I discovered Susan Isaacs when I googled her name, expecting to find the web site of the novelist Susan Isaacs (not the same one). Instead I stumbledI discovered Susan Isaacs when I googled her name, expecting to find the web site of the novelist Susan Isaacs (not the same one). Instead I stumbled upon Isaacs' great blog (Gray Matter). She is one funny and snarky Christian.
At the church I attend (which is a Lutheran-Catholic community, one of a kind in the world as far as we know), we like to joke about the fact that Catholics are not the only ones who experience guilt. Susan Isaacs' "snarky but authentic spiritual memoir" proves that point. Isaacs was raised as a Lutheran and over her adulthood sampled a wide variety of Christian flavors, which in the end turned her off to Christianity, at least for a time.
The book cleverly intersperses Isaacs' accounting of her childhood (including that awful Kirsten in her Lutheran school who made her life a misery!) and subsequent life trying to make it as an actress and writer, with her "marriage counseling" sessions with God (the Father), and the saintly Norwegian Jesus in that famous painting.
Along the way, she dabbles with anorexia, bulimia, and alcoholism, and as she says, she became a slut (by sleeping with two guys). She feels great guilt over everything, even for feeling guilty--because, after all, aren't her troubles middle-class white girl troubles? I CAN relate to that--feeling guilty about feeling sorry for myself.
I too grew up Lutheran, belonged to the Luther League (even though my Luther League was full of nerds like me, unlike Isaacs I loved it!), and my freshman year at PLU dabbled in 7/11 churches full of "James Dobson mix tapes" until I attended a bible study, where the other girls told me my Jewish friend would go to hell. That was when I walked out and never went back.
I too had a dark night of the soul when I had to throw out "God the Father" and a spiritual moment when I realized I needed to replace him with a different version of God (which, in my mind, was a Creator God).
I enjoyed this book--Isaacs has a refreshing style of writing--but I did feel sorry for her, wasting so many years on SO MUCH GUILT...and on an angry "God the Father." I can understand how she felt empty being with men who didn't really understand her, but to feel so much guilt about premarital sex? As even God said (in her counseling session), 40-year-old women are not meant to be celibate!
I also couldn't relate to Isaacs' image of a marriage with God, and feeling that she needed to love God more than anything or anyone else in her life. I know that's what a lot of (especially fundamentalist) Christian churches say, but for me, I experience God through the love of others. They are not mutually exclusive. God is not a big white man up in the sky for me--he is not someone I'm married to or need to go to marriage counseling with. I don't need to love God more than I love my husband, children, family, and friends. They are one in the same, for me.
Ultimately, though, Isaacs' memoir is funny, snarky, and real. I'm glad she found happiness and contentment (in the epilogue)!...more
I really enjoyed this collection of essays by a Korean-American woman who grew up in LA with her crazy family. It made me feel that my own family is rI really enjoyed this collection of essays by a Korean-American woman who grew up in LA with her crazy family. It made me feel that my own family is really boring!! I especially loved her stories about her stuffed animals, her parents forgetting her birthday, traveling in Korea with her mom, visiting her awful grandma, and her mother's bout with breast cancer. Choi has a great narrator's voice and a wonderful way of making fun of herself and her lovable family, in an affectionate way....more
I was drawn to this book because of my own German background, and also the fact that my parents lived in Bavaria (where Bradley was from) before I wasI was drawn to this book because of my own German background, and also the fact that my parents lived in Bavaria (where Bradley was from) before I was born. I've never actually been to Germany, although I studied German in high school and college.
Bradley perceptively lays out some of the differences in German and American culture, and she clearly struggled with some of the decisions her parents made during her childhood.
Bradley is haunted by her family's possible connections during the war, and decisions made by her fellow Germans. I found it interesting because I too have often wondered about myself what I would have done had I been living in Hitler's Germany. I would hope that I would have been one of those sheltering and helping Jews, but it's hard to imagine living in those desperate, dangerous times.
Bradley was a fiercely independent and strong woman in her youth (she left Germany and became a flight attendant for Pan-Am when she was 21 years old), and dedicated herself to her career and profession so that she could establish her own identity separate from her family.
She described her bout with breast cancer sensitively...the most touching scene in the book was when she was trying on a suit in a department store and explained to the store clerk that she wasn't sure how it would fit because of her prosthesis, and the clerk told her she too was a cancer survivor and had reconstructive surgery done. They went into the dressing room and showed each other their breasts for comparison. This is such a great story about the way that women can rapidly move from strangers to intimacy in a matter of moments.
I did not previously know much about Bill Bradley, but given his support of his wife during her bout with cancer, and the way he raised his daughter, I'm sure he would have been a compassionate and principled president.
WAIT!!! UPDATE!!! I take back that last paragraph. I just read about Bill Bradley on Wikipedia, and I discovered that he left Ernestine in July 2007! I can't find out much more information on the web except that later last year he was frequently seen with a blonde woman who had just divorced her husband. What a disappointment after having just finished the book! So much for being a compassionate and principled president......more
This is only the second Bill Bryon book I've read, the first being A Walk in the Woods, which I read three years ago. Bill Bryson lived in England for 20 years after marrying a British woman, and before moving to the United States, he took a 6-week trip traveling around Britain and chronicling his trip. I read this for my book group, and we had a great evening discussing the book, especially as we have a British woman in our book group. It's a love story to Britain--even though it was published in the mid-1990s, so much still applies. Here are some memorable thoughts from the book:
--The charming way the British react to tea and a plate of biscuits: "ooh lovely!"
--Bryson writes about how unfortunate it is that communism was left to the Russians instead of the British, who "clearly would have managed it so much better." He talks about their ability to go without, how they are great at pulling together in the face of adversity for a perceived common good...how they "queue patiently for indefinite periods and accept with rare fortitude the imposition of rationing, bland diets, and sudden inconvenient shortages." He goes on about how they are "comfortable with faceless bureaucracies, tolerant of dictatorships (as Margaret Thatcher proved), will wait uncomplainingly for years for an operation or delivery of a household appliance." They have a "natural gift for making excellent, muttered jokes about authority without ever actually challenging it...they derive universal satisfaction from the sight of the rich and powerful brought low...most of those above the age of 28 already dress like East Germans. Britain would have done it properly, taken it in stride, with good heart, and without excessive cheating."
--He says that the British are easy to please: "They have so little idea of their own virtues, and nowhere is this more true than with their own happiness. Easy to please...like their pleasures small...so many of their treats are cautiously flavorful...they are the only people in the world who think of jam and currants as thrilling constituents of a pudding or cake...offer them something genuinely tempting (a slice of gateau or a choice of chocolates), and they will nearly always hesitate and begin to worry that it's unwarranted and excessive, as if any pleasure beyond a very modest throshold is vaguely unseemly. 'Oh, I shouldn't really...'"
--In the late 1980s the European Union issued a directive about standards of ocean-borne sewage on beaches, and nearly every British seaside town failed to come anywhere near the minimum compliance levels. So instead of cleaning them up, the Thatcher government decided that Britain would not have any "beaches." Nowadays, they are labeled beaches, but they still have a serious sewage problem. I'll remember this next time we go to a British seaside!
--One of my favorite anecdotes was when he visited a pub in Glasgow and couldn't understand a thing the bartender was saying...such as "D'ye hae a hoo and a poo?" "D'ye nae hae in May? If ye dinna dock ma donny." "Doon in Troon they croon in June, wi' a spoon."
I actually enjoyed the anecdotes and thoughts about Britain and the British more than the traveling bits. Bryson gets a bit grumpy at times, but it's clear that he really loves Great Britain. He ends the book with this:
“Suddenly, in the space of a moment, I realized what it was that I loved about Britain - which is to say, all of it. Every last bit of it, good and bad - Marmite, village fetes, country lanes, people saying 'mustn't grumble' and 'I'm terribly sorry but,' people apologizing to me when I conk them with a nameless elbow, milk in bottles, beans on toast, haymaking in June, stinging nettles, seaside piers, Ordnance Survey maps, crumpets, hot-water bottles as a necessity, drizzly Sundays - every bit of it.
What a wondrous place this was - crazy as fuck, of course, but adorable to the tiniest degree. What other country, after all, could possibly have come up with place names like Tooting Bec and Farleigh Wallop, or a game like cricket that goes on for three days and never seems to start? Who else would think it not the least odd to make their judges wear little mops on their heads, compel the Speaker of the House of Commons to sit on something called the Woolsack, or take pride in a military hero whose dying wish was to be kissed by a fellow named Hardy? ('Please Hardy, full on the lips, with just a bit of tongue.') What other nation in the world could possibly have given us William Shakespeare, pork pies, Christopher Wren, Windsor Great Park, the Open University, Gardners' Question Time and the chocolate digestive biscuit? None, of course.
How easily we lose sight of all this. What an enigma Britain will seem to historians when they look back on the second half of the twentieth century. Here is a country that fought and won a noble war, dismantled a mighty empire in a generally benign and enlightened way, created a far-seeing welfare state - in short, did nearly everything right - and then spent the rest of the century looking on itself as a chronic failure. The fact is that this is still the best place in the world for most things - to post a letter, go for a walk, watch television, buy a book, venture out for a drink, go to a museum, use the bank, get lost, seek help, or stand on a hillside and take in a view.
All of this came to me in the space of a lingering moment. I've said it before and I'll say it again. I like it here. I like it more than I can tell you.” ...more
I read this book several years ago, but it made a strong impression on me. I'd recommend it for anyone who has had an ill relative or loved one, especI read this book several years ago, but it made a strong impression on me. I'd recommend it for anyone who has had an ill relative or loved one, especially a child. It screams out for the necessity of family-centered health care!
Now that my oldest son has developed epilepsy, I need to go back and reread this treasure....more