Book Review: A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition by Ernest Hemingway (four stars)

Book Review: A Moveable Feast: the Restored Edition by Ernest Hemingway (four stars)

The last bit of professional writing by my father, the true foreword to A Moveable Feast: “This book contains material from the remises of my memory and of my heart. Even if the one has been tampered with and the other does not exist.” Patrick Hemingway

Updated version of Hemingway’s definitive story of how lost the Lost Generation was. Includes much material omitted when originally published after his death. Those interested will need a map of 1920s Paris.

It was not a trip designed for a man easy to anger. You could not be angry with Scott any more than you could be angry with someone who was crazy, but I was getting angry with myself for having become involved in the whole silliness.

Ernest and Hadley were young, poor, and sure of themselves. Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stern, F. Scott Fitzgerald populate his cast, but he admits he’s writing fiction. Reader beware.

By then I knew that everything good and bad left an emptiness when it stopped. But if it was bad, the emptiness filled up by itself. If it was good you could only fill it by finding something better.

Clear, forceful prose. That said, he weasel-words his criticism of his contemporaries in Paris and Austria. Saves his harshest words for himself, but even as he accepts the blame for ruining his own marriage he blames others.

I have tried to write by the old rule that how good a book is should be judged, by the man who writes it, by the excellence of the material that he eliminates.

Book Review: No Time Like the Future: An Optimist Considers Mortality by Michael J. Fox (Three Stars)

Book Review: No Time Like the Future: An Optimist Considers Mortality by Michael J. Fox (Three Stars)

“I try not to get too New Age-y. I don’t talk about things being ‘for a reason.’ But I do think that the more unexpected something is, the more there is to learn from it. In my case …”

2018 was annus horribilis for Michael J. Fox. In this book he tells it all. Eventually. First, he gives a hundred plus pages of backstory, with flashbacks inside the flashbacks. No trivia is too small to include. (Is Fox a Kardashian?) Some humor. My rating started at four stars, sank quickly to three, and bounced off two several times. Three may be a gift, but … it isn’t a bad book. (Look for it on clearance.)

“I’m not sure it ever did, but especially now, my work as an actor does not define me. The nascent diminishment of my ability to download words and repeat them verbatim is just a ripple in the pond.”

Shifting tenses throw the reader out of the flow. It’s almost as if he cut-and-pasted material from several sources, then no one proofread the result. Pointless meanderings to fill pages? Like Seinfeld, a lot of talk about nothing. Note to self: Don’t stand next to MJF. He’s a lightning rod for disaster.

“Risk is part of who I am; it is encoded in my DNA. Teens lack a fully formed prefrontal cortex; they can’t reliably assess risk. I was the poster boy for this developmental delay.”

(Which is why 18-years-olds should not vote. Yes, I thought that when I was eighteen.)

Plugs for his eponymous foundation appear every twenty pages. After vowing he’s not Hollywood, he gives directions to his sidewalk star. And tells you which magazines he’s on the cover of.

“Have I oversold optimism as a panacea, commodified hope? Have I been an honest broker with the Parkinson’s community? My optimism is suddenly finite.”

Lots of name dropping. I guess Hollywood/New York folks feel the need to remind you how well connected they are. Golf? Bhutan? Africa? A tattoo? Diary of an overachiever who can’t come to grips—no matter what he says—that he isn’t. Snubs Ronald Reagan’s offer to appear on his show, then accepts an invitation to dine at the White House and discovers “he was a genial and welcoming host.” “People are not always as advertised.”

“As for the future, I haven’t been there yet. I only know that I have one. Until I don’t. The last thing we run out of is the future. Really, it comes down to gratitude. … I can be both a realist and an optimist.”

Book Review: The Answer Is …: Reflections on My Life by Alex Trebek (Four Stars)

Book Review: The Answer Is …: Reflections on My Life by Alex Trebek (Four Stars)

“Messing up on live TV taught me an important lesson about show business: learn to laugh at yourself.”

Not quite an autobiography, but close enough. Trebek shares anecdotes from his life and times. I knew little about him beyond his Jeopardy! persona. The format is appropriate, like answers from his game show.

“Yes, hard work and experience are essential. But so is timing. And luck. Don’t ever discount the importance of luck in terms of determining your opportunities and your future.”

Trebek has rougher edges than shown on television. He has opinions and preferences. He shares them.

“Courage is a conscious decision. You do it in a dangerous situation, when you have a choice. Here, there’s no choice. I’ve been diagnosed with a disease that is probably going to kill me. And probably sooner than later. So courage does not enter into it.”

He lived an almost-charmed life, and he recognizes it. A class act. A good read.

“I used to think not crying meant you were tough. Now I think crying means you’re tough. It means you’re strong enough to be honest and vulnerable. It means you’re not pretending.”

Book Review: The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be by Farley Mowat (Five Stars)


Book Review: The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be by Farley Mowat

(Five Stars)

“He carried with him the aura of Don Quixote and it was in that atmosphere that my family and I lived for more than a decade.”

Great animal story; great growing up story. Well told in 1957. If you’re tired of current crop of insipid animal stories which are really about the author, try this.

“In twenty-nine years a man can remember a good many things that ought to have happened.”

If this isn’t exactly the way it was, it’s the way he remembered it three decades later.

“By the time he had retrieved fifteen out of the original eight ducks, he was beginning to grow annoyed.”

Mowat eventually made his living by words. It shows. Just the right word or phrase to capture the scene. A pleasure to read.

“We learned not to waste adrenalin cursing at him when he abandoned normal procedure and went off on his own.”

A dog named Mutt, purchased as a pup for four cents (you read that correctly) in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in 1929, turned out to be anything he wanted to be, but he confounded the expectations of humans near and far.

“The pact of timelessness between the two of us was ended, and I went from him into the darkening tunnel of the years.”

Book Review: Over the Wire by Philip H. Newman (Four Stars)


Book Review: Over the Wire: A POW’s Escape Story from the Second World War by Philip H. Newman

(Four Stars)

“Those were the days before antibiotics. How different was the whole aspect of war surgery; the fear of infection dominated the surgeon’s objective and the smell of the wounds was unforgettable.”

Amazing true story of a British surgeon left behind at Dunkirk with Continue reading

Book Review: Homer’s Odyssey by Gwen Cooper (Four Stars)


Book Review: Homer’s Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned About Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat by Gwen Cooper

(Four Stars)

“When I decided to bring this eyeless kitten home with me, I made my first truly adult decision about a relationship. And, without realizing it, I established the standard by which I would judge all my relationships in the years to come.”

Excellent. A compelling story well told. Her emotion and attachment draw Continue reading

Book Review: Smart Ass by Margaret Winslow (Three Stars)


Book Review: Smart Ass: How a Donkey Challenged Me to Accept His True Nature & Rediscover My Own by Margaret Winslow

(Three Stars)

“As much as I hated to look like a fool, I had chosen the very animal that—almost by definition—would make me do just that.”

Sad. The long subtitle it all: a case study in the folly of wishful thinking. Before Winslow writes the check to buy Caleb, a large Andalusian white donkey, the reader knows this won’t end well. Why didn’t she? Blinded by Continue reading

Book Review: Letters to America by Tom Blair (Three Stars)


Book Review: Letters to America: Courageous Voices from the Past by Tom Blair

(Three Stars)

“I don’t measure a man by the size of his wallet.”

An insightful collection of “letters” by varying individuals spread through America the last 200 years. Lots of philosophy of living. Follows many characters to their life’s end. Non-chronological order distracts. Writing is good, if obvious. Some humor, but mostly depressing.

“We mortals corrupt the purpose of life, and then we question God’s being.”

Introductions to many letters tells the reader what to think. Semi-autobiographical section marred by Continue reading

Book Review: And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman (Five Stars)


Book Review: And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman

(Five Stars)

“The meaning of life: Company. Company. And ice cream.” “What kind of ice cream?”

Wonderful. Should be read by everyone who is a grandparent, plans to be one, or has grandparents. A poignant look inside generations–consecutive and skipped. Short; powerful.

“Are we here to learn how to say good-bye, Grandpa?” “I’m afraid we are.”

Backman explains that he didn’t write this book for us, but for his family. I’m so glad he shared it. The relationships and the emotions ring true.

Why do people who don’t believe in heaven assume, if they’re wrong, they’ll go there?

“What can we do to help Grandpa?” “We can walk down the road with him.”

Book Review: Sully: My Search for What Really Matters by Chesley B. Sullenberger (Four Stars)


Book Review: Sully: My Search for What Really Matters by Chesley B. Sullenberger and Jeffrey Zaslow

Four Stars

“We need to do the right thing every time, to perform our best, because we never know which moment in our lives we’ll be judged on.”

An intimate look at the man responsible for the “Miracle on the Hudson.” Sullenberger’s biography as much as the story of his five-minute flight to fame.

“A hero is someone who risks his life running into a burning building. Flight 1549 was different, because it was thrust upon him and his crew.” Lorrie Sullenberger

Obviously, Sullenberger is not an author. The late Zaslow brought together a decent product quickly, however he bears responsibility for the many shortcomings. Perhaps Sullenberger talks like this, but the prose is wordy and awkward. Lots of digressions; some felt like filler.

“In the cultures of some companies, management depends on the innate goodness and professionalism of their employees to constantly compensate for systemic deficiencies, chronic under-staffing, and sub-standard subcontractors.”

Post 2001, the pensions and standards for airline pilots were gutted. Sullenberger shares his obvious unease with the direction of airline management. Capitalism undergirded America’s growth and plenty, but it has a dark underbelly.

“How many different levels of technology do you want to place between your brain and the control surfaces? Technology is no substitute for experience, skill, and judgment.”

I’ve been flying for sixty years. This book confirms my preference to fly commercially only when I have to. It’s no longer fun, efficient, nor economical. It’s effective, usually. So far.

“One of the reasons I think I’ve placed such a high value on life is that my father took his.”

By now most readers know that Sullenberger objected to the way the National Transportation Safety Board investigation was portrayed in the movie supposedly based on this book. The backbone of the movie, that investigation gets about four pages in the book. In fact, the movie should be evaluated as “based on a true story” fiction. The book is much better.

“Flight 1549 wasn’t just a five-minute journey. My entire life led me safely to that river.”