S: Memoir: A AAA of Reviews
FC: a review
1: Ryan Begoon Kelly Blaylock Michael Bossidy Abigail Buckenheimer Amy de Bruycker Alyssa Domino Courtney Gallagher Tyler Giggi Malloury Hall, Carrie Hoffman, Erika Jensen, Elizabeth Jurcik, Emily Lambdin, | contributors | Olivia Marcus, Luke McDermott, Nicolas Montanaro Jillian Neuberger Margaret O'Rourke Kylie Pulkownik John Santoro Lauren Stewart Lucy Taben Meaghan Walsh Samuel Wiley Elinore Wright | new | york | times | book | review
2: a million little pieces
3: What is truth, anyway? In both life and literature, it seems that rather than a fine line, we see an expansive gray area between fact and fiction. Maybe James Frey was less than honest when he claimed his semi-memoir A Million Little Pieces was an entirely accurate recollection, but even if there isn't complete truth to the facts he presents, his storytelling is as real and burning as the sun in the sky. And when a story is this immersive and jarring, fact and fiction lose their importance. In A Million Little Pieces, Frey takes us through his weeks in a rehabilitation facility for a horrifying magnitude of addictions: crack, cocaine, alcohol, and a seemingly endless list of other hard drugs. As he progresses through a blurred, indiscernible number of days, his character finds success despite a profound refusal to adhere to the facility's rules and programs. "I don't believe in the Twelve Steps," he recalls telling an administrator in the clinic. "I don't believe in God or any form of Higher Power. I refuse to turn my life and my will over to anything or anyone, much less something I don't believe in." As interesting as his story is, this is not what makes Frey's book so enveloping. Rather, it is his style of writing, which forcefully grabs the reader and, in a threat laden with curses, dares him to put the book down. Readers won't. Frey invites us into his mind, and as such, the book reads like the thought process of, as Frey describes himself, "an Alcoholic and a Drug Addict and a Criminal." Usually run-on sentences, random capitalization, and a complete lack of quotation marks would be causes for concern in literature. Here, these are artful. | Frey's simple, almost barbaric bluntness is as refreshing as it is cynical. He writes of horrific experiences in a casual and frank way. Some may be turned off by this, as his descriptions pull no punches and are not for those with weak stomachs. Reading about root canals with no anesthesia is not fun, but somehow even these cringe-worthy moments draw you in. Many will be appalled by these scenes, but most will remain enthralled. Throttled by a multitude of troubles and surrounded by a gang of criminals and addicts, Frey manages to create the most unlikely group of protagonists imaginable. His father figure is infamous for his role in organized crime. His friends are sex offenders, crackheads, and violent, fearless fighters. But as readers, they become easy to root for. Some are good guys who went bad and some are bad guys trying to be good, and we want them all to succeed. Frey makes the most unlikable men likable--even himself. Drug addiction is a heavy topic. In A Million Little Pieces, James Frey attacks it with the same veracity it possesses itself. There is plenty of truth in his story, be it factual or not--in the seven years since its publication, despite all of the controversy surrounding it, this book has reached many with addictions or connections to addiction. Above all, it has persevered as a brilliant story. Had it been published as fiction it would still have been loved. Only Frey knows exactly how much of A Million Little Pieces is accurate. But regardless, this is a story that rings true on many levels. It is worth a read and more. - Tyler Giggi -
4: a million little pieces
5: It has always been difficult for me to get really hooked on a book. I always find that the writing style is rather dull and does not keep me engaged in the story. I often feel as though the story - regardless of how interesting it may be - is being told by someone in the driver’s seat of a car who has been stuck at a red light for the past two minutes. If you’re like me, then James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces is a pleasant surprise in a world of books that seem to tell their “riveting” stories in exactly the same way. This book’s perspective comes from a person who has no problem giving up on life, and it is written accordingly. The book begins with Frey awakening on a plane, though he’s not waking up from a nice nap in a passenger’s seat. “I wake to the drone of an airplane engine and the feeling of something warm dripping down my chin. I lift my hand to feel my face. My front four teeth are gone, I have a hole in my cheek, my nose is broken and my eyes are swollen nearly shut.” He’s on his way to see his parents who will later send him to a rehab center, and incredible amounts of drugs and alcohol put him there. Frey’s background isn’t that of what one might expect a druggie’s to be. His parents and family loved him and were very supportive of him, yet he always turned back to drugs in some way or another. He sometimes reminisces about his previous life, like when he used to sit down with his family every night for dinner. There is a clear contrast between this normal life and the one he lives in secret that is filled with drugs and alcohol. Frey’s story of recovery is certainly not a typical one. While he is in the Hazelden Clinic in Minnesota, he remains all the while extremely skeptical of the Twelve Step program they use. “I have been to AA meetings and they have left me cold. I find the philosophy to be one of replacement. Replacement of one addiction with another addiction. Replacement of a chemical for a God and a Meeting.” He wants to recover, but he does not see how replacing his addiction is “recovering.” This brings up an interesting point that Frey conveys being that addicts never truly recover. | In the brutal honesty Frey gives us we are able to see the two different sides he has. One side wants to badly to try and recover regardless of how the clinic does it, and the other wants nothing to do with the clinic and only wishes to “get fucked up,” even when he learns that he will die from a few more hits of a crack pipe. We sometimes see Frey becoming controlled by his former self and wanting to do nothing but eat food, because it is “fuel” for him. As long as it’s something he can have a lot of, it keeps him going. At other times, we see Frey seriously reflecting on the life he has lived and regretting it, wanting to improve his future in any way he possibly can. At times, it may seem like Frey is not capable of having normal human emotions; or the emotions he does feel are self-destructive. This is the old him, the one his is familiar with and the one he wants to get rid of. He puts up with excruciating pain, such as that which comes from getting two teeth capped and a root canal without anesthesia, to work towards eradicating this former self from his being. Frey doesn’t know a life devoid of drugs, but regardless, he is trying to reach that point. We even see him trying to love again. It’s hard to understand some of the things Frey says because they seem so outlandish to us “normal” readers. We can’t understand the pain that comes with throwing up blood and guts every morning, nor can we understand the pain from getting a root canal sans anesthesia. We can understand, though, doing something that benefits us in the long-run rather than the short-run. Through fighting his addiction and putting up with incredible pain, Frey takes the hard right instead of the easy wrong.
6: Scratch Beginnings, written by Adam Shepard was a true recount of a life lived in poverty. After reading the book Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich, which concluded with the theory that the “American Dream” is not easy to obtain, Shepard took on the challenge to prove that you can rise from the ashes, that you can start from nothing and make something of yourself. Shepard starts his memoir with a note worthy of consideration. He makes it clear that he is not a professional author and did not take the time to craft his writing, something that the reader is reminded of on every page. Shepard’s ambition and achievements should not be taken for granted; however, his lack of writing skill cannot be over looked. In his effort to relay the “cold hard truth,” Shepard in turn created a story with no plot or climax. He should be applauded for his honesty and his refusal to exaggerate parts of the story for the reader’s benefit, but his memoir truly suffered because of it. His effort to make up for his poor writing with humor is overplayed and redundant, causing you to ask the question: What was the point of that? As the reader presses on however, Shepard’s determination and hard work stand out as truly exceptional. He sought out to make a difference, to, contrary to belief, achieve the American Dream, and he did it in less than a year. He also proved that with hard work and smart saving, advancement was never ending, and you could always better your situation: whether you are living for free in a homeless shelter or living in a fully furnished apartment with a steady job, you can always go up. His descriptions and recounts of his different acquaintances were not exactly beautiful, but the variety of characters that he chose to bring into the story, helped show the difference between himself and others. Shepard was driven: “I loved the dawn-til-dusk hours at the shelter. In and out early meant that I would stay focused on what I needed to be doing and that I would have a better shot at staying out of trouble and out of harm’s way” (Shepard 54). Unlike his roommates in the homeless shelter, he
7: had the goal to get out and the upbringing to show him how. Many of his roommates had been broken down enough that their ambition was gone. They could no longer work to get out, something that Shepard often overlooks or stereotypes as lazy. The only flaw in Shepard’s entire journey was that homelessness was a game, not his life. If after a year or even a day he failed or gave up, he had a fall back plan, a college educated, upper middle class fallback at that. | He clearly takes away important life lessons, however he finds the very life lessons that he set out looking for, making it seem as though he didn’t even have to go through the year in poverty, he could have written the same memoir on a beach. But you can tell that Shepard has a strong character and what he did truly meant something to him. His message is important and necessary for everyone. But sadly, his attempt at inspiration quickly turns into a preaching of hard work and motivation for all 221 pages. In my opinion, everyone should read the Introduction and the Epilogue of this book. It is there where you can become truly inspired and learn the teachings that he strove to engrave in everyone’s mind. The chapters in between are irrelevant and unnecessary to the total theme and conclusion of this memoir. For the readers that don’t want to be just scraping by forever, in Shepard’s words, “That’s how it is supposed to be. A blank canvas and unlimited upside potential. It’s the foundation of the American Dream” (221). Shepard proved it can be done, so I challenge you to do it too, but write a better book in the process. --Malloury Hall
8: The Glass Caste Jeanette Walls’s memoir The Glass Castle gives readers an inside look into her family of six. Taking place across the boonies of America, Walls shows readers what it really means to be part of a struggling American family that refuses to resort to welfare during 1960’s and 70’s. Walls starts her childhood describing her two siblings, Brain and Lori, in a small trailer park and continues to paint a picture of each “home”, showing their nomadic lifestyle as they try and adapt to new environments filled with the same type of people. Walls also shows readers great examples of irresponsible parenting using her alcoholic father and childish mother as perfect examples of what not to do. Walls is able to craft a page turner as she fills each chapter with suspense and wonderful storytelling. She writes about characters, like her siblings so honestly that we end up whole-heartedly rooting for them in the end. From her brother and sisters and their individual struggles to even her immature parents each family member beings more to the story than just a little dialogue; they really evoke emotion in the reader. She is able to show character relationships, by using her young nave self at the beginning and showing her growth and gained understanding of the bonds around her as the novel continues. In doing this she really improves her story and shows us the complexity and various dimensions of not only herself but each character as well. For example when Jeanette is about to leave her family behind in West Virginia she says “At first I resolved not to turn around. I wanted to look ahead to where I was going, not back at what I was leaving, but then I turned anyway” (241). From this quotation we can see how Jeanette’s relationship with her father has matured into something much less straightforward. It’s clear that she feels torn between two feelings, one that’s ready for the new life and adventures that lie ahead of her and the other that will always love her father despite the hardships and difficult times he’s put her through. Further, through her use of character development Walls is able to show us her overall theme; that even in the darkest places there’s always a little glimmer of light somewhere and that it’s possible to hole tightly on to that and use that as motivation. As each character grew and progressed towards their goals in life, be it raising enough money to get out of Welch, West Virginia in Lori’s case or finally fitting in at school when you only own three torn dresses in Jeanette’s, we saw the theme emerge on a smaller scale as well. | Her tone and writing make the story a wonderful one that is relatively easy to follow and enjoyable to read. Her use of subtle metaphors throughout enriches the development of the theme along with her use of character development. From the very beginning the planet Venus is introduced as a symbol for the light in the middle of darkness in the overall theme or all the good and positive things from her past. Once Jeanette reaches New York she says “What it meant was that in New York, you could never see the stars. But Venus wasn’t a star. I wondered if I’d be able to see it “ (247). Through the use of this symbol it’s clear that the reader has learned more about Jeanette and the theme is more apparent, she wants to be able to carry those positive memories with her throughout the future and wants to make new ones along the way too. Her language is simple but her story is one that pulls at the heart strings, makes your eyes water, and leaves a lasting impact. She uses such basic language to tell such an effective story, one I didn’t want to put down and one that made me so emotional towards her irresponsible parents I often ended up outraged or crying. Thus, she is very effective in writing a memoir that continuously moves towards her purpose and meaning, that it’s possible something wonderful can come from something so bad, instead of just a few stories and a little background into her childhood. All in all I would strongly recommend this book to those of you who really want to see, in great detail, what life is like outside the bubble you live in. I enjoyed this book and loved the other side of society it showed me. You see what life is like outside of suburbia America and what real people have to deal with when there’s not enough money to even buy a few groceries. This book made something so foreign to me seem so much more real and I would strongly urge readers to pick up a copy the next time they feel like getting engrossed and all tangled up in book, because believe me, you won’t want to put it down and who knows it probably will make you realize just how lucky you are too `-Carrie Hoffman.
10: Lost Heroes Review of Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell and Patrick Robinson Lone Survivor, much like the title implies, is one Navy SEAL’s account of his tumultuous trip from Texas, to seal training, to being the lone survivor of Operation Redwing. A mission in the mountains of the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan focused on the apprehension of a terrorist leader and his troops. Marcus Luttrell, this very Navy SEAL, combines an adrenaline filled action story with a theme of perseverance and sense of home. All the while combining his wry and jocular tone with the loss of lives in Afghanistan and his own pain. This mix of sardonic humor and the true adoration, respect, and sorrow he feels for those who lost their lives during Operation Redwing leaves the reader tearing up and chuckling at the same time as he explains the situation that tore his life apart with lines such as, “ Was this a bummer our what?”. With the raw perspective of Marcus Luttrell and the writing experience of adventure author Patrick Robinson this memoir offers the reader a completely different view on a topic abused throughout literature. With all the news reports and protests over American involvement in Afghanistan and knowledge of how many friends lives Luttrell lost the reader expects a jaded report of the situation most likely siding with the liberal views of our time full of slogans like, “War: the ignorant against the innocent”. However, while the memoir is certainly filled with emotion and anger is present, Lone Survivor offers the view of soldier proud of what he has done. With a type of determination and pride in his title as a seal that puts forward a whole new perspective on the mess that is the Middle East. And with the tone of a proud navy SEAL and average Joe the author mercilessly expresses his opinions and emotions on topics stretching from geopolitics and the rules of engagement to country songs. His strong and sometimes merciless conviction to his beliefs is vividly illustrated with lines like, “And I know one thing for certain if I ever rounded a mountain side in Afghanistan and came face to face with Osama Bin Laden, the man who masterminded the vicious unprovoked attack on my countryI’d shoot him dead in cold blood at which point urged on by an outraged American media the military would probably incarcerate me tell you what I’d still shoot that sonofabitch.”(40), the reader has no doubt of where Luttrell stands. When all's said and done Lone Survivor is the perfect book for anyone looking for a heartfelt adventure story who isn’t too gore sensitive and enjoys tales of valor and loss. The technique is opinionated and refreshing; although at certain points the sequence of events is unclear and as he flashes form present to past to farther in the past the reader finds themselves a little lost. However as a memoir it offers a new and eye opening perspective.
11: In times of war or uncertainty there is a special breed of warrior ready to answer our Nation’s call. A common man with uncommon desire to succeed. Forged by adversity, he stands alongside America’s finest special operations forces to serve his country, the American people, and protect their way of life. I am that man. -SEAL code
12: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls The Department of Children and Families serves approximately 36,000 children and 16,000 families at any point in time. The childhood of Jeannette Walls, a writer and journalist previously known for her gossip column in MSNBC.com, was filled with repeated visits from such family-care agencies. Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle is a gripping collection of childhood memories illustrating her family’s repeated relocations in order to avoid these types of agencies as well as debt collectors. This memoir shows the hardships the Walls family faced as a result of her parents’ selfishness in raising four children. The aim of the book seems to be to reach out to readers who never had to deal with anything close to the atrocities she confronted. It is her way of reminding people that there is always someone out in the world that is much less fortunate than you are as well as a reminder to parents that becoming a parent gives a person the responsibility of another person(s) life above their own, not below it. She writes this memoir from the point of a little girl growing up rather than herself looking back on all of her experiences. The reader is therefore more easily able to see and understand her internal struggle because she lays out her thinking. This is effective in illustrating the thoughts and motives behind all of the actions her character took. Without this insight into her characters, the story would be very difficult to understand. For instance, right after she had received third-degree burns from cooking herself a hot dog at age three, she began playing with fire. I initially thought this and the fact that her parents were pushing her to “face down [her] enemy” was absurd especially, however, then Jeannette Walls shows why she was doing this. She explained, “I loved the scratching sound of the match against the sandpapery brown strip when I struck it, and the way the flame leaped out of the red-coated tip with a pop and a hissI held my breath until the moment when they seemed about to blaze up out of control” – she seemed to enjoy the mysteries and dangers of flames. In this way, Jeannette Walls used a well-developed voice to show the main character’s motives which the reader wouldn’t have been able to understand otherwise. Using this unique point of view and purpose, Walls’ memoir summarizes the important moments in her childhood that collectively define her character. Ever since she was a young girl, her parents have been selfish – her father spending their minimum income on alcohol and her mother insisting she constantly work on her paintings that will one day sell rather than get a real job to bring in some money for her family. The Walls’ family is constantly moving from ‘home’ to ‘home’ due to her father’s debt pile-up. Because Jeannette and her three siblings are young throughout the beginning of the book, they are willing to accept whatever their parents say to be true. However, as the story progresses, the characters get older and begin to realize the selfishness of their parents. From there, the story is about their struggle to break free. We must first examine her parents because they are the ones who shape who she is and because they were the ones who raised her. As a child, Jeannette placed a lot of trust into both of her parents as she should have. Jeannette’s father, Rex Walls, was selfish because he lied to his children and never followed through with his promises. From the start, Jeannette was the only one of the Walls family that actually believed in her father’s claims to change and support the family. She always tried to take his side despite his broken promises, like when he pledged to stop drinking for her birthday present, and then went “back to the booze”, and his lies when he claimed throwing garbage in her and Brian’s dug hole for the Glass Castle’s foundation was only “a temporary measure” when it wasn’t. As Jeannette got older, this belief became harder and harder for her to stick to and she began to face the internal conflict of trusting her family versus pursuing the realistic goals she had for herself. Jeannette’s mother, Mary Walls, was a selfish parent because she placed her needs above those of her children as no parent ought to do. In the beginning, Jeannette believed in her mother’s aspirations to be a painter. She was hopeful when her mother talked about how much money she was going to earn when her paintings hit it big. However, when she took up a teaching job to earn some extra money and then was too lazy to even “write up evaluations of her students’ progress [and instead] spent every free minute painting,” Jeannette began to see that her mother wasn’t concerned with her children’s lack of food due to the depravity of money. Jeannette learned to take her life into her own hands and
13: learned to support herself by earning money through babysitting and a jewelry store job. This brought Jeannette to another internal struggles dealing with becoming self-sufficient versus supporting the rest of her family who seem incompetent to sustain themselves. So, The Glass Castle is about realization and having the self-awareness necessary to move through the common conflict of family versus self. Jeannette Walls used both point of view and some scattered literary devices well to illustrate the internal conflicts her character was facing. The utilization of these metaphors and motifs was often very subtle. The aspects of her life mentioned more than once seemed to fit with her underlying purpose and theme unintentionally. Although there were only a few literary elements in this memoir, the chief one which stood out to the readers was the motif of the Glass Castle. This motif was first mentioned by Jeannette’s father when we was telling his children about all of the wonderful things he was going to do in his life including building this wonderful house for the Walls family. It “would have solar cells on the top that would catch the sun’s rays and convert them into electricity for heating and cooling and running all the appliances”. Despite the fact that there family was currently residing in their car in the desert, being chased by debt collectors, Jeannette’s father “carried around the blueprints for the Glass Castle wherever [they] went”. These plans for the Glass Castle illustrate Jeannette’s undying hope for a better life as well as trust in her father. As the life progresses, the Glass Castle and the hope it gives to the Walls family changes and exhibits a shift in Jeannette’s character. I could not consider Jeannette Walls’ memoir The Glass Castle a true memoir. It was more of a great story line composed of a bunch of childhood memories that created a unified piece. Because there were so many memories, now looking back on it, it is difficult to place everything in chronological order. In that way, I see The Glass Castle more as an engaging story a person would read casually, than as a memoir full of deeper meaning that needs to be analyzed. Walls’ memoir seems to be a very versatile book that accurately portrays multiple internal struggles, such as the importance of family versus self as well as trust and hope versus reality, which many people young and old, male and female can relate to because she tells the story from the point of view of a girl growing up rather than an adult reflecting on past experiences. If you are in the mood for a really gripping story and don’t mind a lack of extravagant writing, or if you are a bookworm ready to be caught up in an almost too-bad-to-be-true story, or are interested in the stratification of society, this book is for you! Just a heads up, by the end, you will be very frustrated with the lack of guidance and poor decisions made by Jeannette Walls’ parents. Use this frustration! Teenagers, take a second look at the world you know, take time to understand there are many layers and that everything is not as good as it may seem when you are a child. About-to-be-parents, use this as a guideline for what not to do as a parent; love your child and place him/her above everything else because that child is your responsibility. The rest of you booklovers ready to dive into any great book, enjoy the plot, but think about what you can do to make this world a better place for all of the people living in it. -- Maggie O'Rourke
14: Scratch Beginnings By Adam Shepard "Mine is the story of rags-to-fancier-rags." The Pursuit for the American Dream
15: Adam Shepard had a promising life ahead of him when he graduated from Merrimack College with majors in business management and Spanish. However, the apparent lack of sympathy and loss of interest in “The American Dream” troubled him. Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickled and Dimed and Bait and Switch are two books he read that further deepened these thoughts. The books essentially say that the working class of America is stuck in place and the American dream for a better life has died. Adam decided to propose a rebuttal to Barbara in the form of an experiment where he started in Charleston, South Carolina with $25, a sleeping bag, and the clothes on his back. His goal at the end of 12 months was to have an apartment, working car, stable job, and $2500 in savings. Through smart spending, ambition, and an eye for his goal, he obtained his goal in only 6 months. Despite the success of his project, how applicable it is to other people is a matter of controversy due to his super-human drive and lack of focus on anything that didn't aid in his pursuit of happiness. Many of the men who end up at a homeless shelter have just suffered a form of hardship, whether it is disability, addictions, social or financial problems. These problems usually leave them disheartened and defeated with only small spurts of hope in the distant future. Adam, on the other hand, comes into the scene with a plan already lined up and the right attitude to execute it. Everywhere he goes, especially in jobs, he has a spring in his step. “Easy, kid, he said, it’s Sunday. Go ahead and sleep in” (45). More than once the experienced workers tell him to slow down or take a break. These extraordinary traits put him on a very fast track to success. Although this is possible for other people, the amount of motivation they have and the probability that they will be able to pull it off is slim compared to Adam. This is shown in the story by the several men Adam describes that are in and out of the shelter all the time. They come up with a plan and move out of the shelter, but they always end up coming back in a few months. This fact is undermined, however, by the ease with which Adam carries out his experiment. Throughout the book, Adam appears to have almost no problems moving up in his life and reaching his final goal. This ease makes the book appear very unrealistic because if all people in his initial position could do the same, homelessness would be a very minor problem. However, in the epilogue Adam says “I could have written another hundred pages filled with war stories from the guys at the shelter,” (211). It is unclear as to why Adam did not include some of these stories to make his experiment seem less ‘perfect’. I believe it would have made his story more realistic and more entertaining if he added equal amounts of success and failure. Experimental errors aside, Adam creates a fairly enjoyable book by telling the stories he chooses to write about exactly how they happened, with no figurative language or unneeded changes. The occasional dry humor adds light to some boring situations. The story is written in Shepard’s frame of thought from the time he experienced everything as well as afterwards when he was writing the story. This gives each situation different points of view for the reader to consider. Despite the experimental flaws, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Scratch Beginnings, and would recommend it to anybody, especially for those looking for a little self motivation. ~Sam Wiley
16: Red Hot Chili Peppers frontman Anthony Kiedis has become known for stretching limits, bending boundaries, and blurring borders in a band that has made worldwide success out of a peculiarly inimitable brand of rock, quirkiness, funk, and eclecticism that can’t quite be wrestled down into one genre. His memoir Scar Tissue is certainly no departure from this precedent, and the reader is presented with a book that refuses to be tied down into a set definition and certainly does not follow the conventions of literature and memoir writing, just as its author never pursued the already worn path in his career and his life. A story of his cyclical struggles with drug addiction, his music, the women in his life, and his eventual redemption, Scar Tissue is a memoir that is irreverent and eccentric to the core, and to read it is to be glared in the face with the fact that Kiedis is not looking to produce a memoir that resembles anything seen before in print. | Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis Reviewed By John Santoro | However, this isn’t always a good thing in terms of the literary merit of the book. It is often in the characteristically oddball flow of this memoir that lies its biggest weakness, which is the tendency to seem too harried and biographical, streaking through every minuscule event of every year of Kieids’s life, literally from conception to the present day. I often found myself enjoying the intriguing narrative of Kiedis’s wildly fascinating life but at the same time frustrated with the lack of reflection and meaning gleaned from his experiences. While reading the many descriptions of his cycles of devastating drug addiction and miraculous recovery that occur throughout the memoir, I especially felt that valuable life lessons to be learned and shared from these hard times were either glossed over or not even mentioned at all in Kiedis’s haste to move on to the next major (or minor) happening in his life. The author’s nonchalance and almost apathetic attitude towards what could otherwise be life-changing events (such as getting clean for the first time, getting kicked out of the band, and even having a personal audience with the Dalai Lama) is one of the biggest faults of the book, and one of the only things that really took away from my enjoyment of a memoir that was in essence very fun to read.
17: One strength of this memoir was that Kiedis’s voice almost leaps out of the ink, and because of this the book is completely unbridled in its voraciously irreverent tone. The reader almost feels like Kiedis is right there talking to you in every sentence, and every word seemed to bring me closer to one of my favorite bands. His writing style and they way he weaves words together is often a pleasure to behold, and you can really see his background as a lyricist echo onto his prose, which stretches into the mystical and poetic at times. At the same time, the no-holds-barred attitude of the book contributes to a sometimes disturbing depth of content, making it not the best choice for the more sensitive readers out there. That being said, the Red Hot Chili Peppers fandom is not the most likely group to be easily offended by Kiedis’s language and antics. This is key in determining who would find reading this book a worthwhile experience. Red Hot Chili Peppers fans will find it invaluable in going behind the scenes with the band and in Kiedis’s life, and will most likely come out of the book a bigger fan than ever, just as I did. But if you are not a fan, most of the book will seem random, confusing, and above all irrelevant to your life and interests. | If there’s one thing that this book does well, it’s getting the reader to ask questions. I found myself questioning the definition of what a memoir really is with this book, and even questioning what can really pass as literature. Some questions that arise might not be so positive, as in the many cases I found myself wondering aloud “Who?” when trying to juggle the smorgasbord of names and characters that Kiedis presents to the reader. The bottom line on Anthony Kiedis's memoir Scar Tissue is that it is a unique and provocative read, worth the time (and time it does take, being over 400 pages) for Red Hot Chili Peppers devotees but not nearly as worthwhile for most anyone else.
18: "Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it." — Elizabeth Gilbert
19: "I am burdened with what the Buddhists call the 'monkey mind' -- the thoughts that swing from limb to limb, stopping only to scratch themselves, spit and howl,” declares Ms. Gilbert in her memoir, “Eat, Pray, Love.” It is in this book that the reader is able to experience everything that happened starting with her harsh “crying-on-the-bathroom-floor” divorce and making her way through the world to reach her perfect balance of pleasure, spirituality, and a loving relationship, with all her “monkey mind” moments in between. We are given a glimpse into her miserable marriage then divorce with her husband followed by a short-lived relationship with another man that ends up making, as miserable as she had been with her husband. After some well needed therapy, pharmaceuticals, and a moment with god, she decides to set out a life defining journey through Italy, India, and Indonesia. Along the way she discovers new things about her self, as well as how to create healthy relationships and religion. An interesting enough plot, but what makes this story different than any other “mid-life crisis tale?” If I had to guess why someone would want to read this story above others it would be because of Gilbert’s voice, she adds charming and witty insight to all the situations she is in. For instance, "I am the planet's most affectionate life-form, something like the cross between a golden retriever and a barnacle." It is the funny details and witty quotes that would pull the reader in. She allows to feel like we are having a conversation with her, we are able to see her personality and outlook on things, just as we would with an old friend. Additionally, As the reader I found it intriguing how even though her story is so personal, she can create quotes like this that are so ”big picture.” All of her experiences, although very personal, are relatable to other things happening in the world making it much easier for the reader to create a connection. Overall, it is the presentation of this big picture ideas that kept me interested in the story as well as her theme of finding and honoring herself. It’s what I, as the reader, found to be her persona truth, as well as finding her spirituality. Fortunately, while Gilbert is off discovering herself, we are able to gain some other insight from characters with different points of view, giving the reader something to look forward to other then flashbacks of Gilbert’s disheartening life in America. Compared to Gilbert the other characters are living and all seem to have lived incredibly interesting lives. Take, for instance: Ketut, a ninth generation Indian medicine man, Wayan, a | Indonesian healer and her daughter Tutti, and Richard from Texas, an ex- oil-field worker, truck driver, Birkenstocks dealer, sack-shaker, construction worker, junkie, alcholic, hippie and husband, as well as the charming, Brazilian love interest, Felipe. In short, Gilbert is left in the dust when compared to the other characters and there are many points when I, the reader, would have much rather heard about their comical and intriguing adventures rather than Gilbert’s spiritual enlightenment and newfound independence. Although this book definitely had relatable moments for everyone, I found that the ideal reader for Eat, Pray, Love is a 30+ female, probably a mother, or at least some one who has been married or had significant relationships in their lives. Through out the whole book I constantly reminded myself that someone older than me and with much more wisdom and experience wrote this book. I feel that if I had read this book as a 30-year-old I would have been able to enjoy the story more and really relate, in some way, to what she was thinking and feeling. As Rolf Potts, a writer for the Travel Channel says, to anyone who is not an adult female this book is similar to, “traveling the world with a lovely and intelligent girlfriend who can’t stop talking about herself: You’ve come to admire this woman—and you wish the best for her—but you wish she’d stop yapping about emotional minutiae so you could both look out and enjoy the scenery from time to time.” I found this review to be spot on, I think that if you can not fully understand or appreciate what Liz is going through this memoir is like being on a safari with someone who won’t stop looking in the mirror. Overall, I was somewhat intrigued by Eat, Pray, Love, but I am definitely not too impressed with the overall literature aspects of the story. I think what will get most people to read this book is the idea of this story and being bale to apply yourself to it. Not everyone can go off for a year, travel the world, and “eat, pray and love.” But we can imagine that we are in Elizabeth Gilbert’s position and vicariously being put into crazy places and situations. If you are looking for a different, but not too adventurous, self-indulged drama, then this is you cup of tea. | Pasta, Yogis, Tutti A Review of Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert | -Elizabeth Jurcik
20: The Glass Castle by: Jeannette Walls If there ever was a memoir defined solely and perfectly as “enthralling”, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls has just outdone it. This memoir tells the story of the unorthodox upbringing of this author throughout her tumultuous childhood consisting of constant moving as a result of, at best, questionable, parenting decisions. | Such choices lead to a very dysfunctional experience for Jeannette growing up with her three other siblings, Lori, Brian, and Maureen, as they are constantly being shuffled from one ramshackle living arrangement to another, constantly on the run from people to whom her father owes money, but who he tells his children are conspiring FBI agents out to get him. The course of events in the Walls’ children’s lives leads to conclusions by the reader as to how terribly difficult their truly unconventional lifestyle can be. And the fact that these events occur back-to-back in such a fashion that they become the norm in their lives, keeps the reader intrigued from page one all the way through page two-hundred-eighty-eight, without any lapses. Within this lies the genius in Walls’ craft, or rather in the exclusion of any conventional form of it, mirroring the way her plot flows as well -- that is, unconventionally and lacking a general structure. Walls’ memoir separates itself from any other purely by the lack of any structured craft.
21: Many authors, when they write, try to incorporate figurative language or the use of symbols, and it shows through very clearly. However, Jeannette Walls isn’t such an author, the interest and “page-turning” aspect of the book sounds clichéd, but it is, in fact, the incredible nature of the story that keeps the reader reading. It all starts with a three year-old burning herself making hot dos, resulting in third degree burns from catching on fire, a six-week stay in the hospital, and a “Rex Walls-style” exit rushing out the doors without being approved for release. This only starts the chain of events in a rollercoaster of a life told through the eyes of Jeannette Walls. The use of dramatic irony is first very present in the book, as Walls does an impeccable job of narrating through the voice of her character at the time of each event, showing the pure innocence of this little girl. This develops a world in which the reader recognizes the meaning of the problems in parenting decisions, such as the “Rex Walls-style” exit, things the innocence of little Jeannette’s age prevents her from realizing. As the story, along with Jeannette’s age, progress, and Jeannette slowly begins to recognize and then finally dread her parents decisions made on her behalf, this dramatic irony recedes from view but the author’s struggle with who she is becomes even more apparent. This leaves the reader with the pure fundamentals of Jeannette Walls’ writing, a style lacking anything traditional in the sense, but rather a story based purely on the simplicity of plot events keeping the reader hooked. The responsibility for the turbulence in Jeannette’s life rests solely upon the shoulders of her parents, but yet another interesting aspect of the book is her changing view of them. The element of the personal truth that lies within this memoir is Jeannette’s perspective of her upbringing and how she copes with who she was and the effect that will have on who she’ll become. In an effort not to give too much away, I’ll leave it at this: this book is an interesting read, it captivates in its own unique way, and the plot is one you catch onto quickly as a reader and develop a strong personal interest in. It’s worth the time and there may just be some personal discovery along the way. ~Ellie Wright
22: Scar Tissue By Anthony Kiedis Book Review By Kylie Pulkownik There is arguably nothing more intriguing than reading a tell-all book chronicling the life of a notorious rockstar and their rocky rise to fame, but few of these memoirs can come close in detail or truthfulness to Anthony Kiedis’s fascinating retelling of his career as a musician who has lived the majority of his life true to the motto of “Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll”. Anthony Kiedis, front man of the notorious punk-rock band The Red Hot Chili Peppers offers us an in-depth look into his life as a true rockstar in his memoir Scar Tissue. Kiedis accounts for every event in his life that has brought him to his present, including a twisted childhood as the son of a drug dealer, and a dangerous and dark adulthood as a full-blown drug addict. | The extent to which Kiedis was dependent on drugs makes it hard to believe he made it through alive. And his attention to detail when describing his past experiences is impeccable, as if each moment was a perfectly preserved memory. He recalls specific conversations and reactions from his youth as if they were yesterday. Kiedis has a beautifully contemplative voice, equipped with a unique perspective and analogies, and an off-beat sense of humor about even the most ironic of situations. His good-natured personality is a potent aspect of his voice, and the reader almost feels as though Kiedis is talking directly to them. He has a distinct voice, chilling and uncommonly raw. His lack of a filter creates a severely personal piece of work that will have you baffled at times as he confides in you what seem like his darkest secrets. Kiedis leaves little to the imagination, attempting to pump his novel with every possible component about his life. However, often times this proves ineffective, resulting in a book with almost no real narrative structure that reads more like an autobiography than an actual memoir. It quickly becomes a monotonous pattern of event-after-event-after-event in chronological order. And while this offers the reader a meticulously accurate timeline, it also becomes repetitive and boring. Kiedis introduces dozens of new characters in each chapter, a cast that is immense and confusing. He also documents so many seemingly insignificant events that he
23: forgets to elaborate on the most important, such as the deaths of his loved ones or pivotal moments for his band. In fact, Kiedis dedicates little page space to his band, the majority of his memoir focuses on his lifelong battle with drug addiction. And while there is no doubt that his addiction was the cause and result of most of his actions, his process of acquiring and using drugs loses shock value as it continues throughout the book. While Kiedis possesses a wonderfully personal voice where emotions and analysis are concerned, his memoir remains surprisingly dry. You would think that with a life full of ups and downs, Keidis’s novel would be flooded with emotion. But a certain level of emotion is missing, making the story feel strained and empty towards the end. That said, his voice is undoubtedly shocking, the way he so casually guides us through each level of his addiction. But after a while he becomes predictable, as if becoming a fictional character to the reader, rather than a flawed human being. And his analysis of his past actions is sparse; he rarely delves into the core of them or questions the root of his motives. The story seems incomplete in this way. But Kiedis makes up for this lack of connection with another connection through a voice that is easy to sympathize with. He comes by his flaws so honestly that it is all but impossible not to like him. Whatever the writing is lacking he makes up for in his character. At first glance, it is obvious that this book is by no means a quick read; readers must be willing to invest time in its 400+ pages of Kiedis’s life of sobering up, relapsing, and sobering up again and relapsing yet again. But Red Hot Chili Peppers fans will rejoice in its pages and pages of the most personal details about Kiedis and revel in knowing the unpolished truth about his past. But other readers may not be as intrigued. To everyone else, Scar Tissue may be a little more tedious than entertaining.
24: In every story I have ever heard, alcohol and drug rehab is never easy, under any circumstances. There is no simple way to get over addiction of any sort, and the road to recovery is depressing, frustrating, and full of anger. In fact, in 50-90% of cases, the patient relapses. In A Million Little Pieces, James Frey tells his own story of addiction in every gory detail. The book opens with Frey waking up on a plane to Chicago, with no wallet, bags, clothes, or a ticket, and no idea how he got there. His nose is broken, there is a gash clean through his cheek, and his four front teeth are horrendously damaged. “I sit and I wait and I try to figure out what happened. Nothing comes.” We follow 23-year-old Frey through his entire attempt at recovery at a clinic in Minnesota. He covers each excruciating element, as he cries, rages, rebels, finds friends, and falls in love. Frey makes it clear that he was an especially hard case each time we are introduced to a new character (each of whom have awful, pain-filled pasts) – he was drinker who blacked out almost every day, smoked crack, and tried almost every drug on the market, and had a fair number of felonies under his belt. Through the novel, he repeats, “I am an Alcoholic and a Drug Addict and a Criminal” over and over like a destructive mantra, as though to convince his audiences (if they were not already) that he is a hopeless case. For most of the book, Frey is quiet and surly, refusing treatments and not attempting to make friends. When his parents ask him why he doesn’t want to participate in a family program at the clinic, he responds, “Because I don’t.” He slowly becomes more expressive, opening up about his past and the people in it who led him to the clinic, but never losing the terse, to-the-point style that is his trademark. From a summary, A Million Little Pieces sounds like a whiny, overly detailed cry for attention from an ex-addict. However, it is not. What sets it apart is Frey’s writing style. His sparse prose, devoid of over-the-top eloquence, is well chosen and hard-hitting. His use of fragmented sentences – like strings of thought – keep the reader with him through every introspection, every feeling, in his recovering mind. There is also not a single quotation mark in the entire novel; only line breaks to indicate dialogue. While reading, it made me pay more attention to what was being said and thought. The overall effect gave Frey’s thoughts and actions a detached feel, like interacting with people wasn’t what was important to him; it wasn’t what he was focusing on. I felt like he – and I – were watching the story unfold from the outside, looking in. A Million Little Pieces was gripping, cringe-inducing, and heartbreaking, but I couldn’t stop reading it. Much in the same way that people can’t drive by a car accident without craning their necks to see the outcome, Frey’s story is intriguing. His voice comes through strong – he makes you want to hear his experiences, separate from the dozens of other people with stories just as awful in the clinic. In my opinion? Steel yourself, grit your teeth, and crack open this book. You won’t be able to put it down. | Review by Olivia Marcus
25: "In the face of surviving long enough to survive in the long term, there is no goal that comes to mind that means anything to me. I could write Survive, but I would rather hold that word in my heart than write it on some board." - A Million Little Pieces
26: Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10 By: Marcus Luttrell with Patrick Robinson
27: During training, Navy SEAL candidates have to run 2 miles to the cafeteria for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Marcus Luttrell is a Navy SEAL, and wears the title with honor. Today he has a purple heart, received from being injured in battle, and a Navy Cross for combat heroism. Luttrell got these by fighting, and surviving, and continuing to fight and serve his country. “Lone Survivor” is his memoir about Operation Redwing. It starts with Luttrell in a plane, on the way to Afghanistan. He then begins to recount his journey to become a Navy SEAL, including why he chose the path he did, and the events that lead up to Operation Redwing. Luttrell then goes on to tell the story of what happened in the mountains in Afghanistan. The gruesome story of the four SEALs going into the mountains and only one surviving is told using many heart-wrenching details. Overall the story is inspirational and will stay with the reader a long time. Luttrell co-wrote the book with Patrick Robinson, a well known British author of many books about a fictional Navy SEAL character, which made him especially qualified to help Luttrell write his memoir. Together, they managed to create one seamless voice that guides the reader through the story. They were extremely successful in persuasive writing, and Luttrell’s viewpoint was made clear. Luttrell’s anger towards the ‘liberal media’ and the pressure it puts on the military while they are fighting for our country is very adamant. Through detail he makes the audience feel the anger towards these people. Luttrell and Robinson managed to show, not tell the story. In certain parts of the story, it seems like there should have been a point where it would be boring. Marcus talked a lot about their tactics and the training they went through. The details keep the reader interested and informed. A good example of him using detail to his advantage was when he talks about the places they were flying over. “They had a big army staff college down there, and for three years in the mid-1930s, Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery, later the victor of the battle of Alamein, taught there. Which proves, I suppose, that I’m as much addicted to military trivia as I am to the smart-ass remark.”(59) This not only shows his interesting way to describe the places he has been, it also allows the reader to hear his strong voice and humor. Luttrell would explain the place not by how it looked, but more by the military history that the place had. This allowed the reader to really understand and explore while not being thrown off, confused, or bored. The humor was laced throughout the whole book, organizing and connecting the whole book together. It also acted as a relief point for the reader. When it seems like it was getting too intense, Luttrell would include a funny side comment that would offer relief. It made the book easier to read and understand. I would recommend this book to pretty much anyone. Although militarily focused, this memoir is an inside look at the war and a different viewpoint. It may look like something only someone interested in war stories or politics would like, but it was written in such a way that opens the book to almost all audiences. I wouldn't recommend it for children because it's long and fairly gruesome for a child. Ages 15 and up would probably be the correct audience for this type of book. It was crafted excellently, and Luttrell’s voice is strong throughout. His persuasive writing keeps the reader's eyes glued to the page, making it impossible to put down. The teamwork between Marcus Luttrell and Patrick Robinson is seamless, blending together the two styles to create one strong voice. Lone Survivor is a great book, written well, and the story is one that will leave an impact and change the way you view the war.
28: Rags to Riches- The American Dream from a New, Realistic Perspective A Review of the Memoir The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls The word “Parent” tends to be synonymous for guardian, caregiver, and protector. Rex and Rose Mary Walls undoubtedly conceived children Jeannette, Lori, Brian, and Maureen, making them parents. But, they could not be described as caregivers, or protectors in any way. Rex was an arrogant alcoholic, and spent the only income their family had on beer. Mother Rose Mary was an aspiring yet complacent artist, wrapped in her own selfish world. The memoir The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls shows the chaotic life that Jeannette was forced into by her parents. From the start she was pressured to mature by being obligated to support her family, protect her siblings from the wrath of her father, and defend herself against rape and other atrocities. Jeannette never had a normal childhood; she was never truly a child at all. “Mom always said people worried too much about their children. Suffering when you're young is good for you, she said. It immunized your body and your soul, and that was why she ignored us kids when we criedMom never seemed upset about Mary Charlene's [their second child's] death. ‘God knows what he's doing,’ she said. ‘He gave me some perfect children, but He also gave me one that wasn't so perfect, so He said ‘Oops, I better take this one back.’’” Above, Jeannette clearly depicts the interesting parenting choices of Rex and Rose Mary. And undoubtedly, these parents provided Jeannette with such a captivating life story that resulted in a fascinating memoir full of surprises. Jeannette effectively displayed the characters of her family members in her memoir, showing us their true colors in detail by picking imperative events that changed some aspect of her life. She shows clearly how the decisions of her family impacted her growth, without directly saying it. Furthermore, juxtaposition of the development of her character and the lack of change in her parents’ characters over time created an inspiring story. If you are a keen reader, there is some intriguing symbolism- The Glass House itself for example. Throughout her childhood Jeannette believed that her father would build this dream house made of glass, and she aided in the planning process. Eventually, she came to the realization that the house would never be built, and with that she instigated an important change in her relationship with her father, and with herself- which you'll have to read to find out. Other than some interesting symbols and themes, Jeannette's writing is very simplistic. Referring back to the quote, about the first three quarters of the memoir is written in the voice of a child. The voice is naive, immature, and straightforward, so the memoir reads more like a story with captivating content rather than a beautifully crafted piece of literature.
29: But, although the writing is easygoing and simplistic, there's much to learn from this memoir. First, in terms of writing, subtleties like Jeannette's descriptions, and her transitions and contrasts between memories were smooth and effective, and a great example for writers looking to create their own memoirs. However, the purpose of the book seemed less about showcasing Jeannette's writing talents, and more about sending a moral to her readers. Reading her life story clearly shows the mistakes her parents made, but also things they were successful in. By leaving their daughter ignored and in poverty, they left her with significantly more self-sufficiency. When Rex was not drunk, he was a talented teacher, and made Jeannette and her siblings star students and overall intelligent people. And, even though a lot of what they said inspired Jeannette to be nothing like them, her parents’ independent thought and appreciation for the simplistic things in life are reflected in Jeannette even today. But, most importantly, Rex and Rose Mary exhibited an undeniable love for their children at most times, and they were extremely proud of all they had become. These positive qualities of theirs are greatly reflected in their children and ended up benefiting them, even though their parenting usually tended to be objectionable. And in the end, Jeannette became to a degree independent and successful, after a lifelong struggle to survive. Each reader will take what they will from this memoir, but I finished the novel with a profound belief that despite setbacks, no matter what you were born into, you can overcome adversity and achieve success. With everything in mind, I would certainly recommend this book. It's unique and intriguing, and leaves you with a new perspective on the meaning of a family, and of success and happiness. If you're interested in an easy read that keeps you entertained, this is for you.
30: The Prayer and the Feast: A book Review for Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (written by Erika Jensen) ““Eat, Pray, Love,” is a memoir based on your not so average mid-thirties divorcee, Elizabeth Gilbert, who is on a quest to rediscover and repair herself after a messy two years and a broken heart. A grief stricken Gilbert self-prescribes a year abroad to find peace within herself. She plans to spend four months in Italy to find pleasure, four months in India to simply pray, and four months in Indonesia to balance out the two. Surprisingly, Gilberts time spent in Italy was the most disappointing. While the reader is hungry for the adventure and excitement characteristic of Rome, the only pleasure seeking the author indulges in is food. This section seems to drag on and spends a majority of its pages describing Gilberts previous miserable years instead of the wonder filled streets of Rome. This would not have been so bad had she revealed all of the gory details about her marriage and divorce. Gilbert performs an impressive autopsy of her emotions throughout this time of her life, elaborating on every single thought that haunted her. “I don’t want to be married anymore. In the daylight hours, I refused that thought, but at night it would consume me. What a catastrophe. How could I be such a criminal jerk as to proceed this deep into a marriage, only to leave it?” (11.) However, she never truly introduces her husband making it difficult to sympathize with her sorrow and understand her struggle to free herself of this marriage. There is a respectable realm within a person’s life in which one must be careful to avoid discussing and questioning to retain politeness. Yet, when it comes to writing, specifically writing a memoir, an author is promising to open up in one of the most intimate ways possible. This creates a powerful relationship between the author and audience, a boned that Gilbert did not fully commit to when she decided not to fully delve into her past. Gilbert has all the right in the world not to share these details, but when you decide to write a memoir, it cannot provide a truly satisfying read without the proper addition of background. Gilbert had a good sense of organization and neatly compiles her chapters into three books with thirty-six chapters each. There is a web of sub plots, (some significant and effective, others that detract and are unimportant), that flow along through each country. One of her most interesting subplots is religion. In order to avoid offending the public, Gilbert tentatively draws on the topic of God. “Let me first explain why I use the word God, when I could just as easily use the words Jehovah, Allah, Shiva, Brahman, Vishnu, or Zeus. I need a proper name in order to fully sense a personal attendanceI have nothing against any of these terms. I feel they are all equally adequate and inadequate descriptions of the indescribable.” (13) From this initial toe in the water, Gilbert then plunges into a search for religion. After the minimal, but not inexistent view of religion in Italy, Gilbert goes full force studying her spirituality in an Indian Ashram. With a loose interpretation of religion (“Culturally, though not theologically, I’m a Christian,” (14)) Gilbert searches for any God under any name within any religion. However she mostly tries to find God within herself. Through her struggles with meditation and easily penetrable attention she works to find all that she is looking for.
31: Not all of the subplots are this captivating as that of religion. Gilberts incorporation of the cultural and historical background of the countries she visited provided a much-needed tribute to places that housed her re-growth and explanation for some of the not typical actions of the natives. Unfortunately, her descriptions went on for a few chapters. There is only so much history you can add to a story without making it sound like a textbook. It also felt like she was just trying to take up space to full up the amount of chapters that she needed. In order to be more effective, Gilbert should have just incorporated the culture alongside her actual story. In this way comprehension is ensured and enjoyment is found as well. The greatest thing about Gilbert is her charisma. Even though she does not completely open up and seems foreign in that aspect, she makes up for this with her friendly attitude. She opens up to the reader different stories such as her poor stomach tolerance when traveling to the physical effects of loneliness. Through this Gilbert becomes one of those confident, uncensored, yet still mysterious close friend you will never even try to understand but love to have around. Gilbert and her content are specifically relatable for an over thirty set, but can be enjoyed at any age. While her traveling is unisexually interesting, the story is geared to lost women in need of a self-help guide to a better life. Warning, this is not a fun, fast beach read. It can sometimes feel slow and occasionally drags, lacking the fast pace that defines a page-turner. Yet because Gilbert is charismatic and talks to the reader through her writing, do not pass over “Eat, Pray, Love,” at your next book group meeting or when you are need of an empowering story.
32: Castles, Fires and Skedaddles Across the Desert Review of "The Glass Castle" -Meaghan Walsh All around the world there are economic problems striking many families. People can lose their jobs because of too many workers or not enough income. While they may be trying hard to keep their job, they still lose it because of overflow of workers. But this isn’t the case for the Walls family. Instead Rex Walls, the father, is just too lazy to even try to keep a job. In The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls tells the unbelievable tale of her childhood, and how her family goes from town to town, in search of another adventure. Jeannette’s father, Rex Walls is the type of father who can never keep a promise. The title signifies the ongoing promise he made to Jeannette about one day making them a castle in the middle of the desert. However, Rex is an unmotivated man who doesn’t know how to keep and job and keep his money because of a harsh drinking problem. Jeannette’s mother is a carefree woman, who tends only to her artwork and believes that they should take care of themselves; even when Jeannette burns her whole stomach while making her own hot dogs at the mere age of 3.
33: Walls shows us the story of her life in just fewer than 300 pages, and while her life is generally compelling, she multiple uses techniques to keep the reader hooked. The first sentence of the book reads: “I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a dumpster” (3). Jeannette uses sentences like these in such a nonchalant manner, making you wonder why she says it like it is so normal. As you continue on reading, you realize that compared to everything else that happened in her life, seeing her mother root through the trash isn’t the weirdest thing to happen to her. Walls expresses her childhood in such great detail and description, you can almost picture yourself living with her family in the town of Welch: “the house was a dinky thing perched high up off the road on a hillside so steep that only the back of the house rested on the ground. The front included a drooping porch, jutted precariously into the air, supported by tall, spindly cinder-block pillars” (150). Jeannette continues describing their house on the next two pages in depth, making you feel like you are really there looking at the house with them. Jeanette introduces many different characters to the story, such as Billy Deel, the Walls’ dingy neighbor in Battle Mountain, who ends up trying to rape Jeannette. When she refuses and tells him she doesn’t want to be his friend anymore, he comes to their house with a BB gun for revenge against Jeannette telling her that she’ll be sorry. She also introduces Dinitia, the African-American school bully in the town of Welch. At first Dinitia does everything she can to torture Jeannette because of her dirty and ripped clothes, but later on they befriend each other. Jeannette and her siblings have many troubles fitting in at school, because they always look dirty from their lack of baths, and never have lunch because they can’t afford it: “When other girls came in and threw away their lunch bags in the garbage pails, I’d go retrieve them” (173). The kids were always ashamed of their life and how they got by, but they knew that there was nothing they could do to fix it. Throughout The Glass Castle you can see each of the characters grow and develop. I feel as though I grew up with each of the kids: Lori, Maureen, Brian and of course Jeannette. As they all grow up, they change in character and the magic of doing “the skedaddle” every time they left home, soon disappeared. They finally realize that their life would never get better and would continue to be full of rotting houses and empty bank accounts. Most importantly, Jeannette soon recognizes that building the Glass Castle is just a fairytale dream. Taking care of the family in place of their helpless parents soon becomes a task that Jeannette and Lori can’t handle, causing them to vow that as soon as high school is over, they will move to New York City. Jeannette Walls doesn’t fail to impress me with her vivid details, shocking stories and compelling plot. Her journeys with her crazy family are exciting and ridiculously unsafe all at once, and truly shape an impressive and astonishing memoir. She captures the magic of growing up perfectly, and shows that while sometimes it is almost impossible to live with no money, other times it is exhilarating whirlwind of adventures. This book is for anyone who likes adventure and truly shows that with a little bit of hope and determination, anyone can get away from their past and create their own successful life.
34: Parents are normally thought of as authority figures. They are the backbone to every family, taking control in all situations. In the case of the Wall’s family, the rolls are reversed as the children take over the job of the “adult.” Rose Mary and Rex walls fall into a spiral of booze and poverty and their family struggles to get by. The Walls children learn at a very young age to survive under the worst possible circumstances. | “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls is a heartbreaking yet uplifting memoir a bout a family’s struggle through poverty. The wall’s family moves constantly, paranoid of the arrival of tax collectors. Rex Walls has made up a fantasy world for his family where every tax collector is an FBI agent and every move is a new adventure. They move from one southwestern mining town to another, sleeping in cardboard boxes or in a broken down old car. The children learn to love “skeddadling”. They are convinced their poverty stricken lives are just perfect. Unfortunately, their lives are anything but perfect. Rex and Rose Mary Walls hardly provide any sort of income. Each believes in a “hands off” type of parenting. At the age of three, Jeannette burned herself while making hot dogs. Her mom believed she should make her own meals and be self-sufficient, even though she was merely three years old. Jeannette set herself on fire, and was sent to the hospital because her burns we so severe. In the hospital, Jeannette loved the steady intake of food and the special care that the nurses provided. However, Rex takes Jeannette’s care into his own hands and executes another one of his famous “skedaddle”. They run Jeannette out of the hospital, and start one of their new adventures. The free spirit parenting style of the Walls family is also seen when they are driving to one of their new destinations. Jeannette ends up falling out of the car and is left on the side of the road. She hopelessly cries, torn up from the fall and waiting to see if her family will ever come. Finally, she sees the old car stumbling up the highway. Her parents laugh as they return, amused by her launch out of the car.
35: They run Jeannette out of the hospital, and start one of their new adventures. The free spirit parenting style of the Walls family is also seen when they are driving to one of their new destinations. Jeannette ends up falling out of the car and is left on the side of the road. She hopelessly cries, torn up from the fall and waiting to see if her family will ever come. Finally, she sees the old car stumbling up the highway. Her parents laugh as they return, amused by her launch out of the car Walls has a knack for entertaining the reader with endless anecdotes and unbelievable stories. Her life seems unreal, as she takes you through her journey of poverty and hardship. Each experience is described with satisfying detail and imagery. The words just flow with ease; is the story is easily read and understood. Not only does her writing style clearly state and show her experiences, but also evokes the reader’s emotions. You cry when she describes being beat up at school and rummaging through garbage to find food. And you will also root for the Walls children when they find their way through New York City in search of a better life. “The Glass Caste” is an entertaining memoir that will force you to keep turning the pages. You will forever remember the shocking conditions the Walls family lives in and the obscure lifestyle they pursue.
36: Mike Bossidy Review of Lone Survivor Lone Survivor was published in 2007 and was a best seller for several months in a row. Written by Marcus Luttrell and Patrick Robinson and the book successfully tells Marcus Luttrell’s path to military glory. It begins with Marcus getting on a large cargo plane to Afghanistan. He is a navy seal and has just finished his job in Iraq. There are several other navy SEALs on the plane, and they are all headed to fight the Taliban, who are once again increasing their military might. After landing Luttrell and four other SEALs are given the assignment to photograph, and eventually kill or capture a high-ranking Taliban bomb maker. The mission is a go, however Luttrell is soon faced with one of the toughest decisions of his life when Afghan herdsmen discover them. After much thought about where the Afghans’ allegiances lie, Luttrell makes the call to let them go, soon after a huge army of Taliban is fighting the SEALs. After hours of fighting, Marcus is the only one left and is able to find refuge in a cave. A day passes as Luttrell crawls around, injured from the battle, looking for water. Finally, Afghan villagers find him and decide to take him in. They grant him lokhay, which means they will defend him with all means necessary. Marcus realizes the Taliban have to respect these village rules, but still wonders if he will ever be able to leave these afghan mountains. I enjoyed reading this book not only because of the exciting plot, but also because of the many skillful techniques the author used. First, he had a tremendous voice throughout the entire book. He addresses the reader as if he was talking right to you, telling you his story. He adds side notes and comparisons to everyday things to increase this feel of being spoken directly to, and help you understand some of what he is going through. One example of this is, “a lot of us thought this was encouraging. Seven of our number, however, were not to be consoled by these sudden, calming words uttered by guys who should have been riding with Satan’s cavalry in Lord of The Rings.” Here he compares the drill instructor to a lord of the rings character, showing that he’s tough on his men and very intense. He also uses humor to describe the instructor by using a movie reference, which lightens the rigorous training they are all trying to endure. By reading the first couple of pages you can feel his enthusiasm for the navy SEALs and military overall. Another thing I liked about this book was the structure he used, foreshadowing the deaths of his friends and teammates. Then as these men, who he so highly regards, are close to their deaths on the battlefield, he once again uses his strong voice to weave humor into this tragic part of the story. This quells the sadness of death, and leaves you at ease that their heroic story has been told properly. He tells the reader, “We hit the bottom, both of us landing with terrific impact, like we’d jumped off a goddamned skyscraper. It shook the wind out of me, and I gasped for breath, trying to work out how badly injured I was.” Comparing the jump to the height of a skyscraper provided just enough comic relief for the reader. This small amount of sarcasm is just one example of how he takes you away from the battle scene for just a second, and keeps you on the edge of your seat. Another thing he does well is his description of the numerous events though training, and then to Afghanistan. One example is his vivid description of the sniper-training course. He portrays this as, “a vast area out near the border of Pendleton. There was not much vegetation, mostly low, flat bushes, but the rough rocks-boulders-and-shale terrain was full of undulations.” As a reader who has never been to Pendleton, the author paints a clear picture of the rugged terrain of this elite training course. One minor flaw the author made was his inconsistent time sequence during the beginning of the book. Marcus gets on a plane and begins flashing back to his childhood, and then returns to the plane describing some of the other SEALs aboard the aircraft. However, next he talks about fighting and I assumed he was off the plane taking part in several missions. It turns out he was describing the fighting in Iraq, which took place before he got on the plane. Marcus’s mind wanders again as he takes the reader back through his rigorous training that goes with his profession. Once again he shows an inconsistent time line by mentioning how he cracked his femur during training and did not graduate with his original class. Then when describing his training day by day he does not mention the injury until he is graduating. This illogical sequence left me slightly confused as a reader. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and its patriotic themes. I thought Marcus did a very good job writing and truly describing his time in the military, whether it is in training or while fighting. Finally, I liked his leadership as he blames much of the failure of the mission on himself. This shows his loyalty to his fellow SEALs and strong patriotism for his country. I would recommend this book to anyone from about 13 and up, as it is a relatively easy read. However, there is a fair amount of gore through the battle scenes. Despite the confusing jumping around in time sequence, his heroic patriotism leaves the reader proud of the United States military.
38: Many people only know the Red Hot Chili Peppers as one of the most popular punk-rock bands from the last 20 years. However, few know about the background of the group’s members, or how the band even got started in the first place. In Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis, he tells the story of his presumed yet shocking life as a rock star. Born in Michigan to young parents, who eventually split up, he at first lives a semi-normal life with his single mother, who would do anything for her firstborn son and makes sure that he has a stable life. When she remarries and gets pregnant, Anthony decides that he wants a change, and moves to Los Angeles to live with his father, an infamous drug dealer who desperately wants to make it in Hollywood as an actor. | This begins his crazy and psychedelic life experiences. Anthony astonishes the reader by nonchalantly describing his first experience smoking marijuana at the tender age of 10 years old. He even includes a picture his father took of him as he is smoking. Many things brought up in this book would be a shock to many, considering the fact that normal 10 year old boys would never think to do such a thing, especially with their own father . Although the aspect of sex and drugs gets somewhat tiring after the first few hundred pages, I kept reading to see if he would make a change and go to rehab, or learn a lesson from a run-in with the cops or close call with an overdose. Another redundant yet influential detail of the book, was his many relationships and girlfriends. Even though it seemed like he had a girl everywhere he went, his descriptions of them and experiences with them were unique and definitely made a large impact on his life, “I met Ione on her sixteenth birthday I often think I would have died without her care.” (picture section) He described almost every single girl with vivid detail and praise, that I felt like I knew them personally. Finally, the writing style is very informal, which gives the book a lot of character. When describing most of his experiences, he is right to the point and does not sugar-coat anything. This allows the book to be a one-of-a kind memoir.
39: One disappointing aspect of the book was the fact that he barely touched on the subject of the death of his base player and best friend, Hillel. I wish he had further described his feelings, as this was an important and influential person in his life, “I always had a deep connection with Hillel. He had that capacity to allow people to go past the barriers of their comfort zone with how much they wanted to reveal to people.” (220) Throughout The entire book, he talked about how great of a person Hillel was, but when it got to the part about his death, he seemed to gloss over his feelings at the time, and briefly describe what he was going through. This book is mostly geared toward an older audience, as his details of drugs and sexual experiences often become explicit. Also, it is for anyone who simply enjoys the music of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and wants to know more of the background story. However, If the reader has no previous knowledge of the band, they would most likely become bored of the story quickly and easily, because they would get lost in the redundant details, thus not allowing them to emotionally attach to Anthony or any of the characters in the memoir. Overall, I enjoyed reading the book very much, and it really allowed me to further my knowledge of this great band, and have much more respect for them. I would most definitely recommend this book to anyone who is interested in reading about the compelling life that belongs to Anthony Kiedis. Review by Kelly Blaylock
40: "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert “‘You used to look like your husband, but now you look like David. You even dress like him and talk like him. You know how some people look like their dogs? I think maybe you always look like your men’” An acquaintance once told Ms. Gilbert, the author of the memoir, "Eat, Pray, Love." It is because of this dependency on men to create her identity that Liz decides to set off on a quest to cure her depression and non-existent sense of self. Liz leaves behind her crumbled life of divorce and subsequent failing rebound relationship in New York City for a year of delicious spaghetti in Italy, revealing meditations in India, and new relationships in Indonesia. Throughout her travels she encounters many people and adventures that seem like the perfect medicine for her troubles as she learns how to create a healthy balance between pleasure, religion, and love in her life. It’s as if the world is ready and waiting to cure Ms. Gilbert, restoring her to the lively young women she was before. The most inviting aspect of Liz’s writing is that she manages to keep a friendly and clever tone as she carries the readers through her many comic and tragic experiences. It is this quality that sets Ms. Gilbert’s tale apart from the classic “mid-life-crisis” story. In response to a cartoon in The New Yorker that stated: “If you really want to get to know someone, you have to divorce him” Gilbert writes, “I would say that if you really want to STOP knowing someone, you have to divorce him”. In this way she manages to make light of her divorce while at the same time creating a relaxed atmosphere for her readers with her use of blunt humor. However, at some points Gilbert’s “it’s no big deal” attitude seems to act as a veil for her true feelings. Liz just barely touches the surface of her feelings of pain and loss throughout her divorce, simply describing it as her “crying-on-the-bathroom-floor” phase. The absence of true despair portrayed in the beginning of the book causes some confusion over what Liz is really searching for throughout her travels, and makes you wonder if she was really ever depressed at all. | Luckily, Gilbert manages to make up for her unemotional start with wild adventures that attract the hearts of travelers, mystics, and romantics alike. Interspersed between flashbacks of her dispirited past, Liz shares snapshots of her interesting new collection of friends. In Italy, she discovers the young and cute Swedish accountant Sofie who is taking four months off from work just to speak Italian, as well as Luca Spaghetti an older man who teaches Liz the art of swearing in his native language. Soon she befriends Richard from Texas who nicknames her “Groceries” and a plumber/poet from New Zealand who help her part with her open-ended divorce at the Ashram in India. Finally, upon her arrival in Indonesia she befriends Ketut, a medicine man who could possibly be 120, and Wayan a healer whose daughter Tutti dreams of being an “animal-doctor”, not to mention a potential love Interest, the sexy Brazilian Felipe. This random spew of characters intertwine and create an enticing story plot that successfully portrays Liz’s purpose of discovering and finding balance within herself. However, there were times when Liz was dwelling on her gray past that I found myself more interested in the lives of her exotic friends then in her own life of discontent. Despite the facts that, Gilbert’s good-natured sense of humor and the wildness of her adventures appeal to most audiences, this book is definitely meant for the middle-aged housewife. I found that while reading I couldn’t really relate to Liz’s distress over and reliance in men. Considering that I’m at a point in my life where I have had few relationships, none of which have been meaningful, I kept thinking that if I had gone through a similar situation to Liz that I would have understood her purpose much better. Despite these setbacks, I still found "Eat, Pray, Love" to be an enjoyable read due to to Ms. Gilbert’s wit and the foreignness of all her adventures. The idea of taking off for a year of traveling to anywhere you want in the world is very appealing, however, if that’s all you’re looking for, you may find yourself wanting to ask Liz to put a sock in it, because the real focus of the story is on her emotional state, not the world around her. On the other hand, if your looking for a light combination of adventure and sentiment, then this is certainly the right story for you. - Emily Lambdin
41: EAT | PRAY | LOVE
42: Everybody knows the American dream, the European who sold all of his belongings, traveled to America, worked hard to start a family with a stable income and eventually save enough money to send his children to college. In the book Nickled and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich, she challenges the fact that that same dream exists today. She goes into the slums and tries to build herself up from nothing, eventually failing. Refusing to believe that the American dream has died, Adam Shepard set out with a goal, to prove Ms. Ehrenreich wrong. Adam Shepard graduated from Merrimack College in 2006 with a degree in Business Management and Spanish. Soon after graduation he attempts to make a name for him self from nothing and later wrote the book Scratch Beginnings telling his story. Scratched Beginnings By Adam Shepard 240 pp. SB press $9.99 In order to prove that the American dream still exists, Adam leaves all of his belongings at home including his college diploma and possible business contacts. He starts with $25 and the clothes on his back, just like millions of people do everyday, and heads off to Charlestown to pick himself up from his bootstraps. Adam’s goal after the 365 days in Charlestown is to have a working vehicle, a furnished apartment, and $2,500 in the bank. Throughout the book, Adam has a constant informal tone. He admits in the prologue that he is not an exceptional writer, editor, or publisher but the form he uses is quite impressive. In a journal-esque manner, Shepard is able to convey the raw emotions, personalities, and circumstances he experienced. Although his descriptions of the homeless shelter were helpful, the various dialogues he included really grant a fuller understanding to readers, shown in his “acceptance” into the homeless shelter: ‘“Well how does it work? Do you call it your Adam’s apple?’... ‘Actually no, I don’t have to. I just refer to it as my apple’they loved it. As strange as our discourse had been for me, they laughed hysterically” (40). Through quotes like these, Shepard is able to provide a window for readers to look through and relate with the various characters, making them feel more realistic. Although his plan sounded feasible and inspirational, there are several flaws. First Adam was brought up in a family in which the parents had a relatively healthy relationship, no history of drug or alcohol abuse, and most importantly a house which motivated the kids to dream big and taught them they could be anything they wanted. As shown in the first couple of chapters, many of the other inhabitants of Crisis Ministries, the homeless shelter he temporarily lives at, have been forced to live on the streets since their young childhood and never grew up with any hopes or aspirations o
43: f becoming somebody. An example of this is Billy, who Shepard meets at the shelter: “Billy had hitchhiked to Charleston from his home just outside of Chicago He was thirty-two and escaping his previous life, one that included a bitch of a wife, parents who didn’t care and a handful of dead-end jobs”(26).That mental edge Adam has over the rest of the homeless population is a benefit more important than any college resume or savings technique he learned. In addition, Adams extreme work ethic allows him to set lofty goals, and ultimately reach them. Adam explains his perseverance and energy level, “He could tell I wasn’t particularly strong, but he also knew that I had the stamina of a Kenyan in the Boston Marathon” (152). Many of the members of the homeless shelter have been there for years and are trapped in a vicious cycle. Because Adam knows he has a house and a promising life to go back to he has a strict “ending date” in which he knows he has to finish by. This personal deadline gives him motivation over the others and allows him to traverse the road to success. Adam’s acquaintance Marco displays the complete opposite, “He was struggling to ignite that fire in his belly that could potentially catapult him out of his present situation” (27). Lastly, Adams previous experience in Business Management allowed him to make smart financial decisions and gave him ideas on how he could stretch his dollar as much as possible. “But I did my best to conserve my money. Cheap? Definitely. But that’s how it had to be. Every $5 and $10 I could save might not matter so much for that one day, but it would be so valuable in the long run”(126). These smarts allowed him to eventually save enough to purchase a car, completing 1/3 of his original goal. -Ryan Begoon | Scratch Beginnings By: Adam Shepard
44: “The Glass Castle” New York Times Book Review By: Lauren M. Stewart Jeannette Walls’ memoir, “The Glass Castle” describes her everyday hardships growing up as a child in deep poverty with two selfish parents, one of which cannot hold a steady job with the exception of being a full-time alcoholic. This frame narrative begins with Jeanette as a young woman living in New York City, shifts back to the past with Jeannette as a nave three-year-old girl, and slowly progresses chronologically through the past up until the present again with her as an adult. As this progression takes place, Jeannette gradually comes to the realization that her parents are self-centered creatures who solely value their own existence, and are so focused on their individual well-being that they allow their children to live in poverty despite the myriad of opportunities that sit waiting for them in Texas. And yet through it all, Jeannette still maintains faith in her parents. But for how long does it last? The tribulation that the parents force upon the Walls children is what makes this “the kind of story that keeps you awake long after the night while the rest of the house has fallen asleep” (Vogue), with ample suspense and “never a dull moment.” Every time the children overcome an obstacle in their life, a feeling of sympathy and anger gradually arise in the reader. Sympathy, because as humane individuals, we are willing to do anything in our power to remove the Walls children from the terrible situation they are currently living in, and anger because of the irresponsibility that stems from the lack of parenting and the excess of greed in the parents. However, I will admit that my bias is derived from the way in which the author describes her poor living conditions and her monstrous parents. As the author, Jeannette does a brilliant job in portraying her parents as the antagonists in the story. However, she does provide small glimpses into the meager amount of compassion that shines through the parents ever so often. Jeannette’s parents and her relationship with them is where conflict emanates from in the story and is what shapes Jeannette as an individual. Rex and Rose Mary Walls, Jeannette’s parents, both share relationships with her that stand on “opposite sides of the spectrum.” On one hand, you have Rex, who is portrayed as a brilliant thinker with a “little bit of a drinking situation” and who cannot hold a steady job. Jeannette has a sturdy and yet at the same time a flimsy relationship with her father. When it
45: comes to her father, Jeannette is faced with the conflict between wanting to trust him and knowing the reality that he cannot be trusted, and managing realistic expectations. While Jeannette maintains faith in her father’s project of building her family a “glass castle,” her dreams are eventually shattered by her father’s inability to follow through with a single promise. On the other hand, you have Rose Mary, who is an anti-domestic, free-spirited artist who is the definition of egotistical. Jeannette and her mother share a very different relationship together than Jeannette and her father, but yet another very relatable one. Jeannette expects her mother to act in a nurturing and caring manner, what with her being the mother in the family; however, Rose Mary usually seems to be neglecting this responsibility, which is why Jeannette does not appear to have a close relationship with her. Jeannette often brings up flaws in this mother-child relationship when the expected image of a giving mother clashes with the reality of a selfish mother. Despite the poor influences her parents have on her character, Jeannette is still able to find success independent of them. This helps to convey the personal truth of the memoir-that through the roughest of times there is always a “light at the end of the tunnel,” which guides us to our success, and is free of all outside influence. The author’s natural bias colors the real-life relationships within the story. Because Jeannette shares a closer relationship with her father, she portrays her mother in a more negative fashion than she does him. Throughout the memoir the mother seldom says, “I’ve spent my life taking care of other people. Now it’s time to take care of me,” and because of this self-pity, Jeannette develops a hatred for her mother and a greater love for her father, who is rarely selfish and always pushes his children to strive to be the best that they can be. The father is an all-around better parent figure in the story, which is why Jeannette gravitates to him more so than her mother. With this being said, I would recommend this book to anyone who has had a conflicting relationship with their parents or has faced a hardship in their life and through it found success, like Jeannette has. And although these relationships are biased, especially since the book is a memoir, and the relationships may be twisted in the author’s mind, they are still relatable to the reader, and that’s all that really counts.
46: American Dream: Dead of Alive? By Luke McDermott Review of "Scratch Beginnings" by Adam Shepard Adam Shepard, author of “Scratch Beginnings,” is a 2006 graduate of Merrimack College, where he majored in Business Management and Spanish. During his upperclassmen years, Shepard took an interest in socioeconomic issues. He decided to set out on a daring adventure; to see if the American Dream is still alive. Armed with a sleeping bag, $25, and the clothes on his back, Shepard chose a random city on the East Coast, and set out to see if he could work his way up and create something from nothing. His goal: to work his way out of homelessness, and after one year, have $2,500 in the bank, a working automobile, and a fully furnished apartment. In the end, Shepard chooses Charleston, South Carolina to start his voyage. He spends two months in a homeless shelter before moving into an attic, and then finally, into a duplex with a roommate. He takes his readers into the world of day labor services that prey on homeless and unemployed people to fill the menial and back-breaking jobs that need to be done. He eventually lands a job at a moving company, where he works for about nine months. Readers are introduced into the world of moving, including one ridiculous, “eighteen-and-a-half-hour move, the move that marked my rite of passage as a mover.” Shepard shares with us his story of moving on up. He shows his readers how it is possible to succeed with hard work and smart spending. His tale is one of an uplifting tone. He riddles his story with jokes that keep the mood upbeat. When first picking it up, I expected a depressing story, filled with details about the grime and filth of living on the streets, and while Shepard includes elements of that, he doesn’t focus on it. On the other hand, at the end of the book, I expected him to be filled with epicness, full of heroic passages of how he surpassed poverty and rose to become something. While he did accomplish that, he told his readers upfront that, “Mine is the story of rags-to fancier-rags. I’m not an extraordinary person performing extraordinary feats. I don’t have some special talent that I can used to ‘wow’ prospective employers. I’m average. My story is very basic, simple. My story is about the attitude of success.” He tells his readers straightforwardly that his story is nothing special. His purpose was to prove that the American Dream is still alive, and that anyone who is smart with their money and works hard can make something of their life. And yet, Shepard makes it clear that escaping the streets is not a one day ordeal. Working hard for one day isn’t going to pull you out, Shepard points out. Shepard makes it clear that working up is a day-to-day grind. Shepard writes an uplifting, eye-opening memoir. His message is sincere, and his story should be an inspiration to people in all different situations. Shepard describes the wide variety of audiences that this book would apply to. Twelve years olds, complaining about not getting the latest videogame, fifteen year olds who don’t see the purpose of studying hard in school, the recent college grad struggling between unemployment and overwhelming student loans, the seventy year old grandfather who has a firm grasp on the concept of Shepard’s story, and the thirty two year old mother working multiple jobs to support her kids. I feel like this story can apply and interest any audience because the story applies to us all in different ways. And even with the positive and uplifting message of his story, criticisms abounded; that he wasn’t a woman, that he was fit and healthy and could handle a moving job, that he had not been raised in an environment other the projects of an inner-ctiy, and that he didn’t have any kids to support. The middle section of the book gets a bit boring, as you realize that he isn’t facing many troubles. I found myself pointing out all these criticisms and how I could relate to the many angered people who are saying that his book made it look easy. Overall however, I thought the story was a positive one, filled with evidence that the American Dream is still very much alive.
48: Real-Opti-Pessimism By Alyssa Domino Adam Shepard’s “Scratch Beginnings” was an experiment to renew hope in the American Dream. Inspired to disprove Barbara Ehrenreich’s pessimistic view of the American labor force (as portrayed through “Nickel and Dimed”), “Scratch Beginnings” is Shepard’s story of his goal to make it from a homeless shelter in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, and into an apartment with a car and $2,500 of surplus money within a year. The catch? He starts off with a mere $25. With a monstrous sum of determination, Adam achieves his goal within 10 months and deems his project a success. After carefully analyzing this book, however, it seems that Shepard had too much going for him for his journey to become a beacon of hope for all those trying to work their way up from rock bottom. Before he set off to reinstate faith in the American Dream, Adam Shepard was your average middle class citizen. He had grown up in the comfort of Raleigh, North Carolina under the wings of two supportive parents. Shepard credits his optimism and willpower to his mother and father. He was a graduate from Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts, which set him up with experience as a college athlete and a bachelor’s degree. He claims that this upbringing gives him no advantage in Charleston because he does not use his educated past to help him on job applications. However, Shepard’s true identity became a part of the man he was pretending to be, thus making his project not entirely accurate. Shepard entered the streets of Charleston knowing that if his plan failed, he could go back home to use his college degree in business to get a decent job, or at least return to the comfortable lifestyle provided for him by his middle class parents. On top of his fallback plan, Adam had a distinct goal and time frame set before his journey began. While he entered the homeless shelter by choice, the other men were there because their lives had taken a turn for the worst, giving them no other option but to rely on Crisis Ministries for food and housing. They did not have support of optimism and adventure that Adam Shepard did. For them, this scenario was no game or experiment – it was real life and the only way out was slow and tedious. Shepard said in the epilogue, “I would have loved a day off, time to relax and rest, maybe a vacation. But that is unrealistictime off is a poor investment if you live at the bottom.” (Page 213) Though this quote seems heroic, Shepard does in fact take a vacation once he achieves a status of “fancy rags”. Shortly after he moves into his apartment, he calls the project a success and returns home. Contrastingly, one who is legitimately working his way from the bottom needs to maintain the endurance to continue to rise at the same painstakingly slow pace. Although Shepard makes it clear to the reader that he does not use his college degree to his benefit and instead leads nine months of manual labor, he still has a degree in business management. His college education in business directly benefits him when he goes car shopping. He skillfully negotiates a price of $2,000 down to $1,000 and makes the seller believe that he makes a good deal. A person without his background would most likely settle for a higher price. Optimistically, the relationships that we see develop through the book grab the reader’s attention by contradicting morals we are taught and blending ordinary moments to become extraordinary lessons. They are unorthodox to say the least (like how the friendship between Shepard and his roommate BG only buds after a fist right over a stolen car). The writing itself developed through the plot. The reader is emotionally drawn, but not through provision of a captivating tale complete with jaw dropping twists and a whirlwind climax. Instead, Shepard exposes readers to an unfamiliar world expressed from the viewpoint of a casual, yet indomitably positive, intellectual. Is this book worth reading? Yes. Adam Shepard’s positive attitude is contagious for the readers, just as was for the people he encountered in Charleston. Both the men in Charleston and the reader have the option to either view Shepard’s faith skeptically, or to accept it and be inspired. If you want to enjoy this book, you need to keep a light heart and open mind when reading it instead of trying to analyze and criticize Shepard’s efforts. There will always be ways to argue in light of pessimism, but this man has gone lengths to show America hope. In the words of Adam Shepard, “My story is about the attitude of success” (Introduction, xvi). Let this attitude guide you and you will truly experience the journey from the bottom through the eyes of Adam Shepard.
50: New York Times Book Review: The Glass Castle BY: COURTNEY S. GALLAGHER “I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out of the window and saw Mom rooting through a Dumpster” (Walls 3). This is the first sentence of Jeanette Walls’ book, The Glass Castle. This gripping introduction does not fall short as the story goes on. Thrill, devastation and sadness are only some of the range of emotions that this memoir evokes from the reader Jeanette Walls faced many challenges growing up in a home where her only adult role models were her parents, Rex and Rose Mary Walls. Rex and Rose Mary are two of the most unfitting parents one could ever have the misfortune of being raised by. Rex Walls, Jeanette’s alcoholic father, is always moving in and out of places—either the family home, or places they might find themselves. He possesses an almost perfect mix of eccentric appeal. Rose Mary, Jeannette’s mother, was a painter and had strong opinions along with backwards methodologies on raising her children. These unconventional methods brought great hardship and sorrow to not only Jeannette’s childhood, but to all of her siblings. Jeannette’s earliest memory is when she was 3 and she burned herself when she was making hot dogs, and the fire caught onto her dress. Jeannette tells the nurses, “Mom says I’m mature for my ageand she lets me cook for myself a lot” (11). Her six weeks spent in the hospital ended up with Jeannette being “liberated” from the hospital by Rex kidnapping her, despite the nurse’s yell to stop. Rex was always doing the “skedaddle,” where the whole family picked up their stuff during the middle of the night and moved to different towns. The skedaddle, he told his kids, was necessary because “henchman, bloodsuckers, and the Gestapo...FBI agents, who were after Dad for some dark episode that he never told us about because he didn’t want to put us in danger, too”(19). These FBI agents were really debt collectors that Rex was running away from. During one of Rex’s many “skedaddles” he tossed the family cat out of the window. He would also talk about striking it rich one day, and about all the amazing things he would do—like the Glass Castle. This Glass Castle, the title of the book, was the dream that Rex was chasing and could never achieve. It showed the loss of hope for Rex and Rose Mary along with the absence of a normal life for the Walls'. When Rex came into some money he would quickly spend it on booze. The Walls children were peculiarly home schooled. Rex Walls taught the kids to shoot a pistol at a very young age. Jeanette was just 4 when Rex trained her to hit five out of the six beer cans with a pistol. “Mom had us all reading books without pictures by the time we were five, and Dad taught us math. He also taught us the things that were really important and useful, like how to tap out Morse Code and how we should never eat the liver of a polar bear because all the vitamin A in it could kill us.” But when the Walls children began to enroll in conventional school they were tormented for being outcasts. At one point, Jeannette had to salvage food what other kids had thrown in the girls restroom garbage can. Sometimes that would be what she ate all day. Everyday she would come to school and she would always say she had forgotten her lunch at home. Eventually the other kids didn’t believe her. Jeanette would also be bullied unmercifully by some of her classmates. One particular bully was a girl named Dinitia Hewitt, who bullied Jeanette day after day.
51: The reader will connect all of the bullying and the outcast nature of the family with the fact that the kids were raised to not respect society’s laws, and to appreciate that the means to survival was not hard work, but to try time after time to strike it rich, with the least effort. Many times this is just a dream for people--something people didn’t take into consideration when dealing with their own lives. For the Walls' it was the story of their lives, chasing dreams that were far out of their and everyone else’s reach. The Glass House is a metaphor for the dream or the way in which the Walls’ parents sought not to strain themselves in the working world. The overall concoction was the symbol of a loss of hope, not only for the house, but of their parents as well. As the kids grew up they learned that their lives were anything but normal, even though throughout their lives they were taught to reject that idea. One by one they started to leave to New York. As readers, we can feel ourselves rooting for the characters as they move to New York to start their own lives. Everyone except the youngest child Maureen, who spent most of her life living in other peoples’ houses, escaped the horrors of the Walls’household. Sentiment and shock filled my body once I read, “Six months later, Maureen stabbed Mom” (275). Unable to escape, we see Maureen’s downfall as she is sent to a hospital. Jeanette Walls’ The Glass Castle is nothing short of a work of art. It is unbiased and nonjudgmental in its portrayal of her parents and the manner in which she and her siblings were raised. The book evokes great emotion from the reader and allows you to draw your opinions about her parents, and to experience the true sentiment behind the story. In the story, you are put in Jeannette’s position and you can feel her emotions as an outcast as she tries to balance her love for her parents with reality. We see this in the persistent theme of The Glass Castle. It was but a dream that Rex had for the family, but was never actually attainable. When Jeannette lost hope of attaining the glass castle that her father promised, she also lost hope in her father. The glass castle metaphor was very powerful, because not only did it have a literal basis, but also allegorical meaning. This strengthened the story in many ways and added much meaning. Walls has recreated her life in a book that puts her life on display in a very raw way a way many of us would not want to portray our own lives. Walls’life, which was “[a dance] along the border between turbulence and order”(288).