Tuesday, January 4, 2011

"SHA! Don't Tell!"

CD Review

Written and performed by Corinne Stavish. Order by emailing cstavish@stavishstorytelling.com or by calling Corinne at (248) 356-8721. Recommended for teenagers and adults.

Reviewed by Linda Goodman

Nothing can beat being a grandmother. While my daughter challenged my every word and deed, my granddaughters think of me as a sterling role model. One of them has even told me that she thinks I am “cool.” That must be why I am so enamored of Corinne Stavish’s CD “SHA! Don’t Tell!” a heartfelt and loving tribute to Stavish’s grandmother.

From the first track on the CD, Bargain Shopping with Grandma, we learn that Stavish was educated about bargain shopping on Manhattan Island, which was paid for by “$24.00 of baubles, bangles, and bright shiny beads.” Could there ever be a better place to go hunting for a bargain? Stavish’s grandma, at just four feet eleven inches tall, was a formidable shopper who could go to S. Klein’s, the “biggest bargain basement in the world,” and execute an “Esther Williams swan dive” into bargain displays and retrieve prizes for sale at rock bottom prices every time. Grandma is diligent at teaching life lessons as well as shopping maneuvers, however. “Life is the greatest bargain because you get it for nothing,” is her favorite saying.

In Secret Letters to Lou, the CD’s second track, Grandma admires her granddaughter’s extravagant handwriting style, with its curling letters and waving lines penned in peacock blue ink. Grandma, you see, has a secret boyfriend named Lou, who lives in Florida, “the Jewish Lourdes of the fifties.” Not confident in her own handwriting skills, Grandma convinces Corinne to pen letters to Lou for her. The result is a charming conspiracy that produces joy and angst in equal measures.

The CD’s title track, a thriller flirting with espionage, finds Stavish realizing that the picture of Vladimir Lenin in her history book is the same heavily framed photo hanging in her home, the one that grandma warns her not to ask about. Stavish’s mother’s family, we find, is “left of left,” – Communists! A child’s imagination knows no bounds, and Stavish’s fantasies are fed by the men in trench coats who visit her father during the McCarthy era, when it was “better to be dead than Red.” Some secrets are meant to be kept. “SHA! Don’t tell!” her grandmother warns her. Those of us who are old enough to remember the McCarthy era can understand why this was important; but seeing history through the eyes of a child yields an entirely new outlook on one of the most shameful eras of our country’s history.

On the CD’s back cover, Stavish states that her grandmother “left her voice and stories permanently rooted in my head and heart.” I would like to thank Stavish for sharing the wealth. Now her listeners may cherish grandma’s stories and words, as well.

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