I loved the Play "Cats". It tells a story based on the poems from T.S. Eliot’s book- “Old Possum’s, Book of Practical Cats. My very favorite part of the play was the beginning of the second act. As it started out it said- “We had the Experience but missed the meaning”. We don't want our lives to be like that, we want to find the meaning of our experiences.
The story is of a tribe of cats called the "Jellicles" and the night they make "the Jellicle choice", which was to decide which cat will ascend to the Heaviside Layer and come back to a new life.
Andrew Loyld Webber produced the play. Late in the production, and probably not part of the original plan, the director, Trevor Nunn, wrote the song Memory. He based it on T.S Eliot’s poems, “Preludes” and “Rhapsody on a Windy Night”. The song, "Memory", proved to be the most popular song from the play. It was sung by the cat character Grizabella who was once a glamour cat but had become only a shell of her former self. The song is a remembrance of her glorious past and of her wish to start a new life. It is presented in the first act, but then again near the beginning of the 2nd Act. The song results in Old Deuteronomy choosing Grizabella to be able to go back and have another life.
Music has a way of taking us back to a time and a place. Memories are found by the music, as it seems to activate the brain. This happens in the medial prefrontal cortex region of the brain, which is one of the last to be changed with Alzheimer’s disease. That may help to explain why music can elicit such strong responses from people with Alzheimer's disease.
Many songs will bring back specific memories for us. Musicals often introduce songs, that are so powerful years later they easily bring back the first time you heard them. Examples of musicals that do this well are: Les Miserable, Phantom of the Opera, and Cats.
Barbra Streisand recorded “Memory” in 1981. Her presentation was awesome. It seems like it was made just for her to sing. The song took Grizabella and those that heard it back to a time and place and those memories expressed earned her another life.
In 2009 when Scottish singer Susan Boyle performed this song, at her audition for the third series of the British reality TV show Britain's Got Talent, her career sky rocketed. She seemed in many ways to be the character Fantine.
Midnight, not a sound from the pavement, Has the moon lost her memory, She is smiling alone In the lamplight, The withered leaves collect at my feet. And the wind begins to moan
Memory, all alone in the moonlight, I can dream of the old days, Life was beautiful then, I remember the time I knew what happiness was, Let the memory live again
Every street lamp seems to beat, A fatalistic warning, someone mutters and the street lamp sputters, and soon it will be morning
Daylight, I must wait for the sunrise, I must think of a new life, And I mustn't give in, When the dawn comes, tonight will be a memory, too, and a new day will begin.
Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, & Cats,
It has been at least 20 years since I first read “Things Fall Apart” and discovered it's author, Chinua Archebe. The book must have resonated with others because today it is the most translated African work of all time. It has been translated into 50 languages and has sold over 8 million copies.
In “Things Fall Apart” the main character was Okonkwo from a village in Nigeria. He was a warrior, father, and husband. A single minded hard man.
In the beginning of the book the Africans appeared uncivilized. As the book proceeded we understand that they were indeed a African tribe with strong traditions and values.
The dignity and humanity of their lives just falls away with the influence of the white missionaries and intruders, whose teachings are foreign to the tribe and of which resistance is impossible. The Christian salvation just doesn't resonate.
Okonkwo can't change himself, and seems to be alone in his understanding of what is happening, and he commits suicide. The culture is lost and a civilization is lost
“The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.”
“There is no story that is not true, [...] The world has no end, and what is good among one people is an abomination with others.”
Harold Fry is a retired sales rep, and a worn down husband. Up to the time he retires he was a "passive observer of his own life", but that changes as we walk with him and ponder over his life.
His passive response to his past has a lot to do with his wife, his son, and events at work over a long career. He receives a letter and learns that his friend from work twenty years ago, Queenie Hennessy, has cancer. It has been years since he had any contact, but he decides to go see her. It requires him to walk 627 miles and takes 87 days. (Not sure why he felt he had to walk but the book wouldn't be the book if he had just jumped in the car)
The journey and the experiences frees him from his past but it also seems to offer some freedom to the reader. His wife worries a lot but then she winds up being freed from her past. We experience the walk ourselves and as a lifetime of problems seem to slip away for Harold maybe some of our own problems start to seem a little different?
Three questions occur to me about Harold's Pilgrimage. Does making this trip make sense?
Could things really change because of the trip? Do the things that happened make sense?
A question of interest would be to learn "Why" Rachel Joyce wrote this book about Harold Fry? What did she want to do? Did she want the reader to leave wondering about Queenie Hennessy, his work friend who wrote him the letter, enough to then buy her next book? ( I haven't done that) She could have just wanted to write about why dull lives are not really dull if you think a lot about them. So go ahead and read the book and think about that
The book is well worth reading even if your not sure why it was written?
Books about writing. especially those that are done by someone who is very skilled at the process, give you a boost and renew you.
Carolyn See, Natalie Goldberg, Mary Karr, Anne Lamott, Anne Dillard and a few others are all very talented, and it is just a pleasure to read what they write about writing.
Anne Lamott's seems to have been born a writer. I mean most of these talented people loved writing and books from an early age, but she really seems to have been a actual writer at an early age.
Her father was a writer and her accounts of her early life and his influence are a unique side of her. In this book she transitions into her chapters on writing technique from her own life story and the advice her father gave her brother. The book took it's name from that advice where he counseled him to tackle his story on birds, one bird at a time.
Her advice on writing is pretty basic, but it just feels different. It is her ability to offer simple advice in such a easy to read, free flowing style, that is so effective. You find yourself relaxing and just enjoying her language and her perspective on the process.
Some authors seem to put an unusual word or phrase into the dialog to "wake you up", but with Anne she evolves quite naturally from instruction to the language of life itself.
It is a good book and it can help you go back and "sharpen the saw" as Steven Covey would say.
Paula Hawkins is a British author who wrote "The Girl on the Train". It has been published in over forty languages, has been a #1 bestseller around the world, and is now a major motion picture starring Emily Blunt. The book is a psychological thriller novel which deals with themes of domestic violence, alcohol, and drug abuse. The books success is amazing. Amazon has over 56,000 reviews for the book. Even though the overall rating is 4 stars out of 5 there are negative comments and people have mixed comments. The negatives are that book is a “fast read”. The plot moves you quickly, but it doesn’t stick with you too long when you finish.
With this kind of former success, and another book coming, you wonder how the new book will do?
I wanted to know more about this author? She worked as a journalist for fifteen years before turning her hand to fiction. She was born and brought up in Zimbabwe. Paula moved to London in 1989. She moved to darker fiction as a style after her book The Money Goddess: The Complete Financial Makeover was released in 2007.
"Into the Water", is scheduled to be released May 2, 2017. It is her second dark fiction thriller.
Will “Into the Water” do as well as “The Girl on the Train”? We will have to wait to see. The book will be released on May 2nd, 2017.
You can click on the book link and order it here through Amazon or just put it on your to buy list.
This is a book that surprises you. It surprises because reading Steinbeck isn't like this, I thought. Yes it is about the land but it is about the man, the dog, and the camper crossing it.
It was first published in 1980 and told the story of a 1960 road trip the author had taken. The three key characters in the plot are Steinbeck, the dog, and the camper.
His dog is a French Poodle named Charley who is the perfect dog for Steinbeck. The pick up truck is a camper that he created, ahead of his time, and was named Rocinnte.
It seems likely that Steinbeck gave some thought to choosing the name, Rocinante, which was also the name of Don Quixote's horse in the novel Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes. In many ways, Rocinante was not only Don Quixote's horse, but also his double: like Don Quixote, he was awkward, past his prime, and engaged in a task beyond his level of skill.
Steinbeck wrote that he was moved by a desire to see his country on a personal level, since he made his living writing about it. I felt like I was learning about the land and the people through his eyes. The dog was an important character in this story and seeing the land through Steinbeck’s eyes was the story.
I had never had a high regard for French Poodles but apparently I was wrong.
“I was born lost and take no pleasure in being found.” ..
“I have always lived violently, drunk hugely, eaten too much or not at all, slept around the clock or missed two nights of sleeping, worked too hard and too long in glory, or slobbed for a time in utter laziness.
“A sad soul can kill you quicker, far quicker, than a germ.”
“I am happy to report that in the war between reality and romance, reality is not the stronger.”
“I wonder why progress looks so much like destruction.”
“We value virtue but do not discuss it. The honest bookkeeper, the faithful wife, the earnest scholar get little of our attention compared to the embezzler, the tramp, the cheat.”
The new book that has recently been released by George W. Bush is a wonderful book. Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief's Tribute to America's Warriors
I don't know how, as a reviewer, I could do this book justice it deserves? To find a former President and Commander in Chief who shows his heart this long after his term was over, and to do it in in such a touching way, is the real message.
He wrote about why he took up painting, and also why he focused on veterans. I just don't want to try to improve on what he said.
The book contains has his own paintings and then brief stories about those in each painting. He talks about their challenges. The faces are real, and it makes the book real. Buy the book. If you buy it online, click here to do so. If not here then just go to some of the many book review sites or pick it up locally.
His book matters.
Several years ago I had an opportunity to speak to a group as one of two planned speakers. The other speaker was Stephen Covey. Yes, it was a little intimidating and before I mention one of his books I will tell you a little about it. It was at a Singles Ward in our Church. He was the invited speaker and I was the assigned speaker from our Stake. I had no idea that I was going to precede him that day. I sat by this bald guy on the stand and wondered who he was at first.
At the time we were living in Salt Lake City and it was easy enough to pull a speaker from the Provo area if someone had a connection. I wish I could tell you what I talked about that day, or even what he talked about. I just don't remember but I do remember how I felt. This is sort of the flip side of Maya Angelo. Remember she said:
“At the end of the day people won't remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” Well I could change that to read like this: At the end of 20 years you won't remember anything about what you said when you were the first speaker with a man like Stephen Covey, but you will remember how you felt. I remember clearly that no matter what I said as the first speaker that no one would want me to be taking up the time.
When I was in college I took a speech class. The last time we each presented a talk to the class was a big factor in our grades. I had a very good speech ready and knew I would do well. What I didn't know was that the speech before me was so good it blew everyone away. We were awestruck. When I got up I just gave my speech. I should have gotten an A. It was a good. When the instructor discussed my talk with the class afterwards he said the lesson to be learned was that when you follow a amazing speech the only chance you have is to diffuse the excitement. He said don't just jump in with your message but comment on how wonderful the other message was and let the excitement come down a little. I got a B because I didn't do that.
When I preceded Stephen Covey I did think of that. I figured the excitement was coming, so I shortened my talk some. I also mentioned that I was excited to hear from him. It seemed to work.
I wrote a new post in the Creativity Tab about "The Habit of Creativity". In that post I mentioned Stephen Coveys book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I do want to recommend that book. Those habits can help creativity, and also help us develop personal excellence.
Aristotle said “Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives. It is choice, not chance that determines your destiny.” It seems clear that excellence can be the end result of good habits.
The 7 habits are listed below. The book was first written in 1989 just a couple of years before my speaking event happened. These habits are still of value and I would recommend the book and these habits for your study.
1. Be Proactive
2. Begin with the End in Mind
3. Put First Things First
4. Think Win Win
5. Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
7. Sharpen The Saw
Adam Weiner's book, "How Bad Writing Destroyed The World" takes some of the thinking that has influenced the world for the last 75+ years and ties it to a surprising source.
The "Bad Writing" refers to a Russian author, Chernyshevsky. In 1863 he wrote a book "What is to Be Done". One chapter in the book, "The most atrocious work of Russian literature", sums it up.
Chernyshevsky socialist philosophy was called "rational egoism". How this philosophy became the foundation of Ayn Rand, the arch-capitalist, is the shared belief that "the rational pursuit of selfish gain on the part of each individual must give rise to the ideal form of society". The book also caught the attention Lenin, Dostoevsky, and Nabokov. How their philosophies (also?) meshed with the book was also also discussed in the book.
Ayn Rand's fled to the south where she went to the University of Petrograd. Years later she came to the United States.
She is best known for her book "Atlas Shrugged" and "Fountainhead". Capitalism, limited government, the individual, the free market, and eventually trickle down economics, were her areas of focus.
Her book "Atlas Shrugged" was reviewed by Whittaker Chambers who, with William Buckley, were the other well known conservatives of the last century. When Chambers said of her book that it was a "fairy tale" their relationships ended. (I think he was right)
In other writings Rand said of herself that she was the smartest philosopher the world had ever had, except Aristotle. She also said that with a free market that, the rich get richer and the poor are hurt sometimes, but then "they deserve it". For her the free market rewarded brains. She thought people would naturally do the right think in a free market, because self interest meant people would protect their reputation.
A early disciple of her's was Alan Greenspan. He would later say he knew economics but didn't know why people acted the way they did. He felt Ayn Rand had helped him with that.
By the time he served as Chairman of the Federal Reserve from 1987 to 2006 he was very much in her influence. After the banks crashed in 2008 the congress called him in and asked him why he had reduced all the regulation that was in place that seemed to have caused the crash? He said he had made a mistake. He said he knew economics but didn't understand people, and felt that the free market would cause people to do the right thing for the sake of their reputation. He misjudged greed, and admitted it.
The book is interesting, relevant, and worth reading.