, 2105 Third St.

Footnotes

• Akron native Rita Dove was on the panel of judges that selected this year’s winners of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards, which recognize “books that have made an important contribution to society’s understanding of racism and the diversity of cultures” and are sponsored by the Cleveland Foundation. Find the list of winners at www.anisfield-wolf.org. Dove also wrote an essay for a collection called What My Mother Gave Me: Thirty-One Women on the Gifts that Mattered Most.

• Tickets are on sale for the Oct. 29 PlayhouseSquare appearance of David Sedaris, who will promote his new book Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls at the Palace Theatre. Call 216-640-8600 or visit www.playhousesquare.org.

Events

Reed Memorial Public Library (167 E. Main St., Ravenna) — Akron author James Renner reads from It Came from Ohio and talks about “The Famous Ravenna UFO Chase,” 2 to 4 p.m. today.

Sheraton Suites (1989 Front St., Suite 227, Cuyahoga Falls) — Buchtel High School alumna Vanessa Murphy-Sebagala and her husband, Paulson Sebagala, who met on a mission program in his home country of Uganda, discuss and sign their book Transcending CULTural Barriers, 5 to 10 p.m. today.

Akron-Summit County Public Library (Nordonia Hills branch, 9458 Olde Eight Road, Northfield) — Mary Kaufman-Schwartz talks about her book Coming Into Focus: From an Amish Childhood to a Journey of Many Choices, 6:30 to 8 p.m. Monday. Registration requested; call 330-467-8595.

Akron-Summit County Public Library (60 S. High St., Akron) — Anthony Valleriano discusses Dedication: The Work of William P. Ginther, Ecclesiastical Architect, about the Akron-based man who designed 63 Catholic churches, including Akron’s St. Bernard and Annunciation, 7 p.m. Monday.

Cuyahoga County Public Library (Independence branch, 6361 Selig Drive) — North Olmsted author Marty Gitlin signs The Great American Cereal Book, 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Ohio Theatre (Playhouse Square, 1511 Euclid Ave., Cleveland) — Erik Larson closes out the Writers Center Stage series talking about In the Garden of Beasts, about an American diplomat in Germany in the early days of Hitler’s power, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. $30; call 216-241-6000.

Cuyahoga County Public Library (Strongsville branch, 18700 Westwood Drive) — Maria Isabella talks about In the Kitchen with Cleveland’s Favorite Chefs, 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Learned Owl Book Shop (204 N. Main St., Hudson) — Amanda Flower (A Plain Scandal), Mary Ellis (Love Comes to Paradise) and Nancy Herriman (Josiah’s Treasure) sign their novels from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday.

— Barbara McIntyre

Special to the Beacon Journal

Send information about books of local interest to Lynne Sherwin, Features Department, Akron Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309 or lsherwin@thebeaconjournal.com. Event notices should be sent at least two weeks in advance.