Tag Archives: book

The Arts

An excerpt from “A Man Without a Country” by Kurt Vonnegut

“If you want to really hurt your parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts.  I am not kidding.  The arts are not a way to make a living.  They are a very human way of making life more bearable.  Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake.  Sing in the shower.  Dance to the radio.  Tell stories.  Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem.  Do it as well as you possibly can.  You will get an enormous reward.  you will have created something.”

My Last Book by James Patterson

Yesterday I finished the book “Don’t Blink” by James Patterson.  The raves for the book on the second page include “The man is a master of his genre” by Larry King, and “When it comes to constructing a harrowing plot, author James Patterson can turn a screw all right” by New York Daily News.  Millions of copies sold worldwide, dozens of his books are filling up the libraries’ shelves at any given time.  Yet, I vowed not to read another James Patterson masterpiece ever again.   I am not going to be joining an expanding army of fans and admirers of an acclaimed author. I am not going to be contributing to his over $300M empire.

Nick is a great guy, a talented journalist, single, but hopelessly in love with his boss, who has chosen to marry the uber wealthy guy instead.  But he loves her anyway, because she is his best friend, gorgeous, and deserves to be happy.  Nick is handsome, brave, ready to threw a punch or two if necessary,  has a dry sense of humor, and a kind heart.  He  can also escape a bullet shot at a close range, jump from the speeding train while holding 14 year old girl in his arms, and run with a super speed among many other things that none of us -average folks- should ever “try at home”.  His brain is so sharp, that he would outsmart any enemy, including two mobsters and a professional killer.  As people around him meet their cruel and untimely deaths he would not give in to sadness; he has a mission to accomplish, since nobody but him could stand up to evil.  He would crack a charming smile while spitting buckets of blood, because the delicate lady’s hand caressing the fresh wound works better then any painkiller.  He is sensitive, yet tough; vulnerable, yet brutal.  He is the men every woman would follow to the end of the world and back.  Of course, he would end up making a good income while doing what he loves, but that’s just how the life usually goes, doesn’t it?

You would think that the men like that is hard to find.  Not if you read James Patterson novels.  All of his protagonists are like that – comes with the job description.   Then they finally conquer the women of their dreams, start making an obscene amount of money, and help every single friend or a family member to obtain a suitable life partner along the way.   The fairy tale for adults, in which the adjectives are scarce, the chapters are short and the moral of the story is absent is called “commercial fiction”.  I did not know this term until yesterday when I was curious to find out the secret to James Patterson’s success.

I also found out that he published about 10 books last year, and were planning on another 9-13 this year.   His productivity is even more impressive than his main characters’ survival skills, since many amazing authors publish that many books in the course of their whole careers. Are they lazy, don’t like storytelling as much, or are not interesting in making money?  Why does it take them years to write a book while James Patterson is doing it in a month?   What’s the secret?

The secret is that Mr. Patterson is writing an outline, then he hires others to do the rest.  He reviews the copy and makes corrections while his publisher is waiting anxiously to bring the next bestseller to the store near you.  Can you imagine Lev Tolstoy or Hemingway doing that?  Can you imagine an artist doing the basic sketch and hiring another painter to do the oil part?

James Patterson is not in a business of touching people’s souls,  he is in a business of increasing his bottom line.   He is a Wal-Mart of literature, a one-night stand, a “made in China”.  And even though the demand for it is huge, and it works quite well for many, it is what it is – the low quality product.   His books are a good way to kill time, and there is nothing wrong with that.  However, he is not an author or a writer, and everybody who says otherwise is engaged in a false advertising.

The Storm

An excerpt from “Memories of my Melancholy Whores” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (my latest obsession)

At dusk I faced the rainstorm, whose hurricane-force winds threatened to blow down the house.  I suffered an attack of sneezing, my skull hurt, and I had a fever, but I felt possessed by a strength and determination I’d never had at any age or for any reason.  I put pots on the floor under the leaks and realized that new ones had appeared since the previous winter.  The largest had begun to flood the right side of the library.  I hurried to rescue the Greek and Latin authors who lived there, but when I removed the books I discovered a stream spurting at high pressure from a broken pipe along the bottom of the wall.  I did what I could to pack it with rags to give me time to save the books.  The deafening noise of the rain and the howling of the wind intensified in the park.  Then a phantasmal flash of lightning and a simultaneous clap of thunder saturated the air with a strong sulfur odor, the wind destroyed the balcony’s window panes, and the awful sea squall broke the locks and came inside the house.  And yet, in less than ten minutes, the sky cleared all at once.  A splendid sun dried the streets filled with stranded trash, and the heat returned.

When the storm had passed I still had the felling I was not alone in the house.  My only explanation is that just as real events are forgotten, some that never were can be in our memories as if they had happened.  For if I evoked the emergency of the rainstorm, I did not see myself alone in the house but always accompanied by Delgadina.  I had felt her so close during the night that I detected the sound of her breath in the bedroom and the throbbing of her cheek on my pillow.  It was the only way I could understand how we could have done so much in so short a time.  I remembered standing on the library footstool and I remembered her awake in her little flowered dress taking the books from me to put them in a safe place.  I saw her running from one end of the house to the other battling the storm, drenched with the rain and in water up to her ankles.  I remembered how the next day she prepared a breakfast that never was and set the table while I dried the floors and imposed order on the shipwreck of the house.  I never forgot her somber look as we were eating:  Why were you so old when we met?  I answered with the truth:  Age isn’t how old you are but how old you feel.

“Last Train To Paris”

“Last Train to Paris” by Michele Zackheim had a profound effect on me.  It made me feel, Unknown-5experience, think; it swallowed me, touching every single string of my soul.  This book is not on a bestsellers list, and I doubt it would ever be.   Too honest, too brutal, too tragic.  For men it is too womanly, for women – too harsh.

The desperation and anxiety in pre-war Paris and Berlin, where R.B. Manon (Rose) – the correspondent for Paris Courier worked, was palpable.   The lively, dynamic cities became gloomy and dangerous; the people were turning into “ghosts” trying to escape the atrocities that Third Reich was planning for them.  Every character had his own story, but all of them had one thing in common – the sense of despair and hopelessness at the sight of the enormous war machine that was about to crash them, to break them and their lives into pieces.

There were also Rose’s estranged childhood and complicated relationship with her mother, her love affair with Jewish swastika engraver Leon, her coming back to her Jewish roots in the middle of “Aryans’ cleansing campaign” , and numerous moral dilemmas she had to face.

“Last Train to Paris” is one of the best works of fiction about the WWII I’ve ever read.

Sex, Drugs, & Gefilte Fish

9780446504621-1This was the classic case of judging the book by its cover.  Please don’t judge me for judging the book by its cover.  I had to read it.  We are a chosen nation.  We don’t do sex and drugs, we do prescribed meds and procreation (most jews don’t even like gefilte fish).  Our primary goal is to increase the jewish population on Earth, not to engage in various not approved by Rabbi activities.

It is a collection of stories by Jewish writers and comedians about their personal experiences in different aspects of life related to being Jewish.    It is hilarious, yet tender, and will make you blush and cry at the same time.   From the story where a 15 year old was confronted by Israeli soldiers during his first sexual encounter, to a proud mom organizing her son’s Bar Mitzvah on a limited budget in an upscale neighborhood, to a writer trying to persuade his 80 something grandma to vote for a black President; each story is filled with love and family values.

This book is a very enjoyable read, whether you are Jewish or not.