When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, a Book Review

I spent 42 years in healthcare and met some astonishing people. I regret I never met this extraordinary neurosurgeon. Here we all get a chance to “meet” him in his beautifully written memoir that spent many weeks on the NYT best seller list. It was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize as well. Dr. Kalanithi had a love for the written word and a deep affection for the patients he served. Those attributes exude from the pages of his book.

His life of wonderful potential was struck down by a tumor at 37 in the organ by which we most deeply inspire, the lungs. I have little doubt he gave enormous encouragement to the many needy and quite ill patients he treated.

Though knowing he was terminally ill he and his spouse decided to have a child. The letter he wrote to his infant daughter, presented in this work, is one of the most beautiful, tender pieces of prose I have ever read.

If you have never breathed in this precious work, if possible, don’t put it off much longer.

H. Robert Rubin, best-selling, Amazon memoirist and author of Look Backward Angel, How Did I Get Through This? and Please Save the Third Dance for Me, all available on Amazon.

One Summer: America 1927 by Bill Bryson, a Book Review

Since I was a kid I was impressed with the impact to the sports and aeronautical worlds of the year 1927. Hard news was impactful as well.

Sports gave us Jack Dempsey’s loss on the “long count” to Gene Tunney and Babe Ruth’s 60 home runs. To be complete it gave us the entire 1927 Yankees team, arguably the greatest baseball team ever assembled.

Aeronautics gave us the first solo transatlantic flight by Charles Lindbergh. He’s still around in the Lindy hop by which Americans can still dance to rock music. Those of us in San Diego have spent many an hour at Lindbergh field as well.

Very hard news, gave us the era and year pathetically of eugenics and theories of racial superiority taken to their horrible extreme shortly by the Nazis. The Italian immigrants Sacco and Vanzetti felt the horrible sting of prejudice as well in their prosecution and conviction.

Mr. Bryson covers this and more. In his conversational writing style addressing a year full of vibrancy and change, Bill Bryson has created a gem for any student of American social history. Very few of us were alive in 1927 but this fine author manages to bring the year to life for all of us. Don’t miss this engaging work.

H. Robert Rubin, memoirist and author of Look Backward Angel, an e-book on Amazon and How Did I Get Through This? to be published on Amazon this year

The Reckoning by David Halberstam, a Book Review

When I was a child in the 40’s, 50’s and mid 60s “Made in Japan” was a term of derision. We used to laugh about it as kids. We all thought our Japanese toys were “short-lived” and they were.

Prior to our early childhoods, the Japanese were overcome physically and emotionally by the tremendous productivity of the Americans who neutralized their country’s forces with industrial might in WWII. There were tanks, tanks and more tanks rolling over the hills of battle. This was the impression of the late, superb, social historian David Halberstam well known for yet another excellent work, The Best and the Brightest, about how America became involved in the Vietnam War. David had won the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting in 1964 and The Reckoning was a New York Times best seller. Long before I read The Reckoning, in the summer of the 1994 baseball strike missing live baseball, I relived the Ted Williams-Joe DiMaggio/Red Sox-Yankee rivalry as I read Halberstam’s wonderful, The Summer of ’49.

As to The Reckoning, I had lived with a quandary for years of how in the world the reversal I observed as an adult occurred in the fortunes of the Japanese auto industry relative to ours. This book explains beautifully and in nuance that profound change in which the American manufacturers were outdone.

A lot of the explanation occurs by way of the core biographies of the key people involved. One in particular was an American auto veteran, devastated by the reduced quality of American cars in the 70s and the arrogance of that industry. He was a remarkable individual well described by Halberstam. Though American he stayed in Japan during WWII NOT to be prosecuted by either side’s federal jurisdictions. He stood by himself, as Sir Thomas More had many years before. The playwright Robert Bolt called More, A Man for All Seasons. Unlike Sir Thomas More, this American was not martyred figuratively or literally.

The author also touches on the different responses by the Japanese unions relative to those of the U.S. Apparently a part of the American problem were the greater demands made by its unions as opposed to the unions in Japan. This comparative labor union explanation is clear, engaging and well thought out.

Give yourself a chance to understand some of Asia’s explosive economic growth in the last half century by spending some of your precious time between the pages of this delightful book.

H. Robert Rubin, memoirist and author of Look Backward Angel, an e-book on Amazon and How Did I Get Through This? to be published on Amazon this year

The Value of the Offensive Line

Sunday we had another wonderful Super Bowl to follow in a close game befitting the quality of the adversaries. The result and what I observed brought me back to the fall of 1957. It was the only year I played for an organized football team as a twelve year old. I played left guard on offense. Playing that position helped me over time to appreciate the key nature of the offensive line.

John Unitas a non-heralded college quarterback became a great quarterback and was protected by the phenomenal lineman Jim Parker. Vince Ferragamo had Tom Mack who played in about a dozen Pro Bowls. Later the largely unknown Kurt Warner had an O-line in St. Louis anchored by the great Orlando Pace.

Tom Brady was a 6th round draft choice and has had a phenomenal career. The commentators actually said when his O-line gets leaky he’s just another quarterback. The line got porous as his forced fumble was the key to the Patriots loss.

The Eagles on the other hand played a journeyman, second string quarterback, Nick Foles, who was brilliant behind a line that never allowed a sack.

The longer the offensive line can keep its own team’s defense off the field the more rested the defense is in the key 4th quarter. That helped account for the Eagles forced fumble essentially ending the contest.

Finally pro salaries affirm the theory as the two highest paid positions are quarterback and offensive left tackle. That lineman protects the QB’s blind side during a pass rush.

H. Robert Rubin, memoirist and author of Look Backward Angel, an e-book on Amazon and How Did I Get Through This? to be published on Amazon this year

Darkest Hour, a Movie Review

The beautiful English character studies of The King’s Speech have been outdone by this picture. The portrayal of Winston Churchill told me more in the brilliant script and superb acting than the thousands of words I have read about this man of great vision, courage and oratory.

Although I felt Daniel Day Lewis was Lincoln in his portrayal I am at an age that I can remember Churchill, this Englishman of the hour. Oldman’s performance exceeded that of the great actor Daniel Day Lewis in my view.

So what does one need beyond a great script and performance to make a great film? To me that is art direction. This is a feast for the eye of the magnificence that was early wartime London in all its elegance and royalty.

Finally and most importantly the movie is enobling, a reminder that giving in to a heinous evil, whatever the price is not an option. To be more precise some things are worth dying for.

Don’t let another week go by without this enriching, poignant experience.

H. Robert Rubin, memoirist and author of Look Backward Angel, an e-book on Amazon and How Did I Get Through This? to be published on Amazon this year