If you watch "Late Night with Craig Ferguson", you'll probably have some set expectations of this book. I expected an irreverent sense of humor; I gotIf you watch "Late Night with Craig Ferguson", you'll probably have some set expectations of this book. I expected an irreverent sense of humor; I got it. I expected profanity; I got it. I expected a thoroughly enjoyable read; I got it! I did however, with some trepidation, expect some graphic details of his life as an alcoholic; I didn't get that. Not that he glosses over that period of his life (it obviously had a major effect on who he is today), he just doesn't go into elaborate details of the physical aspects of it. He does cover, much more, how it affected his relationships, and that's far more interesting anyway.
What didn't I expect? I didn't expect him to be so humble and so grateful to the people in his life. I didn't expect him to be so profoundly thankful to be able to fulfill his lifelong dream of living in America, and, eventually, becoming a naturalized citizen. And I didn't expect him to be so respectful of his Scottish heritage at the same time.
I liked that Ferguson loves the US, but refrains from jingoism. He takes full responsibility for all his bad choices, and usually gives credit for his good ones to others. His auto-biography is a breezy, funny read, which seems a strange appeal for an alcoholic's memoir. It's going to have staying power in my mind, which considering that somedays I can barely remember my children's names, that says more than you may know! I've got his novel "Between the Bridge and the River" on my to-read list. I hope I enjoy it as much as this one....more
So I knew that Mennonite in a Little Black Dress would appeal to my sense of humor with the first page. Janzen is talking about her aunt's battle withSo I knew that Mennonite in a Little Black Dress would appeal to my sense of humor with the first page. Janzen is talking about her aunt's battle with polio, leaving her with a withered arm which she named Stinky. Funny enough for me, but then she follows it up with a quiz:
_____Yes, I think "Stinky" is a cute name for a withered arm!
_____No, I'd prefer to name my withered arm something with a little more dignity, such as Reynaldo.
That's just gold, people. (Points to anyone who gets the Seinfeld reference.)
But here's the premise. Janzen was raised a Mennonite and left the fold to pursue more worldly pursuits. And to wear heels and makeup. Her tumultuous marriage finally ended when her husband left her for a man he met on Gay.com, and that same week she got into a horrible car accident that left her with serious injuries.
With nowhere else to turn, she went home. Her parents had stayed true to their strong Mennonite faith, and re-immersing herself in the culture made Janzen realize how much of the the faith she still cherished herself.
Janzen is very respectful of Mennonite beliefs; she does, however, poke some fun at those who follow the faith, or any faith, blindly. Her brother who has no patience for a discussion of whether or not a woman would take her husband's name upon marriage is skewered, albeit lovingly. On the other hand, those who are quick to eschew the idea that Mennonite beliefs have value are also taken to task, and not as lovingly.
But, ultimately, Mennonite in a Little Black Dress is a story of Janzen's own redemption, of her ability to embrace those aspects of spirituality which allow her to begin to heal. The fact that she covers such a serious topic, while still making me giggle, is what made this light-heart nonfiction stand out....more
Avi Steinberg was moving aimlessly through life; the single-minded devotion that he had felt to the study of the Torah in his youth had not withstoodAvi Steinberg was moving aimlessly through life; the single-minded devotion that he had felt to the study of the Torah in his youth had not withstood the test of time. He fell into a job as a prison librarian, looking for some meaning in his life. I have no idea if he found it.
He seems to me to be a slow learner. He never really did learn, I don't think, not to trust anyone in prison. Speaking as a librarian, he doesn't seem to have a good idea of the purpose of a library; the out-of-date canard about shushing rears its ugly head at least once.
He waxes philosophic about the emotions and thoughts of the men in the prison, but doesn't examine his own feelings very well. At the end, when he's left the job there, I feel like he's no further along than he was when he started....more