Reviewed by Ashley Supinski
In a collection of essays that focus on aging while dealing with changes in technology, culture, and social environments, Rick Bailey’s Get Thee to a Bakery (University of Nebraska, 2021) is filled with amusing anecdotes that frame serious thoughts about the world around him.
Bailey, a retired writing professor, weaves multiple themes and anecdotes through each of his essays, while maintaining a humorous undertone. Most fall into a narrow range of topics: conversations with family, friends, and strangers; reflections on new technology; and descriptions of places he’s traveled. Nearly all of them include conversations with his wife that open and close the narrative, before diverging into ruminations of the world at large.
Each of the 42 essays included in this collection are relatively short, averaging between 4 and 6 pages. They tend to begin with dialogue with his wife or daughter, or a personal anecdote. Then, Bailey branches off into different revelations about growing older, changes in technology, or the differences in cultures and cities around the world. While some of the diversions make sense (moving to Florida and the rising waters of Venice), the majority seem to have connections available only to Bailey himself (wine tasting and writing essays in college).
In the essay, “You’re Not Going to Eat That, Are You?,” Bailey recounts his war against the squirrels that continued to pillage a bird feeder, leaving it dry each morning. Beginning with conversations with his wife, who urges him to leave the squirrels alone, he digresses to write that rabbits, unlike squirrels, are a delicacy that he and his wife treat themselves to often for meals. He also informs the reader about London’s squirrel problem. In the end, he is victorious against the squirrels — for one day. He relents, realizing that he won a battle but not the war, and moves on. Many of the essays continue in this same manner.
The saving grace of the disjointed thoughts is Bailey’s humor — directed at himself and at society in general — and his interactions with his wife, who gracefully deals with his eccentric commentary. These are possibly the best parts as they are relatable conversations between an aging husband and wife and a father and adult daughter.
Part-reflection, part-travelogue, the short, humorous anecdotes within Bailey’s collection make this a good read for anyone who relates to aging and living in a society that is constantly changing.