REVIEW: Tuesdays with Morrie

Morrie Schwartz was a beautiful human. One of those rare lights we should all be so lucky to come bath in over the course of our lifetime. A light which brings universal wisdom, patience, and compassion for all. His interviews with Ted Koppel moved and inspired me, I can’t recommend watching them enough. Unfortunately, my job here isn’t to review Morrie Schwartz as a person, it’s to review the writing that immortalized him. Sadly, that writing doesn’t do Mr. Schwartz the justice he deserved.

Mitch Albom is not a good writer. His writing is amateurish, saccharin, and self-indulgent. I first expressed my thoughts on the matter when I didn’t recommend The Five People You Meet in Heaven. I had higher hopes for Tuesdays with Morrie due to the subject matter; but Albom disappoints again.

The fact is, Tuesdays with Morrie is more about Mitch than our titular hero; this is a fact that would be bothersome even if the memoir was written by a talented word smith.  While, yes, we are getting to know Morrie through the eyes of a former student, it is Morrie who brings the goods and touches our souls; it is Morrie who would probably be the first to tell Mr. Albom to put his own ego aside.

It is clear why Tuesdays with Morrie is so widely read: Morrie Schwartz is one in a million; but, the messenger who brought him to international light does not deserve the amount of credit he has received.

Is Tuesdays with Morrie worth reading? For sure, there is something to be gained from Morrie’s heart by all. Should one then go on to read anything else Mitch Albom wrote? No.

 

Rating: 3 Motivational Tuesdays

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REVIEW: Nine Coaches Waiting

Mary Stewart masterfully tackles suspense and Gothic romance in Nine Coaches Waiting. 

With the spunk and poise of Bronte’s Jane Eyre, and the mysterious flare of du Maurier’s Rebecca, Stewart engages the reader from page 1. 


Our heroine, Linda, enters a suspenseful world as governess for the Valmy family. The fullness of Linda’s character – her compassion, wit, and curiosity – takes the reader on a layered journey and leaves you wanting more.

Stewart is an expert in her field, walking the tightrope balancing act of love and mystery. Nine Coaches Waiting is a must read for this genre’s lovers, and highly recommended to all others.

 

Rating: 4 Coaches Waiting

REVIEW: Howl and Other Poems

Allen Ginsberg is gritty, obscene, hallucinatory, and honest in Howl and Other Poems.  One of the leaders of the Beat Generation, Ginsberg saw the world around him for what it was: the good, the bad, and the dirty. His ability to capture this unique era of American history is unparalleled.

Howl (the poem itself) is a staple in the archives of American poetry, with an interesting ebb and flow leaving you out of breath, but Ginsberg’s other works shouldn’t go unnoticed; in particular:

A Supermarket in California
Wild Orphan
Song

Rating: 4 Obscenities 

REVIEW: Northanger Abbey

Last year we explored the brilliance that is Emma Woodhouse, this year it’s Catherine Morland. Jane Austen can write a heroine like it’s her vocation (well, okay, it kinda is, but you get the point…), and she didn’t disappoint in her debut novel, Northanger Abbey.

Miss Morland is a fascinating character. Unlike, Emma or Elizabeth Bennett, who are insiders trying to break the mold, she is an outsider looking in on a society she knows little of. She is essentially the anti-Emma in the best way possible, overcoming a different set of personal “flaws.”

Experiencing Catherine Morland’s journey in Northanger Abbey from a naïve day-dreamer, to a woman who remains modest and kind, but holds her own, is a delight. Austen also colors Northanger Abbey with some of her strongest supporting characters who add the satirical wit with which Austen continuously wins us.

Rating: 4 High Society Balls

REVIEW: A Moveable Feast

While Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast is a fascinating first-hand look at life as  an artist in Paris in the 1920s – a time that is an obsession for most current writers and artists – Hemingway loses his way in this non-fiction book.

Perhaps it is because  A Moveable Feast is not only a work of non-fiction, but a personal one that Hemingway’s signature style is missing. 

Hemingway skillfully relays his experiences, relationships, and struggles, but his prose is more flowery and less concise than in his works of fiction. Therefore if the poetic terseness of his novels and short stories is what you are seeking – A Moveable Feast is not for you. If learning about the time period, or gaining an insight to the mind of a beloved author piques your interest, you will enjoy the experience.

Rating: 3.5 Classy Name Drops

REVIEW: The Palace of Dreams

So far my pops is batting 1000. He is the man who introduced me to Calvino, Marquez, Camus (although he appears to have forgotten this), Aira, Hoban….and now Ismail Kadare.

The Palace of Dreams is a bold and unique take on totalitarianism. Kadare takes a common allegorical theme, and heightens it with fantasy; a government which controls its citizens through the interpretation of their dreams. It’s like Big Brother on steroids.

On top of this creative plot line , Kadare makes an interesting choice with his main character, Mark-Alem. Rather than developing a heroic protagonist (even a reluctant one), Mark-Alem is a purely reactionary character. This was a brave choice on Kadare’s part, one that could could easily be a turn off. But the other worldly feel of The Palace of Dreams, and the confusion and seduction of corruption, allows the reader to connect to Mark-Alem. 

The Palace of Dreams is not commonly on reading lists, and it’s a shame this bold gem gets lost in the shuffle. In today’s world it is certainly a relevant and powerful read.

Thanks, again, pops, for opening my eyes to another new author.

 

Rating: 4 Subconscious Symbols