Friday, December 30, 2011

Liar’s Poker

I have read my fair share of Stern School of Business books to know the good ones from the great ones and this one… wasn’t a great one.  In Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis, the reader learns of the job search and eventual “getting the job” by the author.  The concept of Liar’s Poker is an important one for any business savvy “wannabe” and Michael Lewis shares his experience interviewing and then landing the big job with Salomon Brothers, a one-time big investment bank in NYC. It was founded in 1910 by 3 brothers and had huge success as a partnership, the CEO in the late 1970s, John Gutfreund, became the managing partner and took the company public, which some would say led to its eventual demise.  Lewis’ journey at Salomon begins with the hiring process, the entry into the new staff training, watching how the other leaders moved their way through the company, exploits of the underbelly of the corp., and the maneuvering for the top spots by people like John Lipsky and Lewis Ranieri, and Michael Miliken, the junk bond king.  The story tells what it is like to be a bond tradesman on the floor of the stock exchange.  How the young males, no women in the late 1980s, were treated horribly until their time came to do so to the next generation.  The reader gets an idea as to the culture, and what really happens in those 100+ hour a week jobs making minimum wage. Lewis paints a pretty interesting picture of his colleagues and the environment.  His nicknames (Big Swinging Dicks – the big bonds men, the Piranha and the Arabs are two others) are graphic and detail the non “pc” world of the turbulent late 80s.  I think what is missing is that the book captures the time right before the Wall Street collapse, so the reader knows the “rest of the story” yet Lewis ends with his departure after getting his big salary and bonus, which does tell the tale of “get your money at any cost” and forget the loyalty!  Greed is the name of the game.  Prefer some of the other “tell-all books.”  Relatively quick read learning more of the Wall Street players.  I’d say skip this one, better ones out there.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


This was a long read reminiscent of Marquez's 100 Years of Solitude but not really the same.  Segu by Maryse Conde follows an African clan (thank goodness for the chart illustrating the family tree, as this one was confusing!) and captures the challenges of religion, slavery, and family strife through a few generations.  The remote kingdom of Segu is nestled between Barnako, Bani, and Mourdia.  The story
takes place in the 18th through the early 19th century and shows the beginning of the Muslim religion impacting a Christian focused region.  Dousika, the leader of the tribe, has five wives during his lifetime and many offspring.  The book focuses on the male lineage, most notably the sons of his wife #1 Nya (Tiekoro & Naba), wife #3 (an unnamed slave who commits suicide) with an offspring named Siga, and wife #4 Sira (offspring Malobali).  The son’s lives cross throughout the years either in the area of Segu, or when a few leave the territory for religious exploration.  Dousika’s younger brother, future leader of the tribe, Diemogo, also has many offspring, but two, Tiefolo and Kosa, from his second wife, Dousika’s first wife Nya.  Tiefolo is a natural hunter and comes to blows with a few of Dousika’s sons, most notably Tiekoro.  Each of the sons have their own journeys to travel all leading back to Segu and facing the onslaught of the slave trade to the West and religious choice.  The story has many themes, male domination, religious tolerance and acceptance, tribal traditions and holding on to the past, yet feeling the challenge of the day.  Having the family tree on the first page was critical to keeping things straight.  A lot of mixture of this one marrying this one, and this one having this one’s baby.  A good insight into the life of African tribal cultures though it did drone on a bit.  The picture painted was vivid of the day, the author did a great deal of research on the family tree, a real family!  The reader needs to stay focused on the names and issues for each family member.  Women had a diminished role, certainly subservient to the male leadership.  On the fence on this one.  Liked it, but could have been a bit less repetitive.   Certainly a culture influenced book for this RA.  Everything has its reason for happening, just a bit too much to this tale. Not on my top ten list!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Broca's Brain

Merry Christmas!  I felt some level of déjà vu in reading this book as it seems very similar, at least themes and ideas as Physics book I read just a few short days ago.  In this book, Broca’s Brain by Carl Sagan, faculty member at Cornell University, he reflects on the past, current, and future in the field of science.  There is a much stronger look into the solar system, astronomy, black holes, and space: the final frontier.  Like Michio Kaku, Sagan shares thoughts on how the media, especially the medium of the moving picture (movies) plays a large role in our view on what the future holds.  He draws upon 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Trek, and Star Wars to name a few.  He draws the title of the book from noted French doctor and scientist Paul Broca, who studied the brain, and was inspired by his work when he was holding the remains of his brain at the Musée de l'Homme.  Sagan wondered how much of his brain remains in there today?  Sagan challenges religion through the concepts of science and shares thoughts and paradoxes on technology, the solar system, whom are our neighbors from other planets, what will the future hold and yes, the “ultimate questions” facing our civilization (from a scientific perspective).  Could there be life on Venus?  Is there really a God? Are there Martians on Mars? And so much more.  Sagan does an outstanding job of sharing the current (well as of the book’s publishing date – 1979) thoughts on where these questions stand using the best literature of science and other fields of studies to examine these age-old questions.  My favorite part of the book focuses on the past and future of astronomy.  Since I was a small child I always looked up to the sky and wondered what is out there in that “sea of stars."  For anyone with curiosity and a desire to explore such questions of “space and whether it is a final frontier,” this is for you.  Trekies, you will love it if you haven’t read it already.  Sagan is a brilliant thought-provoker.  Some of the math sections were a bit much for me, but the inquiry into the future was well worth the read.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Wind Singer (The Wind On Fire Trilogy, Book 1)

Finished Mo’s favorite book today, The Wind Singer by William Nicholson.  The book reads very much like Lord of the Rings, a fantasy book.  It also is a trilogy, but only read book one.  The Hath family determines to fight the leaders of the city of Aramanth who tests each family (and individual) through a system to gauge intelligence.  Each family is then placed in their respective “divisions” based on their scores, highest get best accommodations, etc.  The Hath family is doing fine until their daughter of two (Pinpin) has her testing date and wets her pants while sitting on the lap of the judge.  All goes downhill from there as her sister Kestrel decides to “fight back” and not respond to the “rules” of the land, especially in school where she defies her teacher’s wishes.  This leads to Kestrel and her brother, Bowman, and the class idiot, Mumpo, to escape the city and go on a journey to find the wind singer, who could restore joy and dreaming to the city where tests and scores rule the day.  Kestrel somehow finds the Emperor, who has been locked up for years and provides her with the old map that will give her the relic that will unlock the Wind Singer.  The journey brings them to forests, “old people,” giants, and others who want to kill them.  Mumpo and Kestrel’s twin brother join in fighting each evil force that they face.  Mumpo actually ends up helping to save the day and Kess becomes his friend in the end.  The book is quite the fantasy of characters for the ages.  Kestrel is a strong lead female character, not always found in these type of books.  Her perseverance helps to save the day and the city can rejoice in the end, well at least for this book one.  The evil Examiner ends up being Mumpo’s father and the orphan is reunited with his father.  A feel good journey where the story keeps one engaged and wanting to turn the page.  I think kids with imagination would really enjoy this book for sure.  Maybe a holiday present?  Add to your list. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Colonize This!

Always good to get out of your comfort zone and read voices of people with VERY different experiences than my own.  This is clearly the case in Colonize This! edited by Daisy Hernandez and Bushra Rehman, a young woman of color’s view on feminism.  Each of the 28 chapters presents a different voice on oppression, abuse, scorn, and other remarkably bad things that have happened to each of the authors.  From watching one’s father have sex with another woman, to cat calling, to sexual harassment, being physically abused, and mistreatment in every sense of the word, these women have had very difficult roads to travel.  Understanding  one’s sexuality, dealing with HIV, skin tone racism, female envy, this book has it all.  The stories are short vignettes which appear to me to serve in much a therapeutic manner to address the challenge that life has thrown their way.  The challenges are real and large.  It was hard to read and understand that some of these stories actually happen (more sadness than anything else).  The writing is rich, crass at times, but always genuine.  The emotional scars that are being healed through the writings is evident, though for some more about the “what now” piece.  I’m thinking this would be a great read for men who are ultra conservative and republican, certainly getting them out of their comfort zone I’m sure!  Quick read and will stretch your brain and appreciation for the poor and socially disadvantaged ethnic populations of our country.  A voice can be heard, thanks for sharing your deepest struggles.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Physics of the Impossible

Being out of one’s comfort zone for a book is not always a bad thing, especially if you want to learn and broaden your knowledge base, so was the case with the Physics of the Impossible by Michio Kaku.  Kaku is a renowned physicist whose exploration of all scientific phenomena in this book intrigued me throughout.  Kaku presented a historical perspective on scientific phenomena and then gave a current and futuristic viewpoint, ie what could happen.  Imagine having magnetic highways where energy didn’t need to be expended, just having really strong magnets on the bottom of your car to transport you on the superhighway or how we could be like Harry Potter and be invisible when wearing the special cloak?  Phasers, forcefields, teleportation and time traveling and what the future of each of these scientific innovations could at some point be possible.  Kaku has a special eye on media, references books, and movies that played a significant role in our society over the past 80 years.  He is able to connect scientific stories like Michael J. Fox’s time traveling in Back to the Future, the use of light rays from Star Wars, H.G. Wells drama War of the Worlds in ending of the world, and finally Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons and the future of antimatter.  Kaku did his homework and more.  Rather than writing a fictional novel, Kaku discusses fictitious stories and applies the likelihood of those things happening in our lifetime or beyond.  His work is well researched and gives excellent citations into the backgrounds that create his hypothesis.  The book is segmented into three categories of “impossibilities” building upon the earlier theories.  My favorite section was on time traveling.  He spends a good deal on Stephen Hawkin, a theoretical physicist.  My favorite point from Hawkins is if time travel happened in the future, why haven’t we seen any time travelers in our society today?  Have you been in NYC lately, maybe that’s some of the people I see on the 14th street corner??  Kaku pushes our brains and imagination to think through the possible.  I really enjoyed this National Bestseller.  A different kind of read.  One in which I learned about some topics I don’t normally think about.  Thanks Joe, good book!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Gift

I really enjoyed reading The Gift by Pete Hamill.  Without a doubt the reader is brought into the frail psyche of a man in love yet loses her during his absence from the area to serve in the US Navy.  This coming of age tale is an autobiography by Hamill depicting his brief return over the holidays before going to enter the Korean War.  Hamill returns home to be reunited with his high school sweetheart only to learn she has moved on to another guy.  The pain and anguish serves as a side story to the main thrust of the short story, Hamill’s inability to ever connect with his father.  Other issues the story presents include living in poverty as an immigrant family, connection with family, and how the war really tore people apart.  Set in Brooklyn, there are a number of references to places, such as Prospect Park and other iconic locations, that provide a scenic background for this powerful tale.  Hamill, the oldest of seven, never had a strong relationship with his father, who was disabled fighting in Ireland as part of the IRA rebellion.  Hamill’s father stays distant to his oldest child until Hamill returns and their reunion at a local pub seemingly lifts a lifetime of barriers that had been created.  The gift Hamill receives is greater than anything one could possibly purchase.  Hamill has a wonderful ability to share a story that has impact on anyone has a similar relationship with their father.  All one ever wants is acceptance and an ear.  Wonderful holiday story!

Saturday, December 17, 2011


Always fun to read a book that has so few words, but a ton of great pics!  Rihanna is one of today’s hottest musical talents in the business and she is only 23!  This is so unfair for us wannabe singers.  Simon Henwood is the photographer and person who conceptualized this photographic journey of her world tour.  The book chronicles, via pictures, her foray from London and takes the reader through nine months on the road.  The pictures are sexy and capture a very intelligent and driven young woman.  The album being released from the tour is Loud (2010), which is her fifth studio album.  The songs that the album contained include the number-one hits "Only Girl (In the World)," "What's My Name?," and "S&M."  Henwood’s pictures are raw, personal, and in your face.  While I am not a photographer, I have great respect for those who can capture the sexuality and vulnerabilities of the artist.  It certainly is an interesting journey into the life of the top musical talents of the day!  

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Sky Fisherman

It’s nice to read a really solid novel with a good story line and depth of characters.  In The Sky Fisherman by Craig Lesley the reader is taken to the northwest US region of Oregon and discovers the rural regions where Native Americans and “transplants” descended from Europe interact in present-day time.  These mixing of cultures and family issues play a central theme in the book.  The main character, Culver, is moved around as a youngster after the tragic death of his father while fishing, a common life issue in the region.  Culver’s mother remarries Riley, whom becomes an arsonist after Culver’s mom decides to leave him in the middle of the night.  Culver and his mother move back to the place of their earlier life with the help of Uncle Jake, the brother of Culver’s father.  Culver, a high school basketball star, struggles with the constant moves and inability of knowing the mystery of his father’s death.  Culver begins work for his uncle at the bait and tackle shop, which can’t be easy for the youth being around daily reminders of his Dad’s business.  As always, there is more to the story of Culver’s dad’s death, the Native American local lore, the spirits of the raving rivers, and the fact that his stepdad has turned into an arsonist and communicates undercover to Culver.  The author weaves in local legend, coming of age youth story, and the struggle of a mother to face her own guilty past.  The symbolism of the light, water, and stars are in full play with Lesley.  It is never easy for a kid to grow up with so much movement and so little knowledge of his past.  While a few things got lost in the many characters presented, the main story of two people’s guilt forcing them to make decisions that may end their life gave this one a surprise ending.  A pretty good read.

Monday, December 12, 2011

First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria

From Tolstoy to F. Scott Fitzgerald, from Steinbeck, Hemingway and Joyce to… Eve Brown-Waite? Don’t think so.  Brown-Waite’s book First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria is in the truest sense a “love story” and all that connotes.  Think about the granola-“ish” young woman wanting to join the Peace Corps and on the way through the process she falls in love with the recruiter.  Hmmm… you get the picture?  If not, delve into this true-life “tell-all” story of the gory details of Eve Brown leaving her high school sweetheart from SUNY Oneonta to trail the guy helping her into her dream of going abroad to help the world.  Brown does in fact “bed down” with John Waite before she actually gets the Peace Corps gig – I guess that’s what happened every time she showed up to his pad and got under his African blanket.  I thought that would be unethical to have sex with a recruiter, I guess love knows no boundaries.  Brown’s dream was to recount her life and getting her man, unfortunately it wasn’t my dream to read it, but alas this is the RA Favorite Book list, so I read it.  Maybe I am being too cynical, sorry.  This is a quaint enough story giving the highs and lows of her life through the application portion of the Peace Corps through her 9 month trip to Mexico and back to the states to get her man.  The story concludes with marriage in Uganda and raising a child in the very dangerous part of the country called Arua.  Eve shares her difficulty with her psychotic break based on reliving the trauma of sexual abuse earlier in her life while away in Mexico helping rape victims, the difficulty of the AIDS epidemic in Africa, and living in unsanitary conditions in Africa.  She does give a picture that life in the Peace Corps and other non-profits trying to help modernize third world countries is not to be romanticized.  The letters to home at the end of the chapter could in fact been placed together and made the book a heck of a lot shorter, and probably more enjoyable.  My fear is this will turn into a weekly Lifetime Channel miniseries.  This is not high brow reading, more like a series of articles you might read in an airplane magazine.  While Ms. Brown-Waite is probably a lovely person, the story was ho-hum.  The Peace Corps piece seemed to take a back seat to the “love story.”  I’d take a pass on this one.  

Sunday, December 11, 2011

My Name is Red

This book has been a really tough one to read, but as one gets through the style of writing, it can be an interesting one to add to your collection.  This also will be written about in more detail as this is the Fall 2011 RA Book Club read.  We have 15 students in the book club, so I have asked each to write a short summary of their thoughts on the book.  The only problem is that we don’t have to finish until the end of January… so here are some of my thoughts on My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk.  Why was it so hard to read?  It was written from the voices of many characters within the book coupled with the fact that this was not a linear book.  When a book opens with a death it is clear that some mystery is involved.  Enter the Ottoman Empire in 1591 and the life of miniaturists with one being killed.  The reader learns of the devotion to the Quran, the male dominated culture, woman as property, the importance of the miniaturists in the culture, and the role of religion in the Eastern world.   There is humor, darkness, and poetic language throughout.  It is not a linear story and often has narrators such as coins or animals.  The detailed description of rape, sex, and murder are frightening and disgusting at points.  Pamuk’s work captured a time that in many ways seemed to be repeated in stories like The Kite Runner.  The ending brought the story together as the intrigue to the murder got me through this book.  I wouldn’t say it was a love fest reading this one, but got through it.  Hoping some of the RAs will have further commentary on this one… stay tuned!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Woody Allen’s Complete Prose

What do you get when you mix crazy loony characters, NYC life, and lots of over-sexed or under-sexed people?  Woody Allen’s Complete Prose!  This is a completely wacky set of stories, all very short (3-5 pages in length) capturing a type of humor that you either really like or don’t.  I had a number of real guttural laughs and at times I had some ugh, or even mimicked his own Oy vey (which as Webster defines is “an exclamation of dismay or exasperation meaning 'oh pain'”).   Some of the story endings are silly and non-sensical but I guess that is his point about much of life.  His Abe Lincoln story (The Query) is “kid comedy” and the “Kuglemass Episode” about a faculty member who has an affair with a character in a book (because the local Magician he hired transports him into the book) is pretty ingenious.  Allen’s span of comedy reminds me of the Three Stooges (slap-stick) through the work of Seinfeld (who was clearly influenced by Allen).   When I think of my NYC experience I think, this book is SOOO NYC!  It’s one of those “location jokes,” ie you have to live here to know that the characters really do exist.  Coming from upstate NY, I can only imagine lots of folks not “getting the punch line” as these characters seem so unreal!  Believe me they are living well in NYC.  Allen’s ability to capture a laugh through a story in 3-5 pages demonstrates his brilliance as a writer, whether you like him or not.  As the cover notes, this is an ideal “companion for the bedside”… how about the toilet as well?  Ooops, trying to mimic Allen’s comic moments as well.   A great gift for the pseudo-intellect as well as the person who just needs to take their mind off of the trials and tribulations of life in the big city.  As one says, if you can’t laugh at self, then find someone else to laugh at.  They are all in this book! 

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Eight

A mystery thriller which tries to uncover the secret of Charlemagne’s chess set that was used in a loss to one of his knights is the backdrop for Katherine Neville’s The Eight.  While a considerably long read, the two interweaving stories (present day 1970s during the OPEC gas crisis with 1790s European crisis during the Napoleonic times) capture the reader’s attention.  Neville uses real life historical occurrences and figures we have all read about in history books as part of the story to determine what happened to the lost chess set, which if found could give incredible power to make good or evil for the world.  The 1790s portion of the story describes the incredible lengths the Abbess takes at trying to hide the pieces, board, and cloth from the rulers who are trying to take over the world.  Luckily she puts her trust in two young novices in the nunnery who escape with pieces and the secret of the set.  Mirelle lives while her cousin is killed.  Mirelle’s journey includes murdering the evil ruler, changing her identity, and traversing through the dessert trying to understand the mystery.  Fast forward almost 200 years to Catherine Velis, a computer expert in a big Eight accounting firm, sent to Algiers on a project to learn she is a pawn in a game of chess by being brought in by her friends (or so she thought!).  This is a real game of chess where each character is one of the pieces and played until the death!  Lots of running around in this book, similar to a Da Vinci Code type story.  The two stories are in a parallel so the reader learns the secrets at the same time.  Amazing how intricate the details are and yes they almost all are connected, so pay attention throughout the story!  I enjoyed the book as it never slowed down.  Characters were interesting and the historical references made me feel like I was back in Western Civilization class all over again.  Nice read with a good deal of work on the author’s part to bring the two together.  

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

Amazing leadership is captured in the biography of Abraham Lincoln as told by in the book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by historian Doris Kearns Goodwin.  I never realized how smart Lincoln was in building his cabinet from 1861 to 1865 during his term in the Presidency.  Three of the men working for him ran against him as Republican candidates for President of the US whom he placed in the various positions in his cabinet (listed in parenthesis): Edward Bates (Attorney General), Salmon Chase (Secretary of the Treasury), and William Seward (Secretary of State).  The story begins in 1860 at the convention which took place in Chicago.  With every move that took place leading up and through his Presidency, Lincoln was brilliant in ensuring that the brightest person was in the correct position, utilizing the skills and competencies that each man had within him.  Lincoln knew how to “lay low” and also how to “take a stand” as he did with the difficult task of reconciling difference among his team.  There are many characters in the book, which is no easy task in completing as this is a LONG read, but completely enthralling.  After the election Lincoln and his team grapple with financial challenges, foreign policy, the growth of a nation, and of course the major issue of the day, creating a path to the abolition of slavery and victory in the US Civil War.  Lincoln’s decisions of “pulling the trigger” or disregarding from a particular argument took great skill. This is especially true based on having such a complex and disparate group of individuals surrounding him as the leader of our nation.  Kearns Goodwin captures Lincoln’s rise to popularity through his debates with Steven A. Douglas, one of the most prominent, only down the street at Cooper Union in 1858.  How Lincoln was able to work the field at the convention is an amazing story determining that being everyone’s second best candidate made him the elected candidate after the top three in the field knocked each other out.  Lincoln’s rise to Presidency, thoughtful process of choosing his team, and the daily challenges from the various voices of the players make for real life drama.  Even Lincoln’s wife’s voice is shared in some of the poor decisions she made as First Lady.  The final pages chronicle the sad days leading up to and concluding with Lincoln’s assassination at the hands of John Wilkes Booth.  This is a wonderful story that illustrates being second best, but smarter than everyone else, can have you win.   While there are many books about Lincoln as a great leader, there isn’t a book that captures his gamesmanship in molding a team for the betterment of our nation.  History lovers, this one is for you.  Entrepreneurs, this one is for you!  Add to your list!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Free for All

Finally a Tisch student without offering a play as their favorite book! BUT a book about theatre, a pretty good one.  Free for All (Joe Papp, the Public, and the Greatest Theater Story Ever Told) by Kenneth Turan (with help from Papp himself).  For anyone who isn’t aware of Joe Papp, the icon of the theatre world in NYC during the late 1960s–1990, you are missing something.  The book was a collaboration between the author and the man it was to be written about, but timing was bad and Turan did not finish the book until well after Papp’s death to cancer in 1991.  The author interviewed roughly 150 people about Papp’s life.  Papp was born of immigrant Jewish parents and lived a very desolate life having little to eat and barely a roof over his head.  His rise to the theatre world came through his military career which had him produce shows for our military personnel abroad.  Joe learned many skills and was later hired to work behind the scenes at CBS Television.  A man who could not be stopped, he found his niche back in NYC when he decided to put on free theatre in the parks in NYC, Central Park to be exact!  This was the dawning of what we know now as Shakespeare in the Park, still going strong after all of these years.  The writing of the book is the words of each of the 150+ interviewees who share their perspective on their interactions on the plays/situations with Papp, in a linear fashion.  Papp was the person who pushed today’s messages (AIDS, runaway children, people of color, and feminism) through new playwrights, stories that may not be told otherwise.  Papp was awarded the “Public Theatre,” which was owned by the city of NY, to produce works that would give to the betterment of the community in no better place than in Greenwich Village.  I walk past the Public almost every day, as well as the homestead of Joe Papp on 9th street.  Papp was a grueling and driven man who could not be stopped.  He won numerous awards producing and directing works at the Public that later went on to Broadway, to include A Chorus Line, Pirates of Penzance, Hair, Runaways (with NYU faculty Liz Swados!), That Championship Season, and a Normal Heart.  His list of amazing acting talent included: Charles Durning, Kevin Kline, George C. Scott, Martin Sheen, Madeline Kahn, and Colleen Dewhurst.  The playwrights included: David Rabe, Sam Shepherd, James Rado, Larry Kramer, Jerome Kass, and Nicholas Dante.  He also worked with other “big light” Broadway folks such as Marvin Hamlisch, Bob Avian, and Michael Bennett.  Amazing how Papp never could be stopped and was such a force in what we experience as today’s theatre in NYC.  For those with a theatre background, this book is a great way to remember the days of the 70s through 90s!   

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Rich Dad, Poor Dad

Learn the secrets to financial literacy in Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad.  This is a story of how Kiyosaki learned from his two fathers, his biological father (an educated teacher) and his best friend’s father, whom he refers to as Dad (a self-made business man).  Kiyosaki values both approaches of the two Dads, but clearly it is his best friend’s Dad who teaches him the value of having financial knowledge, allowing your money to work for you.  I do think you may have seen the author if you ever couldn’t sleep at night and turned on the tv and watched one of those infomercials. Kiyosaki notes that people born into money traditionally have their parents to teach them how to have money work for you, rather than for the government.  He believes our society has it all wrong in our education system where we teach information but not how to build and acquire wealth. The book captures the story of how he learned from his friend’s Dad when he was given a job at age 9.  The story continues as do the corresponding points to learn things such as: the rich don’t work for money; mind your own business; the history of taxes and the power of corporations (READ this chapter, eye opening and true!); the rich invent money; work to learn; don’t work for money; overcoming obstacles; getting started; and the concluding story - College Education for $7,000.  Yes, the more we work and the higher our salary, the more money we need!  So very true.  I think this is a great book for anyone who does not understand how to increase one’s wealth.  It is much easier than we think, though you need to be creative and have a sense of entrepreneurial spirit. Kiyosaki has done it through real estate, but there are many other ways to do so.  I especially agree with his point on starting a corporation and having knowledge of the tax codes!  Once you understand them you can have them work to your advantage.  This is a great, easy read, written in easy to understand language.  It was even a best-selling book!  Lots of take-aways in this one.  Add to your book list, only $0.99 through e-bay!  

Friday, November 25, 2011

2 States

A relationship book with an uplifting ending!  Chetan Bhagat’s 2 States tells of Krish and Ananya, two Indian-born MBA students who meet while attending college.  Ananya is the apple of everyone’s eye, a beautiful looking woman, attending the male dominated institution.  Everyone is interested in dating her, but Krish gets the girl by offering to tutor her, which later gets him to bed down with her!  Krish and Ananya spend every waking moment for the remainder of the year together as they plan on life outside of the college.  Only one challenge, they are from two very different parts of India, a Punjabi boy from Delhi and a girl Tamil Brahmin from Chennai.  Ananya believes if they can convince their parents of the love they share, they will be accepted as a couple to be married with family blessings.  Ahh, that’s the point, in their world parents are the ones to determine who is acceptable to marry their offspring.  So now the drama begins… from the moment Ananya and Krish apply to jobs to the meeting of the parents.  Of course it is a disaster!  Neither parent will accept the other, especially when they meet for the first time the day of graduation.  Besides the warring parents, Krish is dealing with a past episode with his abusive father whom he won’t speak to because of a previous love he was denied.  Krish is convinced to move to Ananya’s homestead after receiving his offer from Citibank.  Krish spends six months trying to have the family warm up to him (tutoring her brother, teaching her father Powerpoint for an important presentation, and having her mom sing on stage for a work project!).  It finally works until Krish’s mom comes to visit and it all unravels.  Ananya decides that it isn’t going to work, the two families are like two states divided.  All seems lost until the abusive Dad steps up and decides to love the son he seemingly abandoned for all of these years.  Guess what happens at the end?  Yup, all is good in love and war… the ending is sappy and predictable.  It is one of those future “chick flick” movies in the making.  Nice to understand a bit of the Indian culture, but I have to say the Dad thing made little sense, especially for how abusive he was in the book, but otherwise a harmless safe read.  I’m sure it will be released in the movies in the near future!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Policy Paradox

Of those readers who want to learn about the market and the polis (the politics), what are the goals (or what they could/should be), and how we address the problems and then identify solutions, the Policy Paradox by Deborah Stone should be on your list.  Economists, Public Policy leaders, and individuals with political aspirations, this one is up your alley!  Stone is an academic with a strong list of mentors who write the books and have the data.  She focuses on the societal issues (abortion, affirmative action, hunger, unemployment, social security, tax laws, welfare, governmental agencies including NASA and Education Dept.) and the politicians and offers the “yin and the yang” – for each decision we make there is an unintended outcome.  She presents the presumed goals for the marketplace in a community: Equity, Efficiency, Security, and Liberty.  In each case she presents numerous societal issues and challenges.  The next phase of the book is the problems inherent with the goals that she established, which include: Symbols, Numbers, Causes, Interests, and Decisions.  But fear not as Stone then takes the leap to show us some potential solutions in these areas to include: Inducements, Rules, Facts, Rights, and Powers.  In each of the solutions there are ways in which they can and will be manipulated by others.  Stone is brilliant and does a wonderful job of presenting her points with great depth and explicit examples through multiple lenses.  Anyone who wants a great overview of the political challenges facing our economy, our public policies, and our philosophy on responding to the social issues facing our nation, this one is for you.  This is not a sit down in one sitting to get through this book… take your time with it and you will have a lot of late night drink conversation topics with your friends from Washington.     

Saturday, November 19, 2011


What does Bruce Springsteen, Nelly Furtado, Rod Stewart, Ani DiFranco, Ben Folds Five, The Velvelettes, and The Avalanches have to do with each other?  Well, Nick Hornby (an English writer) shares why these bands/singers influenced him over the ages in his book Songbook.  This book was suggested by an RA based on a class he took as a prerequisite for his music business program.  Hornby’s book presents thirty-one short essays, each one delves into a song that plays some integral role in his life.  For example, he wishes that he lost his virginity to the song “Samba Pa Ti,” an instrumental, rather than to Rod Stewart’s Smiler album.  Each essay shares a bit about the popularity of the time and how it influenced the record business.  His diverse review of songs and connections to his own life growing up demonstrates just how impactful music is in our society.  It is the universal language that cuts socio-economic barriers, language differences, and career tracks.  This is a must read for those music aficionados who just can’t get enough historical contexts and impacts on our society.  In many ways it was a blast to the past for me as Hornby is in the same age range as myself and many of the songs he referred to in the book were the same songs I listened to growing up.  Amazing how a song can bring you back to a moment.  I can still see Tammy Griswold standing in front of the TV screaming “Steve Perry” when MTV played “When the Lights Go Down in the City” or Melissa Osborne smiling every time the Police sang “Every Breath You Take” or John Church going crazy when the "Beat Goes On" by the Kings played.  For the songs I love, I hear it and I remember a context for it.  Great concept and certainly will make you create a listing of “those songs” for you after reading it.    

Friday, November 18, 2011

Why We Can’t Wait

There are few people whose life is something I look at and remain in awe.  For me, Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of those people.  I have his picture up in my office as a reminder of how to approach life.  He is the consummate role model.  So reading Why We Can’tWait was a reminder as to why I respect his choices and his thoughts on life so much.  The book had many of the stories of his life I had read previously, but each time I find something new and applicable to my own.  The book captures the aspects of segregation and the challenges the African-American (termed Negro by MLK) community faced in the heart of the south, specifically in Alabama.  He covers the years from 1963 and Rosa Park’s heroic statement not to go to the back of the bus through the peaceful restaurant counters, segregation of schooling, separate water fountains, and the manner in which Negros were hurt or killed for attempting to stand up for themselves.  MLK, a brilliant orator and writer, has a distinct ability to capture the emotions, the sorrows, and the challenges for his people, yet he is able to do so through peaceful protests.  The book details the involvement of the federal government and the two Presidents (Kennedy and Johnson) who eventually acted through legislation to respond to the local authorities who thought they were beyond reproach.  One of his letters from a Birmingham jail captures the moment perfectly…"Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say 'Wait,' but when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your brothers and sisters at whim…"  It is so hard for me to fathom that this was just 40 years ago.  What were our leaders thinking???  Thank you MLK for sharing the struggle, providing leadership, and persevering.  Without you I am unsure we would be where we are today, maybe not at the pinnacle, but certainly further than where we were.  The eight brief chapters give a synopsis to the movement with a thought provoking conclusion on “the days to come” – which leaves the reader contemplating, have we done enough?  Pick this up, we all deserve to know the story and think about our next steps.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Dirty Job

I really wasn’t a fan of the last book I read by Christopher Moore, and you know what… I still feel the same way.  I think I really am not that interested in “ridiculously sublime” books that make fun of things.  This is the case in A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore.  I know there is a whole cult following of Moore’s work, but I guess I am not one of them.  While there were some pretty funny lines, the story just didn’t really make that much sense.  OK, so you say, it wasn’t supposed to.  Making fun of someone who becomes a “death dealer” wasn’t all that funny to me. The book’s main character, Charlie Asher, is the owner and proprietor of a second-hand store in San Francisco, which his father left to him after his death. The story begins with death when his wife, Rachel, dies after giving birth to their daughter and first child, Sophie. Charlie learns after being in close proximity to a man on the street who gets run over, he has another “calling”… retrieving the souls of the dying, so as to protect them from the forces of the underworld.  He only gradually realizes the ramifications of this new business as various clues and complications begin to unfold. Ultimately, Charlie resolves to confront directly the forces of darkness. Through some absurd characters, like Minty Fresh, the ravens, and the cast of characters from his second-hand store, you have the makings of a ridiculous story which I think is trying to make fun of the difficult task of handling loved ones' death.  Charlie faces his mother’s death and the fact that his daughter Sophie is in some part responsible for some of the deaths when after she states “kitty” to a living person, they die shortly afterwards.  Moore takes on a tough topic and tries to make light of it.  For me, once again, it’s just not that funny.  I tend to get disinterested in the outlandish, especially when I say, what’s the point?  Sorry for those who love Moore, I’m just not in the club.  Take a pass and read tomorrow’s book! 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Angels in America

And the week begins with a play (instead of a book)... yes Tisch again!  Angels in America by Tony Kushner is a complex story, actually two individual plays occurring at different times (Millennium Approaches and Perestroika) but with the same characters and a continuation of the story.  And special note, Kushner also studied directing at Tisch, where one of the plays was work-shopped (amazing talent at NYU!).   The play is set in NYC during the Reagan years when the AIDS epidemic was occurring.  A couple of the main characters grapple with the disease but from varying places (a high powered, politically connected, closeted lawyer and a “WASP” lover of a gay Jewish man).  The intersections between this life, the after-life, and the future life all collide on the barren set.  Religion (Protestantism, Mormonism, Judaism, and Catholicism) intersects with the underground gay male culture being decimated by the AIDS epidemic and the political response of the Washingtonian leadership during the '80s.  A subplot of another character whose wife is addicted to pills and her belief that her husband is gay, which actually unfolds through the story, shows the challenge of a male's struggle with his sexuality.   Roy Cohn, the high powered attorney, goes from the heights of society and being connected to every politician to being disbarred for stealing monies from a client.  At the end he has some level of optimism as he is able to procure AZT, the miracle drug for AIDS, through his connections demonstrating, even facing a horrible death, he is still fighting.  Kushner’s work as a play was recently back on Broadway as a two evening event spanning 7 hours!  Kushner hits the mark for this issue during the height of our society’s awareness for the deadly disease.  Kushner’s offering of the depth of character development and intricate fascination with the angels/devils at a serious complication to the traditional “linear play.”  His criticism of the government’s response with outreach and response further captures the moment in time for future theatre-goers hundreds of years from now to better understand how divided our society is.  As a director, I have a really hard time thinking that this could be staged over a seven hour period.  As an audience member, not sure if I could sit for seven hours….let’s get back to some novels.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Nervous Conditions

Always enjoy reading about the culture and life of foreign lands, this story is no different.  In this autobiographical tale, Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga, the author tells the tale of her upbringing from a very poor African tribe in Zimbabwe.  As she states at the end of the story, growing up “was a long and painful process.  That process of expansion.. it was one whose events stretched over many years and would fill many volumes… the story of four women, whom she loved, and our men...”   The role of women in the African culture, like many in the world, is second to men.  Tsitsi’s story is no different.  It begins early in her life (13 years old) with the death of her older brother (Nhamo), whom she has come to despise based on his departure from the family to earn an education provided by her educated uncle, Babamukuru, who serves as a headmaster of the regional boarding school.  Babamukuru is the youngest of his family and the only one with an education and the means to support others in the family.  After her brother’s death, Tsitsi is selected for an education.  The story captures the struggles of being an African women in a white world always “not being worthy” of deserving the education.  She also struggles with her family’s lack of wealth and the anger her mother has for Tsitsi for leaving the farm and the rest of the family.  Tsitsi finds a friend in her cousin, Nyasha, who is educated in England, and returns to the boarding school with her cousin.  Eventually Tsitsi’s hard work earns her a chance to continue her education at the all-white Convent in England.  The separation from Nyasha and the rest of her uncle’s family leads Nyasha to destructive behavior brought upon by her unbearable uncle’s demands for excellence.  Themes of women’s strife and pressure by male dominated society persist throughout the story.  It is through Tsitsi’s “coming of age” that finally allows Nyasha the ability to receive the medical help she needs.  I have glossed over much of the depth of the women’s struggles that are contained in the book.  Two families, two worlds that keep colliding is one reoccurring theme throughout, as is the change of society’s acceptable behavior during the tumultuous 1970s.  A good perspective on the African culture.  A solid read for those interested in women’s movement and also difference in cultures.  A helpful book to build upon knowledge of community.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

I Know This Much is True

In many ways this book has much of what the first book I read from this author contained, the human struggle… this time from a man’s perspective.  In I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb, the lead character, Dominick Birdsey, is faced with the struggles of upbringing in so many ways!  This is one of the books that throws “everything and the kitchen sink” into it, much like his She’s Come Undone.  Dominick is a twin, raised by his mother and a physically abusive step-father.  Dominick’s twin brother, Thomas, is schizophrenic and, we learn later, gay, yet never really out of the closet.  The story tells the life story of Dominick and his loves, Dessa (his true love) who he marries, divorces, and in the end is reunited, and his second lover, Joy.  Joy is a hot mess… she allows her other lover to watch as she and Dominick have sex (unbeknownst to Dominick) and later announces to Dominick she is pregnant with his baby.  We learn she couldn't have gotten pregnant by Dominick as he had a vasectomy a few years earlier after his wife and he lost their baby to SIDS.  Dominick’s growth and acceptance of his life happens through working with his brother’s counselor, Dr. Patel, who is the hospital psychiatrist for Thomas.  Thomas was institutionalized for trying to harm himself, cutting off his hand, and was diagnosed with being schizophrenic during his college years.  Lamb does tell a compelling story, one which one really feels for the protagonist, whom just doesn’t seem to get a fair deal.  Dominick is harsh and yearns for the love and affection that his twin received from their mother, but he never did.  As the story progresses with the death of his mother, his child, Thomas, and finally the crippling of his step-father, combined with his new learned knowledge of his own heritage, Dominick takes steps to heal and start to live, incorporating his brother’s attributes into his own life.  They say twins are always connected, alive or dead.  This book certainly supports that theory.  While much of the drama is hard to imagine in anyone’s life, I was drawn in as the story unfolded and understood the pain of Dominick.  His relationship with Dr. Patel and the process of healing was real and worked for me.  The closing pages and the choices to make connections to his former wife and taking in Joy’s baby after she succumbs to HIV are truly moving.  A long read, complicated but heartwarming as well.  A strong read should you want to shed a tear… otherwise, just head for the action dramas.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Go Down, Moses

It’s time for some short story reading!  Go Down, Moses by William Faulkner is a collection of seven short stories, and yes the famous one, "The Bear," is included.  The collection of stories was first printed in a magazine but later put together to be read as a cohesive, albeit “over the years” history within the McCaslin family.  The first story, set in the late 1850s, is called “Was” and sets the story for the main character that seemingly is the “through line” for the book, “Ike” McCaslin, who is born through the matrimony of his parents, Uncle Buck and Sophonsiba Beauchamp, at the time of the slave days of the Deep South.  Depicting  life on the plantation and the struggles with illegal distillery, the hidden monies on the land, gambling, hunting for Old Ben in “The Bear,” understanding family history/life and concluding with the white/black struggle during the intended execution of  Samuel Beauchamp, each story captures a time that was real and controversial.  Faulkner’s prose captures a number of high points through his stories, such as the plight of African Americans during this time of American history and the spiritual dimension of the wilderness (man vs. the wild).  While it is a hard set of readings to put together over such a large period of time, Faulkner’s characters, stories, and wisdom of real life, make them interesting, funny at times, sad at others, but with a depth of humanity that few can reach.  His “stream of consciousness” style of prose is not necessarily alluring to all.  He is a true American poet to be read to better understand the American story.  While I began my reading of the stories in reverse order (until I realized they “went together” somewhat), I had a better understanding for the humor, the sadness, and the vastness of our wilderness, which we seem to be losing each day.  I would not begin to say I am an expert on analyzing these series of stories, I did enjoy the depth at which the author wanted to get me as a reader.  Brilliant writer and should be lauded for his capturing of the human emotion and story worth telling of the times.  A classic read!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Narcissus and Goldmund

What an interesting story by Herman Hesse, Narcissus and GoldmundI am trying to understand the meaning of life through the lives of the two main characters, which the book is named.  Goldmund is the young man who wanders away from the monastery where priest in training, Narcissus (the brilliant teacher), has a loving mentorship over his pupil. Goldmund is drawn away from the cloistered school by a beautiful female gypsy who seduces him and Goldmund is off on a life of debauchery, one woman after another.  He has one love affair after another, usually with women who are “unattainable” by seducing them.  He does so with a trusted father figure, taking in her daughter, and then moving to the second daughter before being thrown out of the house.  He has an epiphany and is drawn to the world of art after seeing a statue of a Madonna.  He becomes the apprentice to a well-known sculptor and teacher who runs a business.  Goldmund works for him for many years learning the trade.  As the sculptor becomes too old to continue to lead the business, he turns to Goldmund to take over the business.  When Goldmund rejects him to continue his search in life, he is immediately thrown out again.  Finally, Goldmund, as does the rest of society, faces the Black Plague with death and destruction everywhere.  Goldmund survives the death of so many and is finally reunited with his old friend Narcissus where they discuss their choices and life.  Narcissus represents the analytical and scientific mind whereas Goldmund represents the artist and emotional man, one who has feelings and wants to experience joy.  The story captures ways of living and finding meaning in one’s life.  I find that the “all or nothing” models that are presented cut short the opportunities in our own lives and are less attractive to me.  The one way of living, while may have been a model at some point in human existence, fall short of what I sense in this world today.  A great story to have a good debate.  I still prefer Hesse’s Siddhartha to this one, though still a classic read.  As Dicken’s might say, the tale of two… you get the idea.  Foils are good allegories for us to learn.    

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Lost Symbol

Robert Langdon is back!  This time his travels bring him to Washington, DC.  In Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol, Langdon is invited by Mason Peter Solomon to give a lecture on the mystery of the Masons at the Smithsonian Museum, only to find out he has been duped when he and other visitors to the museum find Solomon’s hand full of symbols in the main exhibit area.  What happens next is a dynamic story of intrigue and fast-paced action throughout leading to a conclusion that is unlike his others.  Langdon goes on his wild adventures with the CIA, Solomon’s sister, Katherine (a renowned scientist), and the mysterious Mal'akh, whom we learn is able to change his appearance throughout the story.  The CIA leader is a short Asian woman, Sato, who is attempting to save the US from a terrible secret that Mal’akh has and at the same time the Masons are also trying to hold onto.  Like the other stories of Brown, Langdon faces death, helps save the heroine, and solves the mystery.  Aren’t all noted historian professors able to do that?  Having lived in DC for a number of years, I loved how the story revolved around the city, the metro, the capital underground, and the streets in the city.  The secret society of the Masons, much like the secrets of the Catholic Church from his other books, is always up for scrutiny and intrigue from our society.  I could hardly put this one down and if you like a compelling story, lots of action, and the good-guy winning in the end, this is for you!  Mal’akh is the antithesis of the evil hated villian, but the twist at the end, if you pay attention, may not be so surprising!  I’ll keep that to myself.  I think it will be a good movie someday too.  Keep them coming Dan!  Add this to your list!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Essence of the Heart Sutra

Reflection and deep-thinking is a core component of finding sanity ad peace in one’s life.  In the Dalai Lama’s Essence of the Heart Sutra, one learns about the history of the Heart Sutra and also how applicable it can be for anyone from any religious faith tradition.  For anyone who is religious, what couldn’t one learn and apply to their daily lives that make them a better person?  All I know is it makes so much sense to live a life that is grounded in the beliefs, and more importantly the approach that is conveyed through Buddhism. Finding true fulfillment… and living a life that one should lead, what is more important than that?  The Dalai Lama encourages people to maintain their own faith tradition and how he has worked with the Pope, Protestant, and Jewish leaders and is convinced that this is an approach that is fitting to all religious sects.  In fact, Buddhism can learn from other faith traditions as well.   Another aspect of the book is the history of the four Buddhist subgroups which provides a good context as to why their interpretations are different from each group.  Learn about the Buddha, the wheel of dharma, and the four foundations of mindfulness.  Some of the foundations include: being present to your body, mind, feelings, and phenomena.  Remove the negative, prevent negative acts, enhance yourself through your actions, enhance positive qualities, and lay foundation for future wholesome acts.  The supernatural feats, the five faculties, five powers, eight noble paths, and seven branches of enlightenment all lead to the path of enlightenment.  Wisdom comes from an inner place of hearing the world and surrounding elements of nature.  I think the Dalai Lama gives great advice that each person would benefit from listening to, applying in life, and reflecting after putting into practice.  Very good read, but do it slowly to really absorb it all!  Add to the list for personal growth!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Among the Hidden

How strange to be listening to this book as the world announces that the 7th billion human now lives on the planet.  Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix tells the futuristic tale of a world that only allows parents to have two children, yet in this particular neighborhood there are at least 2 “third children,” or shadow children.  This is the first of a series. I can’t imagine the rest being as good as the first.  Luke Garner is raised on his parent’s farm, though both parents work outside the home.  Due to the governmental regulations Luke is not allowed to be seen by anyone, or else he would be turned over to the authorities.  At the age of 12, Luke has become even more isolated because the government built homes close to his and he can no longer risk going outside.  Luke is becoming tired of the hiding game and notices the next door neighbor may also have a hidden child.  After examining the movement in the neighbor’s house, he ventures over to investigate and what does he find… another third child!  Jennifer Talbot, from the “baron class” is in the home working on her computer to communicate with other thirds and living the kind of life Luke could only imagine.  While Luke is completely scared and afraid of life outside the home, Jennifer shares her experience where her father, a government agent himself, has acquired a fake ID so she can be taken to the city.  Luke and Jen create a close bond over a short period of time.  Jen is working with other thirds to meet face on with the government to publically challenge the law.  Jen tries to get Luke to go, but he can’t because of his fear.  What ensues next would ruin the end of this book if I told you, but it is worth the read.  Could the world get like this with overcrowding?  Food rationing, no pets in our society, no more fast food, no meat?  It is a very quick read, I listened to it and it was only 8 hours long!!  Great book for young adults, but I think us adults would get into it too.  Not sure how I feel about a part two, been burned before!  Read it. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011


Just finished one of the author’s other books a week or so ago.  Jorge Luis Borges is back, at least in this RA Favorite Book Reading List, he actually passed away  in 1986, living to be 87.  Ever read a book and think, I have read this somewhere.. and then find out, you did.  After just a few pages, I knew I was re-reading something I had recently read.  In the book Labyrinths, Borges includes a number of his short stories from Ficciones in the first part of the book; in fact, almost 100 pages worth of stories were included in this book.  Labyrinths contains short stories, essays and parables.  The Argentinian author continues to focus on similar themes on life in South America, reflecting on other author’s novels (Cervantes’ Don Quixote), plays (Shakespeare), philosophy (Hume, Kierkegaard), poems and books (Dante’s Inferno) and how this life has been already lived, “everything which can happen to a man, from the instant of his birth until his death, has been preordained to him” (he probably would like the Celestine Prophecy, huh?). His essay on the Argentine Writer and Tradition was one of my favorite, as my wife’s family is from Argentina and I appreciated a writer’s insight to life and influence on writers during his era.  He believes that Argentinian culture is Western culture and sets the stage for the rest of the region to follow the impact from this region of the world.  Interesting how much he focuses on religion, especially the Muslim religion. His parables reflect his thoughts on the authors who influence him and also Borges reflecting on himself.  His reflective essay on the Greek philosophers was enlightening in bringing common sense to the masses – I understand Aristotle better!  As I may have mentioned before, this is an English major’s joy to read Borges's work.  It is recent thinking on war, being human, thinking through our existence, and applying influences in our society.  All good.  The parables and essays really broken the book into a cohesive reading for me.  This is not linear or “beginning, middle, and ending” and the short stories vary greatly in what he is writing about.  This won’t be for everyone for sure.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Place of Yes

I can’t say I really knew a great deal about this author, other than her face seems to be all over TV these days.  The wife knew her because her fascination with Reality TV shows so…. after hearing about what a “Bit**” she is, hmmm that is my lead in to Bethenny Frankel’s “self-help” book, A Place of Yes.  Ok, I'll give her props for having a “NY Times Best Selling Book.”  It is time for me to seriously consider writing a book because, well… if Bethenny can do it, yes - I can do it.  This book is a re-write of so many other “self-help” books that it is somewhat frustrating.  She does a fine job of sharing her story, “I was so unable to move forward”… blah-blah-blah… but then “epiphany!” - was it the guys she took rings from or the guys that were best-friends with her current partner that allowed her to thrive?  Bethenny appears to have been born with some type of money (her biological father was a top rated horse trainer/jockey) and then faced money issues and so I guess she decided to get off her “stealing ways” and became self-sufficient.  More props in the sense that heck, this lady has some hutzpah to start a cookie company, a pashmina company, be on the Apprentice – Martha Stewart version, stop a Russian crime ring (I actually thought that was amazing work on her part), etc… but taking a book and placing in ten rules for getting “everything you want out of life”... if it’s the life she is living, I’ll pass.  Here is the short version of what you will need to do if you want that type of life: (pages 319-20 – heck a long book for so little wisdom!) 1.) Break the Chain; 2.) Find your truth; 3.) Act on it; 4.) Everything’s your business; 5.) All roads lead to Rome; 6.) Go for yours; 7.) Separate from the pack; 8.) Own it; 9.) Come together; 10.) Celebrate.  Clearly Bethenny has read lots of other books and taken parts from them and created her own list.  While the stories throughout are interesting, I have to say I find her to be pretty disingenuous.   A little overboard on her new husband, how many years will you be with this guy as you seriously have some “staying together power.”  Hard to follow someone’s advice who throws her mom under the bus, constantly takes advantage of guys, and disses former colleagues.  Hopefully the counselor she has helps her work through these issues so she can follow her own mantra.  Only a matter of time beforet her long “15 minutes” is up, right?  An ok read, but so overdone these days.  Think you’d find it from a more reputable source to be honest.  Skip!

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Wizard of Earthsea

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin is a fantasy journey book set in the archipelago of Earthsea.  The main character is a young wizard named Ged. It is the first of several stories that follows Ged’s adventures, just so you know!  Ged is born on an island off Earthsea living with his father.  The two don't seem to have a lot in common, so his aunt (the village witch) teaches him to use the hidden talent he has for magic.  Ged becomes known for saving the land from an evil group who plans on raiding the land and is brought to Ogion the Silent to become his apprentice and learn how to use his talents for the good of the land.  During his stay he lets a spell out, is confronted by Ogion and given an ultimatum, stay with Ogion and be trained or go to wizard school (I bet Harry Potter wishes he had that option!). He graduates from wizard school and further adventures follow. He fights dragons to defend one island, heads off to sea and nearly drowns, he finds two abandoned children on a solitary island, and finds a nemesis that he follows throughout the story for a final showdown, the shadow knows!  The shadow replicates Ged’s appearance and works in advance of his arrival to different lands to scare off the people before he actually arrives.  An old wizard school friend assists him in the final showdown with the shadow where Ged reveals himself to the shadow and what happens is the two become one!  Ged has embraced the “dark side and his own skills and beliefs”.  What a way to end… which leaves one wanting more!  Ahh this series within a book.  A nice read, pretty quick.  Fits into the Harry Potter mode, but this one was written in the late 1960s.  A classic.  Great for the kid crowd for sure.  

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Indian Uprising

This short story, "Indian Uprising" by Donald Barthelme, appeared first in the New Yorker in the late 1960s and is now contained in his book Sixty Stories.  Of the stories I read in the book, my favorite was "Views of My Father Weeping," but I know that wasn't the RA's choice for this book, it was "Indian Uprising."  The short story is centered on the alleged battle between a leader with his troops and the Comanches (referred to as “red men in waves”).  Barthelme provides “picture-painted” scenes - “the arrows came in clouds” and “clattered on soft yellow pavement” and “hedges laced with sparkling wire,” you get the picture, right?  The scenes jump from the battle between the two groups and the discussion between the main character’s girlfriend (Sylvia) and in the classroom with his teacher years earlier.  Clearly this complicated tale was chosen by a Philosophy major or English major wannabe (or maybe he is, I can’t remember).  It was hard to tell the timeframe of the story as it begins with arrows swirling while the leader’s group followed with helicopters and rockets where people were being killed, is it 1900s or 1960s?  The mixed use of time, past thoughts/interactions, and the present time made for confusing and complicated understanding of what was happening, though clearly it had to do with the leader’s capture and torment.  The leader was in fact captured and turned over to a “tribunal” of sorts with the Comanches in full force.  This is not a linear tale and the use of story flow would make even an educated person take a double take or two.  In doing a bit of internet research on Barthleme, I learned he falls into the postmodern field of writing.  Maybe it is just me but I think I’m probably not the best suited for this style of work or maybe I am intimated by the lack of initial sense the two or three stories have to do with itself, similar to what Barthelme is saying about war in general, eh?  Maybe he makes more sense than I think.  Not for those who aren’t ready for some serious deep reflection!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Mysterious Skin

Mysterious Skin by Scott Heim is a book that is also a movie, which I learned after I tweeted that I read the book.  Oh yeah, want to follow me on twitter?  TeEllett, have fun.  I do tweet when I finish a RA Favorite Book.  This was a very difficult read as it deals with the issue of child abuse.  Two characters (Brian Lackey and Neil McCormick) are tied together through the abuse they received at the hands of their Little League baseball coach at the age of 7.  It wasn’t until a decade later that the two lives were brought together through the process of “working through the abuse” by one of the lead characters.  The book is written in chapter format from the perspective of the various characters; yet, with each chapter, the story is moving in a linear fashion.  The actual “architecture of the book” (the flow) is done exceedingly well.  Upon reflection, I actually have warmed up to the story much more.  While the topical area is far from yesterday’s read, I thought the author was able to demonstrate the power of the abuse – deeply hidden within the confines of someone’s soul so much that they can’t remember and move forward.  It is through years of trying to understand what happened that one afternoon where he woke up with a bloody nose in the crawl space under his porch that he begins to realize that he wasn’t abducted by UFOs.  Brian meets with a self-proclaimed UFO abduction specialist and is convinced that is what happened to him until he puts together events related to the day of the game.  Neil on the other hand is gay and has responded through the abuse as a young male willing to turn a trick to make some easy cash.  These two lives collide when Brian is introduced to Eric Preston, a young man who is infatuated with Neil, who left the Midwest town to make it in NYC.  Eric brings the two together at the conclusion of the book.  What happens is a scene that displays some compassion and confusion in dealing with abuse.  As I mentioned, it was a difficult initial start to the book.  Heim’s characters were on-point and getting to the emotional side was easy but not one to warm up initially.  Well written, liked but not sure I would add to my “best list”.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Franweiler

Children’s books can be exhilarating... the joy of the innocence and freedom to dream and escape to wherever you want to go. So goes today’s read, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Franweiler by E.L. Konigsburg.  The story is of strong-willed, 11 year-old Claudia Kincaid who decides to run away from home and commandeers her younger brother, the kid with money, to join her.  They escape from sleepy Greenwich, CT, and set a path to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. The story is set in 1967, so the amount of money they need is certainly different than today, as is the security measures that are in place at the Met.  Claudia and Jamie stay in the Met for a week, living on cheap foods in the streets of NYC and hanging out in the Met unbeknownst to the security officers in the building.  The journey turns when a new piece of art is delivered to the museum, an alleged statue of Michelangelo.  When Claudia finds out where the piece came from, her new purpose becomes finding out whether it is a true Michelangelo sculpture or not.  The final part of the journey is finding Mrs. Franweiler, the millionaire who sold the statue for $225, who may hold the key to the actual truth of its authenticity.  Claudia and Jamie spend the last of their journey’s money to find Mrs. F.  It is through this interaction that the whole story is actually captured.  The mixing of generations always makes for a great story, and this one is no different.  Mrs. Frankweiler captures the secrets of the kids in exchange for the knowledge of the statue.  What a great little tale.  Young kids will get it, as will “us” wiser, older folks.  You can guess the age range that won’t.  Every person needs an adventure.  Fun with heart!  

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Shape of Things

Do you remember Karen Owen’s thesis, the senior at Duke last year who chronicled her sexcapades for her final paper (it was all over the news how she rated her short-term beaus in terms of their sexual abilities, etc.)?  I think I found the book that was her inspiration… well, not really a book, this was a Tisch student, so guess what.. a play!  Neil Labute’s The Shape of Things has four characters, Evelyn (aka Karen Owens), Adam (the new boyfriend), Jenny (Adam’s first infatuation), and Phillip (Adam’s buddy).  Evelyn finds Adam while visiting a museum that he works at and tries to push him to respond to her decision to graffiti a male nude statue in the museum.  He doesn’t take the bait, BUT he does end up falling for her.  She gets him to change many of his habits (biting his fingernails), his appearance (losing weight, getting a nose job, etc.), the way he dresses (new glasses, new outfits), and who he hangs out with as friends.  Through this process Adam, a huge introvert, loses weight, starts to become a “looker,” and starts to have some confidence in himself.  She convinces him to have sex on video and drop both Jenny and Phillip as friends.  This all culminates at the end of the semester when Evelyn presents her “senior thesis art project” to all, including Adam, Jenny, and Phillip in the audience.  It all turns out to be a hoax.  Evelyn used Adam to be her “art project,” showing how weak and malleable people really are when convinced under the “guise” of love.  Wow.  I can only imagine how this play would be staged.  I can see how a Karen Owens could have read this and said, “hey, this could work on sexcapades as well.”  Amazing how human nature shows how we all could become manipulated by others.  Happens every day, huh?  Actually a pretty good read – psychological thriller of sorts.  Go see it on stage if it comes your way.  Hope they do leave it to your imagination for that scene on video…