A sampling of the opening lines from books out this week

Father, Son & Co.

Pirate Jenny
By April Bernard
Norton, $18.95

The Root Beer Barn where Connie Frances LaPlante (called Jenny) worked that summer had been open for more than ten years under different managements. First there had been the reign of Uncle Sammy Chenowski, who had dressed the carhops in the company’s top-of-the-line outfits, orange scalloped minis that looked like skating costumes. Jenny had been a very little girl then. A drive alone with the Dads to the Root Beer Barn was a high and solemn occasion. While the Dads joked with the carhop, his daughter listened, concentrating on his every turn of the head, the way he’d dissolve a laugh into a cough before it went on too long. And she longed for him to shine his face on her and laugh the way he did at home: ”Who’s my little Con? You? No, you’re way too grown-up. Where’s my little baby girl?” — looking behind the couch, falling on all fours and checking under the tables, while she giggled and screamed, ”Me, me, me, me, me!”

In the Wake of the Exxon Valdez: The Devastating Impact of the Alaska Oil Spill
By Art Davidson
Sierra Club Books,$19.95

After the wreck of the Exxon Valdez, I asked an oil company executive what he thought went wrong, what this was all about. ”It’s simple,” he said. ”A ship hit a rock.” This is, indeed, a book about how an oil tanker hit a submerged reef. It is also about how the politics of oil collided with our responsibility to the earth. And I found this to be a story of addictions: not just a tanker captain’s addiction to alcohol but widespread addictions to power, money, and energy consumption.

Father, Son & Co.
My Life at IBM and Beyond
By Thomas J. Watson Jr. and Peter Petre

When my father died in 1956 — six weeks after making me head of IBM — I was the most frightened man in America. For ten years he had groomed me to succeed him, and I had been the young man in a hurry, eager to take over, cocky and impatient. Now, suddenly, I had the job — but what I didn’t have was Dad there to back me up. I’d heard so many stories about sons of prominent men failing in business, and I could imagine their devastation at finding themselves unable to fill their fathers’ shoes. I worried I’d end up the same way, but after my father had been dead a year I announced to my wife: ”I’ve made it through twelve months without the old boy around!”

My Cousin, My Gastroenterologist
By Mark Leyner
Harmony Books, $7.95

I was driving to Las Vegas to tell my sister that I’d had Mother’s respirator unplugged. Four bald men in the convertible in front of me were picking the scabs off their sunburnt heads and flicking them onto the road. I had to swerve to avoid riding over one of the floozy crusts of blood and going into an uncontrollable skid. I maneuvered the best I could in my boxy Korean import but my mind was elsewhere. I hadn’t eaten for days. I was famished. Suddenly as I reached the crest of a hill, emerging from the fog, there was a bright neon sign flashing on and off that read: foie gras and haricots verts next exit. I checked the guidebook and it said: Excellent food, malevolent ambience.

Father, Son & Co.
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