Monday, June 15, 2015

God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

Imagine being a multi-Millionaire in the 1960s and leaving the family “nest,” creating a foundation and helping people along the way in some of the most bizarre ways?  Enter the world of Kurt Vonnegut and his book, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater.  Eliot Rosewater, the protagonist, is the son of Lister Ames Rosewater, a US senator, who established the Rosewater Foundation as a way to avoid paying taxes.  The foundation provides Eliot with a significant annual fund of money to draw upon for living expenses, and much more.  Eliot has had a number of legitimate traumas in his life that changes his mental state, being a veteran of World War II and serving as a firefighter, in which he inadvertently killed a number of people by accident.  These tragic incidents have seemingly impacted Eliot to think about those less fortunate, which occurred after he was in a mental ward for a year.  During this same time, Norman Mushari, a lawyer for the foundation, finds a clause in the foundation that states if a Rosewater is mentally incapacitated then another family member would run the foundation, and reap the benefits of the family trust.  Mushari believes Eliot is not mentally steady and he works to prove it and finds a distant family member he can coax into being the heir to the foundation.  Lucky for Eliot, his father and the estranged wife of Eliot work hard to get Eliot back to who he was before the series of tragedies.  Eliot begins to do good work for the less fortunate, placing his phone number on various places in his new home, Rosewater, Indiana.  Eliot receives calls from people who want to kill themselves and he offers them “straight-talk” and money to move forward.  He does a lot of eccentric things, but also illustrates that money is not what it all is cut out to be. The story has levels of absurdity, but Vonnegut is a genius in leaving the reader with so any metaphors and social commentary.  His reference to the characters seemingly are drawn from the millionaire and political fray – Roosevelt, Goldwater, TS Eliot to name a few.  He also focuses, as he does in some of his other writings, on loveless relationships, and the lack of physicality between married partners.  It makes one wonder about his level of thought on civil unions etc.  If you like complicated and deep reads, this one is for you.  Or you can read it as a Eugene Ionesco, theatre of the absurd.  Either way, it is still a fun read.

The Dream Manager (extra book)

I found my next job!  It is described in this great leadership/management book called, The Dream Manager by Matthew Kelly.  Kelly, a coach/motivational speaker/consultant provides a turn-around story of a fictitious janitorial company in mid-America.  The problem at the company is that the turnover rate of employees for this 400+ staff is about 400% annually!  One of the managers who works directly for the owner comes up with an idea to curb the problem, let’s do a survey!  So they do, what they find as the number #1 issue from the employees is their need for transportation to get to work and back home.  When he convinces the boss to expend the monies to do so, they see a huge reduction in staff departures.  After this windfall in savings (not having to re-train staff, hire new ones, etc.), the manager has a second response from their surveys…. they have other things they want, not necessarily more money, but desires like a home, car, vacation, education for their kids…. i.e., dreams.  After some thinking, he suggests to his boss, let’s hire a “dream manager” someone who can assist staff in financial planning and helping people to dream, using their work as a starting point for something else.  Of course what happens after they hire the dream manager is the absolute transformation of a company!  And so it goes.  There are many more details of how it happens with the dream manager, but the author is using the story as a means to say, we all should be having dream and all managers have a responsibility to help employees to dream…  what a great story!  I can see why Mr. Kelly is successful.  He lays out a process that people should be engaging for the twelve areas of their life: Physical, Emotional, Intellectual, Spiritual, Psychological, Material, Professional, Financial, Creative, Adventure, Legacy, and Character.  His model is very similar to the model I use as a life coach.  I would strongly encourage anyone at all to study this book.  It is a really quick read.  I finished it while lying on the boat this afternoon.   Thanks to the person who suggested I read it from BCC.  I will be using it with my AnBryce students and other NYU students this year.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Devil in the White City - RA Book Club Reviews

The Devil in the White City was a book where I felt like I was reading and walking through a documentary. The research that Erik Larson has conducted for this novel is impeccable and the reader gets such a real feeling of walking through 19th century Chicago, which was my favorite part of the book. The story of Holmes is a dark one, but Larson does a great job making it all realistic and not too fantastical. His choice to leave out nasty death scenes and include instead the clues that the detectives found allows the reader to experience Holmes character as others did. The Chicago fair is an amazing historical event, and Devil in the White City not only provides a thrilling story but a fun history lesson simultaneously. A must read for sure.



Although starting slow, The Devil in the White City is a marvelous novel written with a flavor of dark, nightly thunderstorms mixed with murky waters. The story takes place around the mid to late 19th century, around the [untold] story of the World’s Fari in Chicago (or, the White City). The story continues about the construction of the fair, the immenseness of the situation, and the plans to make it all happen.

The real story follows the an alleged serial killer who uses different medias to stalk and kill his victims. Following the earlier story of this dubious physician and his trials and tribulations, the reader gets a sense of where the killer is coming from. Beginning with his many marriages, treatment of his business associates, and run from the DA, the serial killer handles his craft in an genius fashion. The story becomes even more morbid and depressing as we learn of the psyche, which is human nature.

Themasap (Timmy)


I've always been a fan of stylized, narrative nonfiction, yet many of the books I've found in this genre tell interesting stories and histories without truly providing the suspense that fiction often does. However, Erik Larson perfectly balanced suspenseful storytelling with informative passages in Devil in the White City. By creating an image of Chicago as its citizens approached the monumental task of building the 1893 World's Fair, Larson effectively built and sustained readers' anticipation. While the book could be dense and detail-heavy at times, the characters' race against time aided the pace of the book. The narrative is split between two men made famous by the World's Fair: Daniel Burnham, the architect who, against all odds, orchestrated the successful Fair, and Dr. H.H. Holmes, the sociopathic serial killer who used the chaos of the fair to cover up hundreds of murders. Whether you're interested in the the underdog who faces seemingly insurmountable obstacles or the charming man with a gruesome agenda, the descriptions of the fair's beauty or of the many accidents that occurred during its construction, Devil in the White City will have a story for you.



Erik Larson is a great writer who was able to eloquently record the historical events surrounding the Chicago World’s Fair as he interlaced his own narrative. The book divides itself between following Daniel Burnham, the Fair’s architect, and H.H. Holmes, the serial killer. While Larson for the most part spared us the gruesome details of murder, his chilling descriptions of H.H. Holmes imprinted the horrors experienced by others at Holmes’ hands. I found it fascinating how Larson brought these two separate lives together to create a cohesive seamless narrative. The undeniable comparison of the two men, one fighting for the Fair to open and the other reaping the benefits of the influx in young women, both meticulously designing their grandest creation, keeps you wanting more until you have devoured the book. Burnham created a beautiful exposition filled with the unimaginable whereas Holmes created a house of unimaginable horrors. Even though they never interacted, Burnham and Holmes changed Chicago and the course of architecture (and murder). I would recommend this book to just about anyone. It is a great mixture of non-fiction, murder, mystery, and the depths of humanity.