Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Story With Many Lives

Alice Munro wrote a story that was published in “The New Yorker” in 1997 entitled, “The Bear Went Over The Mountain.” Not long after the story was published, a young Canadian actress and screen writer, Sarah Polley, fell in love with the story and wanted to make it into a film. Sarah Polley made the story into a film called “Away From Her”, starring Julie Christie. Ms. Christie, after a long hiatus from film making, was nominated for best actress in 2007, for her role, as Fiona, in the film, “Away From Her”.

I read the "The Bear Went Over The Mountain" in The New Yorker a few years ago. Recently I purchased the novella, ”Away From Her”, not making the connection. As I began to read the story I realized that I had read it before. I usually don’t like to reread a story/book because I feel there are so many new books to read and discover. But, this is a memorable story and one that is more than worthwhile to reread.

Alice Munro is a prolific writer, who writes beautiful, lyrical prose. “Away From Her” is a story of love and marriage. The story is told from the viewpoint of Grant, the husband, a retired college professor, whose wife of over 30 years begins to lose her memory and drift away from him. Fiona is always the force behind Grant. When Fiona laughingly suggested to Grant that they get married, he said “Yes, yes!” because he wanted “never to be away from her.”

This is a story of a marriage and all the twists and turns that evolve over thirty years. Grant was a loving but often unfaithful husband. When he is forced to retire, Fiona and Grant move to her family’s isolated farmhouse. There Fiona begins to lose her sense of the past. They go together to see a (nursing) “home”. Fiona eventually settles into the routine of the home and Grant returns to their empty house. What follows describes the essence of love. Grant is dismayed when Fiona doesn’t recognize him. But, the ending of the story tells of a haunting act of selflessness and love committed by Grant. One that takes the reader by surprise. Reading Alice Munro is like watching an artist paint a picture. All the blurs and smudges (of the characters) evolve into in a work of art. Reading this haunting story gives the reader insight into why Sarah Polley was so obsessed with the story and wanted to share it with the world.

You can read the story from “The New Yorker,” at

Friday, March 28, 2008

A Poet Among Us

Carolyn Hall is a gifted haiku poet in our midst, publishing and winning awards in haiku poetry competitions since she began writing in 1999. Although she has been writing and contributing to haiku publications for some time, Water Lines,  published in Great Britain by Snapshot Press in 2006, is her first individual collection.  It can be ordered online at  Haiku is known to a few of us as a  brief poem containing nature imagery. Beyond that, the poems often reference a season and contain little or no mention of people.  Some of us may even recall that it is a short, economical form, containing no more than 17 syllables. Powerful  accessible imagery is a significant component,  giving the reader the opportunity to "fill in" and imagine unstated information. Within the world of serious haiku followers, an additional related poetic form, focusing more on human emotions, such as humor or irony is know as senryu. This defining information was provided by Keith Heiberg, who strongly praised her work in The Harvard Book Review, Volume IX, Number 2, Winter 2007. Peggy Willis Lyles, in the book's forward,  praised her "spare, accessible, insistently clear  and scrupulously honest" work.  Both Heiberg and Lyles  point out how vivid her images are, often approached from a somewhat unconventional point of view, even in the instance of everyday, seemingly small events. I cannot begin to comment from any insider's trained perspective. However,  as a reader, I find myself taken by the fresh sensory images they contain, smell as well as visual, tactile and auditory images.  They seem like small "gems" or "nuggets" that crystalize a perception, a truth, while representing a small quiet moment.  They call forth feelings of recognition, a sense that "I've been there" too. And the range of topics is impressive, from the more likely images of leaves, streams, birds, moon, to a slave cemetery, or a produce stand. As a birder who is fond of autumn, I immediately "saw" and "felt" the motion in the following:

indian summer
the intersecting circles
of hawks

Smell is such a powerful sensory "link" to memories for me. How many of you can recall this sensory moment?

a waft of cedar
from my sweater
winter rain

I noticed how these images evoked  feelings of sadness and futility in me when linking the prospect or reality of destruction in small and very large events:

war news
the underbelly of a moth
pressed to my window

How does she move us from a visual movment to the "space" of time? 

crochet hook
pulling the yarn through
deep November

The humor of this experience must be close to universal in our culture:

the um in her voice
before offering me
the senior discount

This lovely thoughtful collection warrants a place on your bookshelf or bedside table and a space in the quiet moments you set aside for reflection.

God's Frozen People

What an incredible imagination Michael Chabon has! Is it his affection for comic books, as we saw in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, that makes him capable of imagining an entire alternate universe? Here's his amazing “what if” in The Yiddish Policemen's Union - the state of Israel fails in 1948 and the US offers the Jews a temporary homeland for 60 years in Sitka Alaska. But now it's late 2007, and the US has never granted them permanent status. “Reversion” looms, when Federal District of Sitka will return to Alaska's control, and the fate of its current inhabitants is uncertain. All this serves as the backdrop for Chabon's main character Meyer Landsman. He's a hard-boiled, hard-drinking, chain-smoking, miserably divorced homicide detective right out of Raymond Chandler. Think of Robert Mitchum in a 40's film noir, with a Tlingit Indian sidekick named Berko who's a devout Jew. And they're trying to solve a murder that no one wants solved.

In some ways this book reminds me of Philip Roth's The Plot Against America, which also created an alternate reality where the outside world threatened the Jewish characters. But Chabon's book has a very different tone. It is simultaneously a black comedy, a whodunit and a treatise on Jewish diaspora. There's even a sort of love story - Meyer still pines for his ex-wife Bina, who is now his boss. The plot twists and turns, and I needed a crib sheet to keep all the characters straight. And I'm sure that if I knew Yiddish some of the slang in this imaginary universe would make more sense. A cell phone is a shoyfer; a cop is a noz; a gun is a sholem; cigarettes are papiros. Are these all inside jokes? But Chabon creates a vivid world that had me turning the pages to the very end.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Different Kind of Love Affair

There must be a name for it. I don’t know what it is but I know that I am guilty: giving a book as a gift to a member of your household – a book that you yourself really want to read – with the knowledge that it will now be readily available to you. This time the “smoking gun” is The Piano Shop on the Left Bank by Thad Carhart that I gave to my spouse, a lapsed piano player whom I hoped to coax back in to playing again. He hasn’t read the book yet but I have and enjoyed it on many levels.

The book’s subtitle says a lot about one level: “Discovering a Forgotten Passion in a Paris Atelier.” The author is an American living in Paris and working as a journalist. As he walks his children to school each day he passes a small storefront shop with piano tools in the window. He is intrigued. But the first time that he drops in he is only left with more of a mystery. Eventually he wins the confidence of the owner Luc and is admitted into the life of the atelier. There is a lot of factual information about the history of the piano, how it came to have its current shape, details of the construction and repair of pianos, and profiles of some memorable piano teachers (good and bad) – along with generous doses of friendship, enthusiasm and French humor. It was really fascinating to learn that the physical construction of the early pianos influenced the actual music composed for those instruments. The early pianos would literally collapse under Listz’s hands.

But what also really moved me in the book was a description of an Italian pianist/engineer who decided in the late 1970s to re-engineer completely the piano, to challenge the Steinways, Bosendorfers, etc. He had to study acoustics, harmonics, woodworking, metal foundry and other specialties related to the piano. But he pursued his dream and his piano became a well-regarded (but expensive) reality. Look for a Fazioli at your next concert. What a great lesson: it is possible to take on the established leaders and to come out ahead, in effect, to “build a better mousetrap”. Just because something has been doesn’t mean that it must be! That’s what drives innovation and entrepreneurship.

I will think of pianos in a different way now - not to mention lifting the fall board at every opportunity. Right now there is a cello in my life - otherwise I would be sorely tempted to follow the author's lead. If you choose to read this book, you've been warned of its effects!

Monday, March 24, 2008

John O'Hara, a Good Discussion

This month our book club read “Appointment in Samarra” by John O’Hara. One of our members researched the book and found some very interesting biographical information about John O’Hara. He was born in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. His father was a skull surgeon and the family was part of the upper class in the small town of Pottsville. There were many similarities between John O’Hara and the main character of the book, Julien English. The difference between the two, was that John O’Hara was Irish Catholic and Julien was a Protestant. Growing up in Pottsville, John O’Hara and his family felt excluded because they were Irish Catholic. Julien English was automatically accepted by the people that mattered in Gibbsville. “Appointment In Sumarra” was said to be John O’Hara’s revenge on the Protestants who had snubbed and excluded him growing up in Pottsville. This sentiment was combined with his distress over his brief marriage to Helen Petit, an Episcopalian, whose family did not approve of O’Hara and his hard drinking, journalist life style. In the early thirties John O’Hara’s writing career was failing as was Julien English’s Cadillac agency. But John O’Hara went on to write many short stories and some well known screen plays, such as “From the Terrace,” “Pal Joey,” and “Butterfield 8”. He married three times and was known as a social climber and an alcoholic.

When the book was published in 1934 it was received as “scandalously sexy”. It depicted sex with a married woman who enjoyed having sex. He wrote about women as sexual creatures and men who wanted sex every ten minutes. Both concepts were new to fiction in 1934. The numerous anti-Semitic references were reflective of the sentiments of small town American in that era. O’Hara was obsessed with social climbing and carefully related the “rules” of the country club set i.e. who got to sit next to the “sad bird” and what was the expected reward.

Our discussion of this book centered on the question----“What happened to Julien?” We discussed the reasons for Julien’s quick decline or downward spiral (within 3 days) to have germinated long before the incident of throwing the drink in Harry Riley’s face. He had been branded, as a youth, to be a thief by his father. He thought he had the "bad gene" of his grandfather, who had committed suicide. He had taken the loan from Harry Riley that he could not pay back. His marriage to Caroline was troubled, although they loved each other. And, finally he had double crossed the mobster, Ed Charney. It was a combination of economic ruin, social ruin and a troubled marriage, that led to his downfall. He had crossed one boundary too many and he could not escape his “Appointment in Samarra” (his appointment with death).

Our group was puzzled about why the story ended with Lute Fliegler’s joke. But, we all felt that we had a very good discussion about a book that some readers did not enjoy. Those are often our best book group discussions!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Irish Memories

Last week I saw a new play called Tir na nÓg("Land of Youth") by Irish writer Edna O’Brien at Magic Theater. As I watched I kept feeling that I already knew the characters and story seemed very familiar to me. It turns out that the play was adapted from the novel The Country Girls which O'Brien wrote in 1960. At least 20 (could even be 30!) years ago I read this novel – at that point it was part of a trilogy which also included The Lonely Girl (1962), and Girls in Their Married Bliss (1964). My book has long since gone to Green Apple, so I can't refresh my fading memory, but I do remember fondly the two main characters, Kate and Baba, whose lives span the three books. The trilogy covers their childhoods and convent education in western Ireland, their move to Dublin, their fantasies, their romances and their marriages. The book is funny and lyrical and poignant – very Irish. I remember feeling sad that the spirited, talented country girls of the first book ended up in such disappointing marriages in the last book. Would I feel differently if I read it today? But the characters never feel sorry for themselves. And the fact that I remember them twenty years later is a tribute to O'Brien's talents as a storyteller. To read an interview with O' Brien about her new play visit:

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A Walk in the Woods

Although my preferred form of exercise is running, there are times, especially days after a run of miles in the double digits, when walking is just about all that I can manage. There has been on my book shelf for many years (a gift from my friend Ellen) a small Penguin mini-book called Walking. A “how-to” for using a pedometer? Not exactly - rather an essay by Henry David Thoreau written in 1862. I'm sure that I haven't read a true essay since college. Wikipedia defines an essay as: "...a typically short piece of writing, usually from an author's personal point of view. Essays are non-fiction but often subjective; while expository, they can also include narrative. Essays can be literary criticism, political manifestos, learned arguments, observations of daily life, recollections, and reflections of the author.”

Thoreau managed all of these in 50 pages including urban planning, the evils of private property, the effects of climate on personality, the advantages of eating free-range meat, among other topics. If reading can sometimes be a passive activity and sometimes active, this definitely requires the attention of the reader. The language can be difficult, sprinkled with a fair amount of Latin. But the message can be very contemporary: “What business have I in the woods, if I am thinking of something out of the woods?” Okay - I won’t always run with my iPod. There is also a bit of humor as in his proposed Society for the Diffusion of Useful Ignorance.

And right to the point for this blog he believes that “A truly good book is something as natural, and as unexpectedly and unaccountably fair and perfect, as a wild-flower discovered on the prairies of the West, or in the jungles of the East.”

Have you read a real Essay lately? Can you recommend one?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Travel Adventures

Alice Steinbach, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist for the Baltimore Sun, took a year off and wrote an entertaining travel memoir taking place in glamourous European cities. A divorced mother of two grown sons, she wanted to learn to "take chances. To have adventures (and) to see if I could still hack it on my own, away from the security of work, friends, and an established identity." She traveled alone and the book is light on the details of each city she visited but it contains some warm and enticing tales of the kindred spirits she meets, including a romance with a Japanese businessman, a connection with a young American girl about to get married, several women in London who care for her when she becomes sick, and her experiences while taking a course in English Village life while in Oxford. While not as wise as Gift From the Sea and not characterized by the spiritual and psychological searching in Eat, Love, Pray, it's worthwhile on its own terms. I admired her independent spirit, skillful writing, and the people connections she discovered in these wonderful cities. If you enjoy travel memoirs, or are soon to head to Europe, Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman is a worthy companion.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Great stories from a favorite writer

I read my first Nadine Gordimer novel about fifteen years ago. It was "July's People", a story about a hypothetical revolution in South Africa, where a family accepts their black servant's offer of safety and refuge in his village. The results of this decision are life changing for this family. It is a story that has stayed with me and made me want to read more of Dame Gordimer's fiction. Our book group has gone on to read many of Dame Gordimer's novels over the years. We have read "Burger's Daughter", "The House Gun", and most recently "The Pickup". Dame Gordimer has received numerous international prizes over the years for her writing, most notably the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1991.

I always want to return to Nadine Gordimer's writing because I enjoy it so such. It is subtle, always keeping the reader on guard. There is a density and a tension in her prose. I want to read it quickly to find the outcome, but I often have to reread her sentences to make sure I have read it correctly. I am currently reading a collection of sixteen short stories by Nadine Gordimer called, "Jump And Other Stories". The stories are a journey through different cultures, from the war in Mozambique, to the beaches of southern France, to London and an affluent suburb in Johannesburg. These stories go beyond the racial segregation and strife of the apartheid in Dame Gordimer's usual writing. One of my favorites is a story called, "Some Are Born To Sweet Delight". It is a story about a teenager who falls in love with a lodger in her family's home. He is a terrorist and the story ends in a now too familiar tragedy. The stories are markedly different from each other, giving the reader a unique experience each time they open the book. "Once Upon A Time" is a story about a couple so paranoid about the racial strife encroaching their affluent suburb that they create their own tragedy.

I find a great collection of short stories to be a wonderful way to read when I don't have a lot of time but I want to read something substantial and engrossing. Nadine Gordimer never fails!

Friday, March 14, 2008

In Suburbia

You may know the name Tom Perrotta not from his novels but from their screen adaptations. Election and Little Children have both been made into movies. Election is a terrific black comedy. Little Children...hmmmm. I think people have strong feelings in both directions on this one so I'll just remain neutral in print. His latest novel is The Abstinence Teacher, and it's set in a suburbia that will seem familiar if you've seen these films. In some sense the main character is the Tabernacle, the newest evangelical church in town. Its influence pits Ruth, a liberal sex education teacher, against Tim, a former druggy rock musician turned zealous church member. OK, you can probably guess what happens. But it's to Perrotta's credit that none of this is painted in black and white. Ruth's liberal attitude is tested when her daughters ask to attend an evangelical church, and Tim, despite religious fervor (or because of it?), is presented sympathetically as a decent and vulnerable man. Perrotta can also be devastatingly funny. His description of the 'reinforcement session' Ruth and other reprobate sexuality teachers are forced to attend is hilarious. I wasn't surprised to learn that this novel is already in the process of being adapted into a film. So if you're not inclined to read it, watch for it soon at a theater near you.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Every Month a Valentine

Just before Valentine’s Day this year I read a review by Michael Dirda in the Washington Post of My Mistress’s Sparrow is Dead edited by Jeffrey Eugenides (you may know him from Middlesex). Those Classics scholars among us may recognize the title as from a love poem by Catullus. That is your clue that this is a collection of love stories. In the review Dirda refers to Chekhov’s “The Lady with the Little Dog” which is included in this collection as “what I and many others feel to be the greatest of all modern love stories…” With a teaser like that how could I not immediately order the book from my local library? My local library is my new best friend: log on to their website, request the book and receive an email when the book is ready for pick-up. Well worth the 50 cents!

I have to confess that the superlatives for this story surprise me. Perhaps it is the attention and sensitivity to nuance required by the brevity of the short story form that make it difficult for me and why I have never developed an appreciation for the form. Subsequent re-readings may help. The list of other authors in the collection includes names familiar (Faulkner, Joyce, Kundera, Nabokov, Malamud, Munro) and others less so.

I was inspired to dust off Nothing But You - Love Stories from The New Yorker edited by Roger Angell which has been sitting unread on my own bookshelf. Reading either of these books straight through seems to me like eating a meal only of desserts: the enjoyment of each is diluted by its proximity to the others. So I have resolved to take them one story at a time – each month on the 14th - a little Valentine to myself. It’s almost that time.

Monday, March 10, 2008

A Timeless Gift

During the years when I was struggling to "balance" the demands of being a working woman, wife, friend, mother,  sibling, adult child, neighbor, volunteer, I  often sought solitude and simplicity at a small simple lake cabin or the seashore.  I discovered a small gem during that time, the book Gift From the Sea, written by Anne Morrow Lindbergh in 1955.  The book is a remarkable achievement. Using the shells she picks up at the beach during a brief seaside vacation, she reflects on the shape, complexities and phases of a woman's life. It's a lovely, lyrical book that is still relevant today and presaged so many of the themes written about in the contemporary crop of self-help and New Age spiritual books: simplicity,  solitude, caring for the soul,  finding and retaining a sense of one's "essence" in the midst of living modern busy, noisy lives. Lindbergh was the mother of five, wife of the famed aviator and her childhood summers were spent on an island in Maine. The sea and the beach were elements woven throughout her life.  Her book was written over 50 years ago but remains timeless. What sets it apart is her lyrical, poetic quality of writing, and the intellectual honesty of her reflections. You may be somewhat skeptical, given the huge assortment of books available on similar themes. However, I urge you to find a copy and form your own assessment. For me, it remains a book to savor, to read many times, and a "gift" to share with others.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Reading For Our Health

Sometimes when I come home from work I turn on “Oprah”. And, sometimes it is interesting, especially when her guest is Dr. Mehmet C. Oz. I have found watching and listening to him to be very informative. They spoke about his book a few times and I love reading books about the body, how it works and how to make it work better. So I read his book, “YOU The Owner’s Manual.” It is written by Dr. Oz, who is professor of surgery at Columbia Medical Center and director of The Heart Institute at NY Presbyterian, and Dr. Michael Roiszen, a well known professor of medicine at SUNY Upstate and the author of “RealAge”. He has founded a program aimed at helping people reverse biologic aging and live longer, more vibrant lives.

“YOU The Owner’s Manual” is written in the lay man’s vernacular with a lot of humor and anecdotes. I found the chapter about the heart and its arteries to be very straightforward and informative. There is a chapter on the brain, the bones/joints, the lungs, the digestive system, sexual organs, the immune system, hormones, and cancer, as well as a basic diet and some healthy recipes.

Some of the information in this book is common knowledge, but I always enjoy reading books like this because I usually learn some things that I can incorporate into my life that, hopefully, will enhance my health and delay the aging process!

Friday, March 7, 2008

A Suburban Tragedy

I'm sure the prolific writer Calvin Trillin is a familiar name for most of us. He is probably best known for his humorous articles and poems in The Nation and The New Yorker. His many pieces on the joys of food resulted in three books, and these are now combined in a single volume called The Tummy Trilogy – a must read for people who love to eat and love to laugh. He's also written wonderful memoirs, including ones about his father, his late wife Alice, and a touching book called Remembering Denny about a college classmate.

But there's another side to Trillin that I've always admired – he writes about murder. Over the years I've read many of these essays, and they really display his skills as a serious journalist. Years ago some of them were published in a book called Killings. In the March 3rd issue of The New Yorker there's a new one called “The Color of Blood”. The subtitle of the article is “Race, memory and a killing in the suburbs”. In it Trillin describes a 2006 incident on Long Island in which a seventeen-year-old boy is killed. His writing is dispassionate, but I was moved by the descriptions of the effects of this incident on both families and the community itself. In a year when the emergence of an African-American presidential candidate might make you think that we are moving closer to being a color-blind society, this story is reminder of the racial divide that still exists and its tragic consequences. You can read the essay online at

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Economics for the rest of us

The only economics class that I ever took was the typical one of equations, graphs and a glossary of technical terms and abbreviations whose meanings and relevance were lost to me as soon as the class was over. Perhaps if I had taken Robert H. Frank’s introductory economics course at Cornell University the results would have been different. In his latest book The Economic Naturalist - In Search of Explanations for Everyday Enigmas, Frank has put together a collection of one of his writing assignments: with a limit of 500 words, pose and answer an interesting question about an observed pattern of events or behavior using the economics principles of the course. To wit:

Why don’t more people wear Velcro shoes? (behavioral economics)
Why do women endure the discomfort of high heels? (divergence between individual and social interests)
Why are concerts so much cheaper if you purchase series tickets? (pricing strategies)
Why do we leave tips for some services and not for others? (wage patterns and employment practices)
Why are brown eggs more expensive that white ones? (supply and demand)
Why do stores post signs in their windows saying that guide dogs are permitted inside? (cost-benefit principle)
If a “cup” is supposed to be eight ounces, why is the smallest cup of coffee listed on the Starbucks menu a “Tall”, which contains 12 ounces? (discount hurdles)

You get the idea. This is a variation on the theme that I previously encountered in Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner: economics for the rest of us in bite-size pieces that relate to our everyday experiences and help us make sense of them. Economics need not be boring. When framed as a series of interesting questions, the answers can be equally fascinating.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Books That Stay With You #2

My husband and I have become devoted fans of books on CD. Five summers ago, as we drove to Minnesota, we listened to the recorded version of  The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara.  It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1974, which is why I was persuaded, despite my resistance and skepticism, to listen to this historical novel about the Battle of Gettysburg. Superb!  It's a recreation of the battle, over a period of four days, seen through the minds of  Generals Robert E. Lee,  Pickett, Longstreet and the Union Col. Chamberlain, a Bowdoin professor from Maine. It begins with the Confederacy winning but at the pinnacle of the story, a desperate charge from the South turns into a slaughter and Union soldiers win their first significant battle at great cost, creating the turning point in the Civil War.  The personalities, nobility and struggles of these true heroes was compelling, particularly the remarkable Col. Chamberlain. He was memorable for his wisdom, military skill, leadership and ability to inspire.  The book is not filled with too many logistical details or characters and is well crafted.  I still remember my anticipation and eagerness to hear each chapter as we traveled.  It is an excellent and compulsively readable book, or certainly one to listen to on a journey.  Famed Broadway singer/actor George Hearn was a wonderful reader, enhancing the characters so richly described in the writing. It did not hurt that his voice reminded me of the line once quoted about the actor Richard Burton. "He could read the telephone book and make it sound fascinating!" Consider fine books on CD's  on your next car trip.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The sixties-What happened?

We received two copies of Tom Brokaw’s “Boom! Voices of the Sixties” for Christmas. I think my friends and relatives thought we should read it. Boom refers to that rather large generation of babies born as World War II ended and are now referred to as the “baby boomers“. The book is about the 1960’s and all the phenomenal happenings of that decade. I lived through/experienced those times as did most of my friends. But, we all experienced the sixties from different vantage points, depending on what we were doing in our lives at that time. I found reading “Boom” a mesmerizing walk through history. All the things happened in that decade--- the assassinations of JFK, his brother Bobby, and Martin Luther King Jr., the Civil Rights Movement, the Free Speech Movement, the Feminist Movement, The Vietnam War, the Hippie era, and the Rock and Roll legends--- still play a major role in our lives today.

Tom Brokaw started as fledgling news reporter in the early sixties, and he uses the many contacts he has made over the last forty years to create a book that chronicles the happenings of the sixties. He uses the voices of people we know and some I had never heard of, who saw first hand the incredible things that happened and came to be in the sixties. There are stories of the Civil Rights leaders, the Vietnam soldiers, the MASH nurse, the son of a World War II veteran who made the decision to go to Canada, the writers, the leaders of the feminist movement, the political icons, the leaders of the free speech movement in Berkeley and many more. They give their own personal view of the sixties and it all comes together in a complex story that is our history. A question that comes to mind at the end of this completely engaging book is, “What did we learn from those turbulent times?” As Tom Brokaw states in his introduction, “The evidence is still coming in and the jury is still out-------and forty years later we don’t seem anywhere near being able to render a verdict.” Read “Boom!”, it’s a great, nostalgic, and enlightening walk through the sixties.