Sunday, November 27, 2022

Covid Shmovid.....The Strength of Our Local Lending Libraries: The Magic of Books


We have all been through the 'worst of times' starting in March, 2020 when the plague struck us. Sad stories abound; yet every dark period has its happy, if not heroic tales. 

The virulent bubonic plague which struck London in 1592, again in 1603 and yet again in 1606 did  not prevent Shakespeare from completing three great tragedies: King Lear, Macbeth and Antony and Cleopatra. 

And so the worst of times morph through some strange alchemy into the Best of Times. We are at the mercy of the unknown, a virulent ever hybridizing virus.

What better time to heed the maxim 'to thine own self be true' (Polonius' s advice to his son Laertes in Hamlet)  -- We should perforce seek out the written and recorded wisdom of great leaders and writers whose messages ring true throughout the ages.

Lending libraries have seen a dramatic fall in personal visits. So many patrons who love to browse new books, best sellers, etc. at their library now have easy access to great reading eBooks on their devices---especially during the quarantines. 

So what a borrowers paradise I have had recently checking out as many as 40 books at a time. My hope is the expectation of discovering a precious gem among jewels.

Our library has an  Express Book Display pictured below. I have passed this section dozens of times, always pausing briefly to scan titles of the latest book additions. 


What a genuine treasure I 'unearthed' as Ian McEwans's Lessons seemed to call out to me, "Grab me!"  

How exciting it is to have such an experience to discover another golden nugget in the vast treasure chest of our local library.

Long Live Our Libraries Let's celebrate our cultural heritages--now enriched with  book talks led by famous authors, dialogues with  newsworthy public figures, airing first run and classical movies, gourmet coffees served in conversation enhancing cafes, musical presentations art exhibits, etc.(for my comments on Lessons and other books on my Covid reading list click here 

My Covid Reading List

All has not been a loss. The Covid lockdown of the last  three years has turned my reading list into an opportunity to expand the horizons of my imagination.

1. Lessons by Ian McEwan is winner that elevates its author into the ranks of a Shakespeare in a 'fiction writer's Clothes. To read my review click here.

2. The Bhagavad Gita, Introduced and Translated by Eknath Easwaran, Nilgiri Press, 2nd edition (2007).  This book is a timeless Sanskrit epic poem written over 2100 years ago and is one of the holy scriptures of Hindu religion. It consists of a dialog between prince Arjuna and his mentor and charioteer Krishna. The former wonders if he should renounce war as he would be taking arms against his own relatives. This battleground serve as a stage where we are introduced to many Hindu concepts such Dharma, Karma, Nirvana, Brahman and Atman. Easwaran's introduction offers us a detailed primer to the core beliefs of Hinduism.
    The book is in brief a manual for discovering what is your individual purpose in life. You begin by  practicing meditation in which you learn to renounce the self, your ego, that is set primarily on the results of your actions especially the accumulation of material objects . This will set you on a path to uncover a self that will propel and help you to unravel your karma to set you free to achieve a lasting happiness and ultimately Nirvana.

3. Mr. Bridge by Evan S. Connell. (1959). The author is probably the most talented unappreciated novelist depicting mid 20th century upper middle class mores and values. His 141 concise titled chapters are replete with short vignettes of the Bridge family living a staid upper middle class life.  Led by the conservative mannered and rather stodgy Mr. Bridge, the family is expected to follow his strict adamant morals. His wife is expected to play the role of a stay at home mom to cater to the set ways of her husband. The children are often rebellious in their choice of friends and jobs and when they don't meet dad's expectation, they are put in their place.

     There are many gemstone vignettes that will captivate the reader;  the one that grabbed my attention was Chapter 66: High School Album in which Connell explores the necessity and mode, if any, of punishment when the younger sister cuts out five pictures of one boy from her elder sister's High School album. The latter reacts by grabbing her sibling by the hair and calling her "a dreadful" name. So. Mr Bridge is called upon to render judgment. This episode provided me with a rather lively discussion segue to the punishments that the Bible extracts for various figures such as Jacob, Joseph, Moses, King David to name a few--which you can watch by clicking here.

4.Fallen Founder, Aaron Burr by Nancy Isenberg (2015). This book beckons us to lay all prejudices aside---prejudices that have left us with two centuries of a limited perspectives: Burr as killer of Alexander Hamilton in a famous duel; Burr as U.S. Senator then Vice President turned traitor and Burr as womanizer. Through an extensive unearthing of papers and documents that other authors have ignored, Eisenberg succeeds beyond measure in her mission.

Aaron Burr, Jr.
source: Wiki Commons

     Consider these facts: Hamilton was an irascible short tempered challenger who "had a habit of engaging in affairs of honor. Over the course of his lifetime, he was "principal" in eleven affairs, which meant that he either challenged or received challenges from nearly a dozen different men between 1779 and 1804."  By contrast, Burr was only involved in two duels, the one with Hamilton and another in which his opponent apologized abruptly after Burr took a bullet that luckily passed through his coat after first fire.
      Hamilton would us any ruse and vile language to advance his career political career; he called Burr a scoundrel and a man lacking in principle when the latter was in contention for the presidency in 1800. And it was Hamilton (who detested Burr more than Jefferson) who was the kingmaker in the federalist controlled House which swung electors in favor of Jefferson to make him President.
      Burr's rise to prominence was earned through dedicated study at Princeton earning his B.A. at 16 and then a year of post graduate study in theology. He distinguished himself in the Battle of Quebec earning the title of Captain. He served in politics as New York Assemblyman followed by election as U.S. Senator before becoming Vice President.
     The diary that he kept during his courtship of his future wife Theodosia underscores his deep love, sensitivity and the importance of sharing ideas with a soulmate-- reminiscent of John and Abigail Adams written exchanges. And his heartfelt words to their daughter Theodosia about the importance of study and cultivation of good manners ring true even today: "I hope yet by her," he once wrote "to convince the world that neither sex seems to believe that women have soul."

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Ian McEwan's Lessons

   Ian McEwans's Lessons is a brilliantly conceived novel that raises perennial "hot" issues playing out against the backdrop of a century of influential historical events.

     The writer's command of carefully crafted concrete language is at times awe-inspiring and in my humble opinion places McEwan in the league of a Shakespeare in the guise of prose writer.

     Many of us know how embarrassing is the experience, as a nine or ten year old, of wearing glasses for the first time: How strange, how uncomfortable, how shameful we might feel when our friends may make fun of us. Here's the description of young Roland's, the novel's protagonist, eye opening experience.

    A Revelation He called out in joy. The great shape of the oak leaped as though through an Alice in Wonderland mirror. Suddenly every separate leaf of the many thousand that covered the tree resolved into a brilliant singularity of color and form and glittering movement in the slight breeze, each leaf a subtle variation of orange, gold, pale yellow and lingering green against a deep blue sky. The tree, like the scores around it, had made a portion of the rainbow its own. The oak was an intricate giant being that knew itself. It was performing for him, showing off delightful in its new existence.

     By the author's admission, many autobiographical threads are carefully woven into the fabric of the text giving it a heartfelt authenticity.

     The novel is a character study of Roland Baines. Two major events dominate the 431 pages. Indeed, on the very first page an adult Roland Baines relates how at age 11, his aggressive 22 year old piano teacher initiates sexual advances during his lessons, Over the next few years the teacher-student relationship will blossom full grown at age 14 into a mutually consuming sexual obsession for the next two years. She so dominates him physically when they meet at her home for piano lessons. His fantasies are always on her and while his memories of his private school education are forgotten, her sexual madness and its effects on him seemingly surface for a lifetime.

   So, the very first lesson poses the question that can the effects of extreme sexual harassment (she locks up his money and clothing in a shed making Roland a 'prisoner' of her love passions) ever be erased and still yet forgiven?

   The second thread in the saga is the sudden vanishing of Roland's wife Alissa leaving Roland with their six month old son Lawrence with just a brief note on their bed's pillow "like a hotel's bitter chocolate. Don't try to find me. I'm OK. It's not your fault. I love you; this is for the good. I've been living the wrong life."

Ian McEwan Courtesy of Bookseller News 

   Over the next 15 years Roland makes many attempts to contact her all of which prove fruitless.

   Meanwhile, Alissa, becomes Germany's greatest writer and winner of many literary honors. Acting on a hunch, Roland "runs into her" the very day that the Berlin Wall is toppled in 1989; he follows her into an East Berlin alley and she gives him a manuscript of her latest work to read. It confirms she is an excellent writer.

   Many years later, during Covid lockdown, Alissa is bed ridden after an amputation and suffering from years of tobacco addiction, Roland receives her latest book from her agent; he is upset because he has every reason to believe it portrays him as a violent husband furnishing another reason for her running out on him and their son.

   So, it is natural to ask what lessons we learn about spousal/domestic cruelty (husband abuses wife or conversely wife abuses husband)? What are the restraints placed, if any, in alteration of real life events by a writer? And, of course is there any closure to all these issues?

   These questions and many more are raised by this novel.

Monday, June 13, 2022

An Ode of Joy on my Birthday


An Ode of Joy on my Birthday                                               


Ah, to be born,                                                                                

Ah to be born again 
Each day.... is a new horizon 
And a golden opportunity💥  
to make our dreams come true. 

Friday, April 29, 2022

The Power of Words, the Awesome Majesty of the Printed Word: An Ode to Celebrate National Poetry Month

An Editor, Diplomat, (Ad) Minister to Current, Recent and Past Alumni and Friends and a Poet, at ❤ 

 Whoever It is your search committee interviews
 To Hire
 Should be, ONE, above All, with the drive Vision, Enthusiasm and Energy

 to Inspire
Your  staff and its many Talented Writers Along with its Advisory Personnel And Gift Planning Officers

 With Fire……

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Indra Nooyi, a force of nature, leads Civility in American into its 11th year


That’s how I have to describe last night’s dialog conducted by Bob Dilenshneider and hosted by Stamford’s Ferguson Library in front of a live socially distanced audience and a remote one on zoom one as well. 

Bob, one of the initiators of this series (along with other sponsors) was very much in command as he ‘peppered’  Ms. Nooyi  with a series of short questions. All were based on her book, Life in Full: Work, Family and our Future.

Indra Nooyi

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia 

Miss Indra Nooyi, born in Tamil Nadu, India rose to become the CEO of PepsiCo, the first woman of color and immigrant to run a Fortune 50 Company. 

The program will be posted shortly on the Ferguson Library Website.

Here’s  my brief  takeaway in what was a ‘whirlwind’ covering many subjects. 

!. To be a leader (she teaches a course in leadership at U.S Military Academy at West Point)one must be a follower.  To listen to others requires a large dose of humility. 

2. Company strategy must emphasize sustainability in the workplace as well as in the environment. Companies must seek out and foster talent that is rooted in integrity. She discussed the Pepsico acquisition of Quaker Oats (including gatorade and its emphasis on natural foods), the company shift to solar, and  the recycling of plastic waste and employing hybrid vehicles. 

3. Above all, she kept emphasizing the primacy of the family structure. Parents must find the time, harness the energy and resources on rearing their kids.

On a more personal note, I chatted briefly with Bob before the program and he remarked how much Stamford has grown with so many young professionals moving in as well as saying  ‘we are all young’ meaning he plans to continue this program for many years to come. 

At the end of the meeting I chatted with former Connecticut congressman  Chris Shays who was eager to hear the question I wanted to ask. I told him I wanted to know her opinions on what, if any, corporate responsibility should be for arresting the serious global climate change. His comment: ‘great question.’

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Our President Under Fire


These past few weeks have been very trying times for President Joe Biden. 

  Grave issues facing our country seem to have piled up to weigh heavily on the moral and leadership responsibilities that our POTUS faces.

  Our exit from Afghanistan has been replete with images of thousands at the airport clamoring to  secure a seat on one of the Air Force C-17 transport planes. Though over 100, 000  people have been carried to safety, hundreds of American citizens and friendly allies have been left behind. 

 And who will be able to forget the 13 U.S. marines and scores of Afghanis who gave their lives in the suicide attack at the airport?

Back home forest fires are out of control in the California's Dixie and the Caldor fires,the latter now threatening thousands of acres near Lake Tahoe. 

Hurricane Ida has just struck the east coast with a vengeance leaving millions without power, homes and streets flooded and dumping over 8 inches of rain in some metropolitan areas.

The delta variation of the corona virus is taking a strong toll of those in states where citizens refuse to take the vaccine such as Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. As of today, only 57% or about 189.9 million people have been fully vaccinated. To achieve herd immunity a majority of the remaining 43% unvaccinated people need to receive the two jabs. 

Finally, though the house  has passed the 3 billion dollar infrastructure bill; the senate is the big hurdle where the bill faces a filibuster. 

There are many who believe that Biden is simply incapable of dealing with so many burdens at one time and I can understand their point of view. He does, at times, show the effects of stress.

In my opinion, he is up to the task of leading America today and into the future. 

On the home front, if President Biden can turn the corner on controlling  the pandemic and secure passage of the infrastructure bill (which includes measures to stem climate change), he will show he has the fortitude and courage to lead America forward. 

He has 49 years of solid experience in national politics and has built a solid reputation for compromise and  working across the aisles to get important legislative programs passed. 

May he continue to lead America forward and God give him the strength, wisdom and purpose to continue his mission of securing life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all.