By the Book: ‘Park Avenue to Park Bench’ Review

In a note accompanying his collection of 20 short stories, Michael Domino mentions his Long Island connections—growing up in Huntington, fishing on the South and North Forks, owning a house in Setauket and spending summers in Westhampton.

But Park Avenue to Park Bench (Conscience Press), named for the longest and arguably most moving story in the book, centers on Manhattan’s Murray Hill neighborhood, where the author has a small condo. The author sometimes drifts to other sections of the “intimate and rowdy” city, focusing on people “who sleep on park benches, ex-convicts, bums, small-time gangsters.” Especially since Domino refers to himself by name several times, it seems likely that the stories here are autobiographical, and that’s also pretty clear from the authenticity of the stories’ events. Composing is another matter, and with a few exceptions the tales show a writer with a good ear for dialogue and a painter’s eye for the city’s beauty and decaying neighborhoods. Most of all, they present a narrator who’s compassionate about his fellow man. The stories will or should encourage us all to be walkers in the city and to pause a bit at man’s fate and acknowledge those to whom life has dealt a harsh blow, even if it seems they did it to themselves.

Manhattan, with its constantly changing landscape, “is the canvas of a perpetually dissatisfied artist,” Domino writes, “a place where humanity in all forms, shapes, colors and sizes collide within a grid of avenues and streets.” There’s something admirable about a man who tries to act on the belief that “there are no problems, only solutions.” The book may also inspire frustrated or wannabe writers—the author found his own way and voice after a chance encounter on a park bench with a stranger who told him to read Don Quixote and take a lesson or two from it.

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