The Soloist is the true story of Steve Lopez's experience with a homeless, schizophrenic who also happens to be an amazingly talented musician on theThe Soloist is the true story of Steve Lopez's experience with a homeless, schizophrenic who also happens to be an amazingly talented musician on the streets of Los Angeles . Steve Lopez, a journalist with the L.A. Times, met Nathanial Ayers on Skid Row in L.A. Lopez was looking for a story for his newspaper column, and Ayers was a homeless man playing a violin, quite well, with only two strings. As Lopez spoke to Ayers a reference was made to Julliard, so Lopez began investigating. He was initially told no one named Nathanial Ayers had attended Julliard, but the information was later corrected. A Nathanial Ayers actually did attend for two years in the 70s before having to leave for "personal" reasons. Those "personal reasons" were the onset of schizophrenia. What started out as a mere story concept grew in to much more than Lopez ever imagined. This is the story of their friendship.
The Soloist is presently a movie starring Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey, Jr. I have not seen the movie so I cannot comment on the depiction of the story through the film. But the book is a rather amazing look at schizophrenia from a close "outsiders" experience. I word that as such because Lopez never really seems to be able to get completely "inside" with Ayers. There will always be a part of Ayers' world that Lopez will never have access to.
Lopez's writing is filled with musical language. And he says a lot through those words, but I also find myself wanting more of the story. To be fair, this is probably due to my love of the fiction story where there is very little gap. But The Soloist is composed more like a series of newspaper columns tacked together in sequential order. Because both men are so fascinating, I want to know more about each of them; I want to know about the time that occurs in between those columns.
The story takes the reader through an array of emotions. There is happiness at successes, fear and heartbreak at failures, mortification at the condition that exists for homeless people TODAY on our very streets, and elation at the generosity that people will show one another. There is also an awareness of a disease that is debilitating and unpredictable and even controversial, at least the issues connected to the disease are controversial.
This is not a book that is full of action, moving you to fly through the pages. Instead it is a book full of humanity that makes you savor each and every word. Lopez says, "From paranoia to poetry, sirens to violins, madness to genius. Nathanial's life is opera." Lopez has created the sheet music for that opera and it is titled The Soloist....more
Playing With the Enemy is a true story about Gary Moore's father, Warren Eugene "Gene" Moore. Gene was a boy from small-town Illinois who had an amaziPlaying With the Enemy is a true story about Gary Moore's father, Warren Eugene "Gene" Moore. Gene was a boy from small-town Illinois who had an amazing talent for baseball. He was an incredible catcher, could hit the ball out of the park, and he was a born leader. As one of the youngest on his baseball team at The Lumberyard, he encouraged and motivated his older teammates to work together.
Gene didn't go unnoticed. The Brooklyn Dodgers stood up and took notice before Gene was old enough to play in their professional league. They signed him and put him in a farm team where he could hone his skills until he was old enough to be moved up. However, World War II came along and threw a wrench in THOSE plans.
This book is the story of Gene's experiences in baseball, in war, and beyond. He kept these experiences a secret from his children until the day before his unexpected death. Gary retells the story of his father's life as his father told it to him. Probably his very last gift to Gary.
Jim Morris writes the Forward to this book and he says, "Playing With the Enemy is a book about many things on many levels, but to me, it is a heartwarming story about what we do with second changes." While I agree with this, for me the book was also about the power of a love. In this case it was a love for baseball. This love has the power to bond, the power to overcome, and the power to scar.
Playing With the Enemy is about a LOVE of baseball. And I'm not talking about what you see in the Major Leagues. Unfortunately I think the love is lost there - players/coaches/owners/managers are too in love with themselves and with money to remember the love they had for the game. This is about a true, unadulterated love of the institution of baseball. As Gene says,
"...and that's what I love about baseball. When you step onto that field, the size of the man is determined by his heart, not his height."
When that love is present, the members of the team DO come together and form a family bond. As with any family, there's often a member that functions like the glue...keeping all the pieces together when times turn rough. Gene was that glue for his teams. I admired that quality above all else in him. Every team needs a Gene Moore. What's more, Sesser, Illinois, needed Gene Moore as well. Gene was growing up at the tail end of the Depression. Sesser was a very poor town and they had very little, but Gene was able to motivated and inspire them as well as his teammates.
Playing with the Enemy is a non-fiction work written like a fiction work. I often found myself thinking, "Wow! I don't think a professional fiction writer could have come up with the likes of this man's story." Isn't it amazing how sometimes life can create irony and suspense better than our own imaginations?
Gene Moore touched the lives of many. And his inspiration continues to be passed along to others through this book. He has inspired me!...more
For some crazy reason, when I requested this book from the library, I thought it was historical fiction. But it is actually non-fiction. Diane AckermaFor some crazy reason, when I requested this book from the library, I thought it was historical fiction. But it is actually non-fiction. Diane Ackerman pieces together the life of Jan and Antonina Zabinski, Polish Christian zookeepers, from Antonina's diary and other historical sources. This husband and wife team managed to save over 300 people during World War II by temporarily hiding them in the zoo and then moving them out to safe hiding places.
The main focus of the book is on the Zabinski's but Ackerman also veers away from this family and presents a lot of outlying facts concerning the war, Warsaw, and other individuals. It does not read like a memoir or like a diary. It leans more toward a reference book or a text book, which made it a little harder for me to read and follow. While the diary was a source of information for the book, only small segments are reproduced here.
While I have read many accounts of people's experiences during World War II, this was a unique perspective for me. This was primarily through the eyes of the Christians in Poland, Warsaw specifically. Jan Zabinski was active in the Warsaw underground during this time, and while the Poles were definitely not treated as poorly as the Jews, they were second-class citizens (at best) in the eyes of the Germans. The Zabinskis were creative in the ways they came up with to be of use to the Germans. This in turn allowed them the ability to hide and aide many Jewish people.
Being that animal-lover that I am, it was extremely difficult for me to read about what the Germans did to the animals of the zoo. How a group of people could have had such utter disregard for human and animal life is astonishing to me. The hate these people were able to harbor is so mortifying.
While the book wasn't what I was expecting it to be. I did enjoy the experience and have broadened my understanding a little more for this time period and the people affected by it. ...more
This would be a great book for someone who is brand new to blogs. However, most of the ideas presented were ones I've either tried myself or have seenThis would be a great book for someone who is brand new to blogs. However, most of the ideas presented were ones I've either tried myself or have seen other people use on their blogs. I picked up a couple tips, but just checking out other people's blogs has probably given me more ideas....more
John Berendt spends time in Venice, Italy while a major arson investigation is taking place. Like Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, this book iJohn Berendt spends time in Venice, Italy while a major arson investigation is taking place. Like Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, this book is non-fiction, but written in the style of fiction.
At times I felt a bit like a voyeur in this book: looking into the lives of the Venetians. It was an interesting perspective, however. I often times had the impression of a high school click: only the members of the “in” crowd are accepted, gossip abounds and so many want to be the center of attention, especially when it came to the Save Venice ordeal. And poor Mario Stefani was one who tried and tried to fit into that crowd, but never felt that he did. It also made me wonder how Berendt managed to infiltrate this clique.
The history of the city is fascinating. I loved the sections that covered Ezra Pound and Henry James. I wasn’t aware of the literary history of the city.
It was also interesting to see the way the police handled the arson investigation – all their uses of recording devices and how much of that information was used against the accused. Quite different from our courts.
While the information was very interesting, the book went pretty slow for me. It took me a bit longer than usual to finish this one. ...more
I am opting not to give this book a star rating. The story that is being told is worthy of 10 stars. The writing doesn't live up to the story, but itI am opting not to give this book a star rating. The story that is being told is worthy of 10 stars. The writing doesn't live up to the story, but it isn't so bad you can't get past it. This is definitely a book everyone should read.
Greg Mortenson's failure to summit K2 in Pakistan led him to the small village of Korphe where he witnessed children doing their school lessons outside in the cold unsupervised. The village couldn't afford a sheltered building or a full-time teacher. When the teacher wasn't present, the students practiced their lessons by drawing them in the dirt with sticks. This scene was the catalyst for Greg's life work. He set out on a mission to raise enough money - $12,000 - to build a school for this village. And then one school turned into a bridge, a school, a women's center...and then the projects started to spread to other Pakistani villages and ultimately to Afghanistan.
What this man accomplished - is still accomplishing - and his vision are absolutely incredible. He is by all definitions a true hero. He did not set out to teach Pakistani children (especially girls) to think like American children, but rather he set out to provide them with a means to get a well-rounded education, to have a chance in life. He respected their beliefs and accepted who they were as a people. Because of that, the people rallied around him and provided the labor, the support, the safety that was necessary to improve their ways of life without destroying their beliefs. Mortenson himself has lived in virtual poverty, has been kidnapped, and has spent many months each year away from his own family to accomplish this goal.
Mortenson had - still has - a view of the Middle East that most Americans never see, and he shares a small window of that view in this book. It is something we all need to see, so we aren't making the same mistakes we've made in the past. Mortenson believes that the kind of education he is helping these people to earn is what will be the strongest force against terrorism; the strongest force for promoting peace. I agree - whole-heartedly.
If you have not read this book, find a copy: order if from your bookstore, check it out from the library, borrow it from a friend. You will not regret it. I will admit that the writer, David Oliver Relin, is a bit on the verbose side. The first half of the book contains a lot of unnecessary fluff, but the second half tightens up considerably. Ignore the fluff...read this book...hear Mortenson's message. You don't need to donate to the cause, just hear his message and become educated yourself! It will be our country's strongest defense against terrorism and our greatest step toward peace!...more
This is an eye-opening book about the experiences of a young man growing up in an urban environment. McCall doesn't hold back on the reality or the deThis is an eye-opening book about the experiences of a young man growing up in an urban environment. McCall doesn't hold back on the reality or the details....more
John Berendt highlights his time in Savannah, Georgia, during which the murder of Billy Hansford by Jim Williams occurs. Jim Williams is tried in courJohn Berendt highlights his time in Savannah, Georgia, during which the murder of Billy Hansford by Jim Williams occurs. Jim Williams is tried in court four times for this murder. Throughout the course of the book and trials, a parade of colorful Savannahites march through Berendt's life.
This book is classified as non-fiction, but written with more of a fiction plot style. It's definitely unique, and I was left wondering how in the world Berendt wormed his way into this world. He repeatedly mentions the closed nature of the people of Savannah. They don't encourage tourism or outsiders in much of any way. Yet, John Berendt manages to find his way into almost every nook and cranny of Savannah.
Such characters as Lady Chablis and Joe Odem cracked me up. Other characters had a definite "air" about them, especially when they focused on "old money"/"new money." And their obsession with the parties. It just made me roll my eyes.
Definitely an interesting insight into Savannah in the 1980s. ...more
While reading this book I began to wonder if Obama had read my mind at some point. I couldn't believe how well his beliefs aligned with my own. He's mWhile reading this book I began to wonder if Obama had read my mind at some point. I couldn't believe how well his beliefs aligned with my own. He's motivating and I think he has brillant ideas, especially concerning education, families, welfare...An extremely intelligent,intuitive human being....more