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Books + Arts

Exploring the Great Gift of Life

Daniel Menaker ’63, My Mistake: A Memoir. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston, 2013, 256 pp.
Ben Franklin, who knew something about writing, editing, and publishing, quipped in his Autobiography that God was a loving proofreader who forgave and corrected the “errata” of our lives. A similar sense of wry understanding marks Daniel Menaker ’63’s recently published memoir [...]

Dramatic Visionary, Brilliant Director

Joseph Horowitz ’70, “On My Way”: The Untold Story of Rouben Mamoulian, George Gershwin, and Porgy and Bess, W.W. Norton and Co., New York, 2013, 304 pp.

Musical theater productions in America typically come to life in a creative frenzy of collaboration, usually in
hurried preparation for a New York debut. While the names of composer, lyricist, [...]

Food For Thought

Peter Biskind ’62, My Lunches with Orson: Conversations between Henry Jaglom and Orson Welles, Metropolitan Books, New York, 2013, 320 pp.
In the midst of one of the many midday meals chronicled in My Lunches With Orson, edited by Peter Biskind ’62, Orson Welles starts venting to his perennial companion, the director Henry Jaglom, about the [...]

Turbulent Origins

John Palka, My Slovakia, My Family. One Family’s Role in the Birth of a Nation, Kirk House Publishers, Minneapolis, 2012, 416 pp.
John Palka ’60 was born in Paris in summer 1939, only two weeks after his mother had escaped from the newly minted Nazi puppet state of Slovakia. A year and a half later, surrounded [...]

Coming Home to Herself

Rachel Neumann ’92, Not Quite Nirvana: A Skeptic’s Journey to Mindfulness, Parallax Press, 2012,
208 pp.
Spending time with this disarmingly moving book by Rachel Neumann ’92 is like sitting across a table with a close friend, sharing a meal—“friends, warm food, light elemental”—or simply a cup of nettle tea, “breathing and riding waves of joy [...]

The Poetry of Epic Loss

Faith Barrett ’87, To Fight Aloud is Very Brave: American Poetry and the Civil War, University of Massachusetts Press, 2012, 328 pp.
In the 1920s, novelist Virginia Woolf wrote that war stirs the poet in us—most likely with the Great War (aka World War I) in mind. Rupert Brooke, the brilliant soldier-poet, died young but left prophetic [...]

The Fifth Course: Imagine the Worst Thing in the World for a College Student

Fletcher Wortmann ’09, Triggered: A Memoir of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin’s Press, NYC, 2012.
To carry the burden of a chronic illness or learning disability during the college years is what I call The Fifth Course. The Fifth Course is more than a burden: It is both an imposed and possible learning opportunity. [...]

Reducing Gun Violence is Author Kennedy’s Aim

David Kennedy ’80, H ’11, Don’t Shoot: One Man, A Street Fellowship, and the End of Violence in Inner-City America, Bloomsbury USA, 2011.
David Kennedy ’80 describes his extra-ordinary book as a work of “experimental nonfiction.” Some people refer to it as a memoir. I call it an “autobiography of public policy.” Kennedy, a well-known and [...]

Tout comprendre, c'est tout pardonner

Mark Whitaker ’78, My Long Trip Home: A Family Memoir, Simon and Schuster, 2011.
Mark Whitaker ’78 found that he had first to forgive, and then came understanding. It struck me that each reader of this arresting memoir would react differently to the Whitaker family history, but a common realization would be that for each examined [...]

“Ambassador Hormel!”

James C. Hormel and Erin Martin, Fit To Serve: Reflections on a Secret Life, Private Struggle, and Public Battle to Become the First Openly Gay U.S. Ambassador, New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2011.
Reading this book, I often noticed how well its beautifully designed dust jacket conveys the book’s central message: that a proud gay man ably [...]