Practical Theory - The Origin
The Scholars in CyberEnglish
ToDaY's MeNu - Ted

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Marrying of Chani Kaufman by Eve Harris

The Marrying of Chani Kaufman by Eve Harris is about the rites of passage of a young Jewish woman, Chani Kaufman. She is caught between two worlds, the modern and the old. Her wedding will be in November of 2008 and we are entertained by her romance that starts in May of 2008 and reaches back to the 80’s in Israel with the romance of her older mentor. Tradition and religion always take a beating in the modern world. We ping pong back and forth between the past and the future while in the present, we are always confused, torn between customs and cultures and the here and now. It always comes down to the old rabbis with their homilies, smiles, and influential ways to keep the faith. It is fun watching as young girls get bridled and young men fall into place in such a strong culture. Marrying and then falling in love or not has been replaced with a more modern idea of falling in love then marrying. The state of the unmarried, the newly married, and the long time married is what Ms Harris plays with, examines, and presents in a personal and detailed manner in an honest, humorous, and humble way. It is educationally entertaining and real while still being tragic because we still haven’t figured it out especially when if we do the same thing over and over expecting different results. Culture, tribe, and customs are a strong gravity in the ways of love and marriage. Oh and then there are the parents to muck it all up. Shades of Romeo and Juliet, methinks.  “Resistance is futile” blurts out at one point conjuring the appropriate Borg metaphor in this human version of the collective.
In spite of adult interference and arguing, Chani and Baruch get them to let these two meet, a break in tradition and decorum. It’s a brave new world, a fear for the old world residents. This is a good story about freedom, the freedom to act when tradition frowns on it, when it is not the norm, when it makes people talk. This is a good story with a good ending.

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt begins with the memory of a mother who died too young and when her son was only thirteen. The Goldfinch is a painting Theo saves from the museum and takes it home. The rest of the 800 pages is about his figuring out how to return it without going to jail for stealing it. He traverses the world, has it stolen from him, recovers it, and eventually returns it without a cost to himself and a question, Why was it painted in the first place?
What happens to us when our parents die is remarkable in so many ways. Our guiding light is dimmed and we now have to rely on ourselves and in some cases we become parents and serve as that guiding light to another until we pass it on. Theo goes through these revelations.
Who would bomb a museum and who would a mother abandon a son and visa versa? Questions asked in Chapter One. Theodore Decker is thirteen and his mother has died in the explosion and he doesn’t know where his father is. He won’t go to his grandparent’s house, so he stays with a very sympathetic family, the Barbours, whose son is a classmate. Mrs Barbour is intrigued by Theo’s ring and tells him not to lose it. Theo takes a trip to the West Village to find out more about the ring from Hobie, the dead man’s friend. Theo is stunned to se his dad with Xandra, an exotic transplant from Fort Lauderdale to Vegas. Theo secures the painting, hides it, and heads out to Vegas for a new life. Well best laid plans of mice and men. “Bad artists copy, good artists steal.” This is a fun, if not long romp through art and literature and coming of age for a young orphan boy with a painting that reminds him of his dead mother.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick

The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick has a catchy title. Serendipity or coincidences are always fascinating and in this book Quick works with Jung’s Synchronicity as it relates to the main character, Bartholomew Neil. The characters in this book display a degree of mental disorder. Classmates call Bart a retard when he was in school and by the little angry man in his stomach. But he is not a retard, far from it. In his grieving for his recently dead mother with whom he lived for his thirty-nine years, his Catholic priest, Father McNamee, who is bipolar, defrocks himself at mass and walks out. He appears on Bart’s door and moves in. Bart’s therapist, a local college student, is helping Bart join age appropriate friends. She is also damaged as the bruises on her eventually have the empathic Bart shock her about what he knows is happening and by whom, her boyfriend, Adam, a doctor. How does he know this? Mr. Richard Gere whispered it into his ear. Bart found a note from Richard Gere in his mom’s underwear drawer when he was cleaning up her stuff. He took it as an omen and started writing Mr. Richard Gere letters. So now Gere whispers in his ear like the good angel and the angry man in his stomach confounds Bart. After the Father and Bart confront Adam, Wendy moves in with them following another beating from Adam. Bart’s goal is to ask the Girlbrarian out for a drink in a bar. The Girlbrarian works in a library and Bart doesn’t know her name, is also damaged as we learn from her brother Max who is the other person in Bart’s group therapy sessions.
I feel as if I have stepped into the town of Marville, in the movie, The King of Hearts, or the ward of One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest or down the rabbit hole with Alice.
Bart spends a lot of time in the library reading and doing research. Since he became obsessed with Gere he has researched him and become familiar with the Dalai Lama and much of his writings. Bart is using the Dalai Lama to combat other rages and fears as he becomes more empathic, especially with his new houseguests. Bart, Father, Max, and Elizabeth drive to Montreal to find Bart’s father and then plan to drive to Ottawa so Max can see Cat Parliament, a place where feral cats roam free. This is a pilgrimage, a journey where many answers are given, koans are made, and goals are achieved. In spite of all their troubles, they find a way to find the good luck of right now.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Quiet Streets of Winslow by Judy Troy

The Quiet Streets of Winslow by Judy Troy begins with a quote from Leonard Cohen, “There’s a crack in everything. It’s how the light gets in.”  Like Spinning Heart, the chapter titles are people’s names and the story is told from their POV. Unlike Spinning Heart names repeat.
Nate Aspernal has two younger stepbrothers, Travis and Damien. The two younger brothers find a dead girl, Jody, who is Nate’s girl friend. Nate is a prime suspect. The story is told from Nate, Travis, and Sam Rush’s (the cop) POV. Jody dates a lot of men, she is a free spirit, independent. She sits in their cars; let’s them buy her drinks, and fools around a bit. In a small town, everyone sees her. Her murder is shocking and foolish. It is the death of an angel. There’s lots of circumstantial evidence for a few suspects, but nothing hard. Travis is caught in the middle and it is his story that is fun for me as he is in school and his lessons about Robert Frost, William B Yeats, gravity, love are the most heart warming. Nate is just a troubled kid still at an older age. Sam can’t make a move to woo his lady and will probably lose out. Here is a good lesson, don’t worry about her saying no, because she might say yes as I’m sure Audrey Birdsong would. This is a story of the fear of hearing “No” so the attempt to hear “Yes” is lost.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan

The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan is a beautiful metaphor about what happens when it all goes wrong all of the time in this depressing little town. It could be anywhere actually but it is in Ireland as we are told. It takes place in a town that was doing well then it wasn’t. There was a building boom and everyone was working and making money then it went bust and everyone was broke and it all fell apart around them. The inhabitants of this disintegrating town tell the story to us. We hear the stories from different vantages and points of view and learn a little bit more from each view as we slowly see the whole bloody mess before us, the squalor, the madness, the pain. The men who are suddenly out of work, useless, drunk, and broke. The women who are commodities, get raped, become mothers, and eventually wrinkle and are forgotten and neglected. I found it a tale of honesty told with an Irish accent and as beautifully told as a story like this can be told. The spinning heart is a piece of metal that hangs on a gate door and needs to be scraped, repainted, and oiled as the wind has its way with this ornament that is the metaphor for each of the inhabitants of this village that clings to whatever love each can find in the moment. We learn about their individual hearts that are broken, ripped out, massaged, and left spinning.
The hub of this spoke is Bobby Mahon. He tells the first tale followed by the rest of the inhabitants. Bobby figures in each of their tales and on similar events of building and this one particular day. A modern day Ulysses one might think. Some want to be Bobby, some admire Bobby, some despise Bobby, Bobby is a little like Richard Cory, just not rich. We learn about Bobby from the point of view of his neighbors. The Spinning Heart is the Ballad of Bobby Mahon and is about what matters, Love.

Friday, April 11, 2014

the daylight gate by jeanette winterson

the daylight gate by jeanette winterson is a serendipitous find. “Already the light was thinning. Soon it would be dusk; the liminal hour – the Daylight Gate. He did not want to step through the light into whatever lay beyond the light.” His fear is the subject of this book: The Trial of the Lancashire Witches of 1612. Lancaster and environs in 1612 are all about witches. In 1986, I was fortunate to be given the chance to study my god, William Shakespeare, on his grounds that summer. My thesis was to explore what the man did to obtain such knowledge since he didn’t even finish what we would call high school. In Shakespeare scholarship, they are called the Lost Years. Some have speculated he was in and out of jail, in the army, traveled, and other such things that may have provided him fodder for his work. In my thesis, I proposed he was a tutor of some kind and that gave him access to the great works of the day, which also became the sources for so many of his plays and provided him further time in developing and fine tuning his own skills with words. Unlike his Oxford and Cambridge educated colleagues, he was a high school dropout who had amassed a great deal of knowledge. How did this happen? As a tutor access to knowledge seemed the obvious path he followed, but alas I had no proof, connections, or evidence to support my thesis. the daylight gate provides a story of Shakespeare being a tutor in the then Catholic Lancashire part of England.
“We ride at dawn to Hoghton Tower. There is a new play to be put on, written by William Shakespeare who has had great success in London. He was a tutor for a time at Hoghton Tower and, by gracious request, his play is to be performed there.” This book is about witchcraft and the horrible atrocities performed against the witches and what so many did to try to save themselves and didn’t save themselves. It was about religion, the Catholics and the Protestants and the ungodly and horrible things done by man against man in the name of a god. The play was The Tempest, about magic, about renewal and about forgiveness as love helps us pass it on and move to the next stage.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The October List by Jeffery Deaver

When I saw The October List by Jeffery Deaver on the NEW books shelf in the library, I had to grab a book with my birth month in the title, now didn’t I? I started at Chapter 36, 6:30 PM Sunday and read to Chapter 35 and then Chapter 34 and so on. “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards. Soren Kierkegaard” Oh no, not Kierkegaard. He gave me nightmares in college. Okay, I’m already down this rabbit hole, might as well proceed to Chapter 33 then 32 then 31…
This is very cool. We read the action and then in a chapter or two we read why and how the previous or future action happened. It’s slow motion in reverse, as Gabriela has to elude police and others to collect the October List, no one knows what it is and four hundred thousand dollars for the kidnapper of her daughter Sarah. The kidnapper, Joseph, is a deranged guy and Daniel a man Gabriela juts met is helping. Then there are the bumbling cops and a third party thug. This all goes pretty quickly on this dreary rainy day when suddenly I’m on Chapter 10 and the countdown begins to the source of all this adventure.
Follow the MacGuffin and be sure the kid is okay before you enter. What a brilliant scintillating novel. Now I think I will go back to some Kierkegaard better prepared, thanks, Jeffery.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Tender Bar by JR Moehringer

The Tender Bar by JR Moehringer is about how a bar saved this young man’s life, “I grew up 142 steps from a glorious old American tavern, and that has made all the difference.” JR’s early life is chaotic. He and his mother have their own place then because of bad finances they end up in his grandparent’s house, which is not a home. His mom moves to Arizona in hopes of starting again, only to find they have to return to Manhasset, NY. His dad is in and out and finally out of his young life and JR needs a man in his life. That is where Dickens comes in. Dickens is that tavern 142 steps from his grandparent’s house. His Uncle Charlie is a bartender there and he and his barfly buddies become JR’s man role models. To quote Uncle Charlie, this book is sublime. You don’t mind if I say ‘sublime’ do you?
JR played word games with the men. He liked words, but when he got turned on to books, that made all the difference. While strolling a half vacant mall in Arizona he went into a bookstore that didn’t have anyone at the register. He discovered the two owners hidden away in a backroom. They hired him to work the cash register because they were too busy reading. They got him to read John Cheever and other classic American authors because they were disgusted with what he didn’t know. They also suggested he go to Yale. So he went. Lucky he knew how to swim; otherwise he would have drowned.
Five days after he turned eighteen, he went to Publicans and had his first legal drink, a gin martini, followed by a few more. Back at school he falls in love, his studies falter, his heart is broken, mended, and he has a good conversation with a priest on Amtrak, and fails to open his mouth when he meets his hero, Frank Sinatra. JR in retrospect is always stumbling, quitting, falling and picking himself up dusting himself off and succeeding. The Leonard-Hagler fight is a good metaphor for his life, Follow?
This is the story of a boy becoming a man. Whether you are with your father as you grow up, you always need a team of men to raise you and most importantly that woman who bore you.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

White Fire by Preston & Child

White Fire by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child is all about fire and ice. The main story takes place in Roaring Fork, Colorado. This town was a successful silver mining operation in the 1880”s and is now a billionaire’s ski resort. A family from the old silver days is in charge of the new multi-million dollar plots of land.
In 1889, Oscar Wilde had passed through Roaring Fork and gave a lecture. He heard a horrific story about a bear eating miners but with a bizarre twist. He shared this with Conan Doyle when he returned to London. Doyle incorporated what he heard from Wilde, first in Hound of the Baskervilles and then in an unpublished story a couple of months before he died.
Corrie is a rebellious student at John Jay College in NYC who discovers a path to follow her forensic dream to win a scholarship. She is going to investigate the miners who were eaten by the bear. As she runs into obstacles in Colorado, her guardian angel FBI Agent Pendergast comes to her rescue as does a recently discharged Air Force Captain, Stacy Bowdree, a descendent of one of the original miners mauled by the bear in the 1880’s.
The past and present mingle as archives are searched, closed, stolen, and clues to the solution. In the middle of this we are regaled with the previously unpublished Sherlock Holmes’ “The Adventure of Aspern Hill.” Pendergast has Holmesian qualities and they both solve this case. Dangerous Work by Arthur Conan Doyle about his early life in the Arctic is mentioned in this novel and was reviewed by me last June.
White Fire is a masterpiece, beautifully written, loaded with literary gems from Doyle, Wilde, and Frost. It contains luscious scenery and is loaded with historical references that cause us to pause. Keeping it simple we are our own worst enemies and sometimes the evildoers can be victims themselves.