Teachers are going to say, "Danza didn't even get a dose of what we deal with. One class, one year..." Danza, however, fully acknowledges that point..Teachers are going to say, "Danza didn't even get a dose of what we deal with. One class, one year..." Danza, however, fully acknowledges that point.. As a cheerleader for teachers, we would be hard pressed to find one more sincere than Tony Danza. I also applaud his guts in going back to try the road untaken. When Danza graduated college he did so with the intention of teaching history, but felt he wasn't mature enough to teach. His life took another course. Danza's book is heartfelt. He really did give teaching his all. Yeah, sure there was a TV connection, but that wasn't his draw. I think one of the things this book thoroughly illustrates is that programs like Teach for America do not prepare teachers for the realities of teaching. With more training, I think he could be a fine teacher. He has a passion for the job and his subject, literature, and a big heart. However, was a millionaire pushing 60, it's not a gig I would take. Oddly, Danza cried more in one year of teaching than I have in 15. Oh well. All and all this is a quick and interesting enough book....more
Ji-Li Jiang's memoir of her young girl year during the Cultural Revolution is riveting, horrifying, deeply moving account. At the end of her elementarJi-Li Jiang's memoir of her young girl year during the Cultural Revolution is riveting, horrifying, deeply moving account. At the end of her elementary school days, Ji-Li was the girl most likely to succeed, star student, martial art performer, and student body leader. Before the school year is out Mao's Cultural Revolution takes hold upturning her world and home. Her star status as a student is held against her by young revolutionaries. Her family background as former landlords leads to the family's descent into a political hell.
Written in a spare style, Jiang captures her emotional struggle to be loyal to her family while still trying to prove herself do be an "educable child" despite her family's "black" status in a way that will touch young readers. As a tender hearted child Ji-Li also struggles to balance her own revolutionary zeal with her horror of the persecution of her neighbors. A few years ago I had a 12 year old student who never read anything but Manga, rarely did her work, and had a litany of discipline issues. She was just too cool for school. I suppose I should add she happened to be one of my favorites despite all that. I spent half a year trying to keep out of trouble and the other half cheering her on as she began to pull herself up to star student status herself. That year Ji-Li came to our school to speak to the 7th graders. My student was so excited; she had a list of questions. At the end of Jiang's presentations she stood up, tears in her eyes, and called out, "I love you Ji-Li Jiang! Peace!" My girl seems to have read at least book before, and Jiang's book was that one. Little Miss Cool was so touched by the book she had actually read it several times. Now that I have read it myself I understand my student's response entirely. I too love Ji-Li. Still love that kid too even though she was a major pain for most of the year. ...more
In Home Cooking, a slight book which is somewhere between cookbook and memoir, Laurie Colwin chats, pontificates and eases the mind on all things kitcIn Home Cooking, a slight book which is somewhere between cookbook and memoir, Laurie Colwin chats, pontificates and eases the mind on all things kitchen. She is very opinionated in the nicest possible way. I like that about her. She eats whole bags of red peppers walking home, manages to throw dinner parties in a Greenwich Village apartment so small she has to wash her dishes in a basin in the bathtub, and loves English food. There are recipes in every chapter, though not exactly calibrated, unless you do well with instructions such as "put it in the oven and bake it as long as you like to bake chicken." I have a horror of having guests keel over from salmonella, so I get very nervous about chicken. Very nervous. One winter when there heating was out she decided to keep things warm by baking beans. She didn't have a lid, so she made one of dough. Imagine! Then she made Boston brown bread. An anti-food channel, celebrity chef (she died before these really took hold) Laurie Colwin had no problem serving brown bread and baked beans, chili and potato salad to guests. She loved having friends about and she loved feeding them. This I understand. ...more
Then Again is an impressive memoir of an insightful woman attempting to come to terms with her life through, at least partly, by holding it to the priThen Again is an impressive memoir of an insightful woman attempting to come to terms with her life through, at least partly, by holding it to the prism of her mother's life. Keaton is such a remarkable woman. Quite honestly, I don't understand many of the reviews that people have written here about this book. I admire her even more after reading her memoir than I did before. It is a testament to how much I am fond of her persona that I read this at all. I have only read one other Hollywood biography or memoir, Audrey Hepburn's. Hepburn is a woman both Keaton and I admire. Anyhow, as I said I have always been intrigued by and fond of the Diane Keaton persona. Now I admire the person....more
I started out hating...loathing this cookbook which is the next one that our cookbook club is using. The recipes seemed too odd, just too-too. As I fiI started out hating...loathing this cookbook which is the next one that our cookbook club is using. The recipes seemed too odd, just too-too. As I first leafed through it I thought, "there is absolutely NOTHING in here that I would ever want to try. With subsequent journeys into it, my attitude changed somewhat, but this will never be a go-to cookbook for me. Many of the recipes fall more into the curiosity realm rather than "let's make that for dinner tonight" one. This quality is in part because of the lack of availability of many of the ingredients. Perhaps in a more urban area one would be able to find some of the ingredients more readily. The travel aspect was interesting enough, but the author' voice, a blend of cute and hip, was at times annoying. Perhaps I will change my opinion about the recipes as I make more of them for the club meetings. Quite honestly, I am not seeing that many that I really am excited about trying. ...more
With Howard's End is on the Landing Susan Hill offers an amiable, chatty look at books she has loved, loathed and left unread. Her rambles take the reWith Howard's End is on the Landing Susan Hill offers an amiable, chatty look at books she has loved, loathed and left unread. Her rambles take the reader back to her childhood in Scarborough, to her college years in London and through her years as a writer and radio personality. Through these years she managed to meet a great number of the book world elite, from dashing Ian Fleming to the formidable Sitwells. These remembrances, some of which were very slight, at the library, E. M. Forster dropped a book on her foot, may seem to some to be just so much name-dropping. However, they really work both to support her contention that so many of these gods of li-tra-tra were kind, helpful and immanently human, well Edith Sitwell wasn't, and to develop the chatty tone. Honestly, if I happen to be chatting with you about the rock scene of the late '70, I will just have to tell you about the time Elvis Costello's keyboard player touched my arm or the time I had a brief but lovely conversation with Brian Wilson. I would do so for these reasons. One to show my own giddy, star struck nature at 16, the other to show the gentle sweetness of the Wilson. And, well that is what people do when they chat. Hill in her chattiness shares a wealth of opinions and reading foibles. Some of those opinions are bound to raise eyebrows; she can't find pleasure in Austen. She has strong - and, I think, silly,views on book plates and cataloging ones books. One view which I was glad to hear voiced was her attitude towards new books which is similar to mine. We both prefer to avoid them in their newly minted state to wait until, as she puts it, "the dust has settled." As with her name-dropping her rather ruthless bandying of views enhances the friendly, volubility of the tone. Though, I deeply pity her inability to enjoy Austen rather like I pity my son's color blindness.
As one would expect, Hill has added new names to my never shortening list of must reads. I suppose my final analysis would be that it was an amiable way to spent a very hot summer day thanks to its gregarious tone, but Hill provided me with no ah-ha or aw moments....more
Lewis-Kraus's pilgrimage might have been yet another young man in search of himself, a modern Kerouac with more direction, but I had the sense that th
Lewis-Kraus's pilgrimage might have been yet another young man in search of himself, a modern Kerouac with more direction, but I had the sense that the author was more in search of something other than himself. As Huston Smith warned in his work on the world's religions, "The self is too small an object for perpetual enthusiasm." After a few years caught up in the live for the moment decadence of Berlin, Lewis-Kraus craved something more, something that would at once take him inward and outward. For one, he deals with a long simmering discontent with his relationship with his father, a gay former rabbi whose "coming out of the closet" left his son with a sense of abandonment, possibly of even never having been wanted. I do not want to reveal what the author finds out on his journeys since these unfolding revelations, along with his trenchant often self-deprecating humor, are the glories of this book. His new found sense of self, family and kinship with the world outside himself is hard fought for and seems to have cost him about a pound of flesh, mostly from his feet. Of the pilgrimages, the one he makes to Uman with his father and brother delighted me the most, but all are well pace, funny and thoughtful. Lewis-Kraus is by terms endearing, obnoxious, generous, bigoted, peevish, but always searching. Odd thing happened when I was reading the Uman section, though this really says more about another book than this one, I am sharing it since shows what really good writing can do. As Lewis-Kraus and his father deal with the mass of Hasidic Jews I wondered if he knew Cass Seltzer since they were both writers who had dealt with the theme of messianic Judaism. Mind jogged on a bit to remember that this was impossible since Seltzer was the ficitonal creation of Rebecca Newberger Goldstein. I was so wound up in the very real account of Gideon's bewilderment with all that was around him that my brain lapsed into that space were the real and imagined collide. And of course, ever since I first met him, Cass Seltzer, despite his non-existence, has always been a real to me as if he were so.
When I read a memoir, I suppose I expect some wisdom, some reason for the memoir's being other than to give an accounting of a life. With The Glass CaWhen I read a memoir, I suppose I expect some wisdom, some reason for the memoir's being other than to give an accounting of a life. With The Glass Castle I get no sense of purpose other than answering the author's own need to tell her story. This is why there is fiction, that blessed thing once described as fact rearranged and charged with a purpose. I walk away from this book, honestly, I skipped a good bit of the middle, with nothing from the experience of reading it other than having read "Atrocious Childhood #105." Why? To shock, to appall, to use the public for a therapy session? Compared to wise and wonderful memoirs such as Patchett's Truth and Beauty, or the recent memoir by Elisabeth Tova Bailey, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating this book fails to do more than shock and arouse disgust and pity. It leaves me asking, "Why?" It is well written, but again, why?...more
Midsummer found me felled by strep and reading two books which were rather taxing for my condition. Thus I picked up My Life in Paris which was a bettMidsummer found me felled by strep and reading two books which were rather taxing for my condition. Thus I picked up My Life in Paris which was a better fit for a bedridden and feverish reader. While the book lagged at time, it was enjoyable....more
Every once in a while a little book, one filled with stillness and quiet, odd things in our modern world, will come along and rock me to the core, teaEvery once in a while a little book, one filled with stillness and quiet, odd things in our modern world, will come along and rock me to the core, tearing back curtains and making things a bit more clear. One thing that was very clear to me as I read The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, was that I really, really, really want a snail of my own. And I may never again eat one. You can learn an awful lot about snails from this tiny book. For instance, if one listens carefully one can actually hear them chewing with their 2000 plus teeth. That's right 2000 plus. And another thing, they are hermaphrodites. Mainly I learned that every little thing is worth of our attention, and with proper attention can even save us.
The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is a lovely book. The premise seems grim as the author's situation is worse than imaginable. She is bedridden, even unable to sit up. Her visits to the doctor must be made in a prone position. A good day is one where her caregiver takes her to her doctor and then runs errand. Watching the people come and go from the back window of the car is a joy. One day a friend finds a little woodland snail which she puts in a pot alongside a wild violet. When the friend she is annoyed since she cannot even take care of herself, let alone another creature. What she finds is that the snail requires very little care and is amusing to watch. As time goes by, her careful observation of the snail helps her to better understand her own place in the world and how she might live with purpose despite her greatly diminished abilities. Readers who have enjoyed Annie Dillard or Colette with their closely observed memoirs and description of their natural world will very likely delight in this elegant and small, but very wise book...more