by Sukey HowardOctober, 1999
Real life Catch-22Fred Rochlin survived WWII his good fortune and now ours. The son of Russian-Jewish immigrants, he grew up in Arizona, enlisted in the Army Air Corps when he was 19, and was sent to Italy as a navigator on B-24s. A few years ago, when he was 70, he took a storytelling workshop with Spalding Gray; Old Man in a Baseball Cap: A Memoir of World War II (3 hours), a collection of vivid first-person vignettes, is the welcome result. Told in small takes on that large, horrendous war, it's funny, poignant, earthy, and honest. Fred's voice sounds young, and his memories sound as fresh and raw as they would have been if we were sitting with him after a bombing mission knocking back brandy and bourbon. (Beware, foul G.I. lingo and scenes of slaughter are part and parcel of these tales.) There's insight here, mixed with a little hindsight, as his original naivete and enthusiasm give way to the realization that war is hell, and that it's also pure insanity. Fred Rochlin has given us an unusual book and an entertaining audio.
Sukey Howard reports on spoken word audio each month.