On Love by Alain de Botton, a Book Review

Alain de Botton is a Swiss-born philosopher whose 5/28/16 article in the New York Times, Why You Will Mary the Wrong Person, was by a quantum leap the most-read NYT article of 2016. In 1993, his novel, On Love, was published. 

The book is about the making and breaking of the once-beautiful relationship between Chloe and the narrator. The novel probes the mystery, joy, and sorrow of their love. The fiction asks some age-old questions, reminding the reader of the complexity of love.

It’s a subject of universal interest treated uniquely by the probing mind of Mr. Botton. On Love is a story I believe is well worth your time.

I am reminded of the words of the late American author, Susan Sontag:“A good book is an education of the heart. It enlarges your sense of human possibility, what human nature is, of what happens in the world. It’s a creator of inwardness.”

Loving What You Write

“I’m after magic, not proficiency, and I don’t want to sell you an adequate book. I know what it’s like to have to stand behind your work. You have to LOVE it.” Megan Mayhew Bergman, an American writer.

I think that’s why my current draft novelette is getting protracted in the tooth. I benefited from readers and editors. But I think I am working against an unreachable ideal on a pedestal.

The closest I have come to writing a work I loved was my second memoir, How Did I Get Through This? More Stories From a Jewish Physician Who Took a Different Path. (https://www.amazon.com/How-Did-Get-Through-This-ebook/dp/B07GLWQ6K6?ref_=ast_sto_dp)

I was writing with a bit more perspective, courage, experience, and hopefully wit. If you choose to read the book one day, my hope is, you will find delight between the pages.

Inheritance by Dani Shapiro, a Book Review

My favorite book by the author, though they are all compelling and beautifully written.

Pilgrim on a Long, Long Journey

Dani Shapiro uncovers some deep resources in her soul when she enhances our lives with her writing. There is much craft and editing in writing of this quality. Nonetheless, God granted her a gift of depth and a voice to beautifully convey that depth to others. It is a treasure.

Inheritance is an astonishing expression of that gift. It asks a universal question years in the answering for most of us. Who am I?

She asks that question having established at 54 that she was not only conceived by artificial insemination but that her biofather was a Protestant medical student. That journey started when on a lark she submitted a vial of her saliva to Ancestry.com.

Having learned she was not completely, but, in fact, one half Jewish she expressed: “I did not come from the line of small, wiry, dark-eyed people of the shtetl, the men swaying over crumbling…

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Signal Fires by Dani Shapiro, a Book Review

Signal Fires is a novel by a wonderful writer, all of whose memoirs I have read, Dani Shapiro. She interweaves time beautifully as we observe most of human life’s phases or decades within two, American families.

The novel is about the compelling impact on one of the families of a traumatic event during the adolescence of its sole son and daughter. That trauma deeply colors the remainder of their lives. Ms. Shapiro probes the ill effects of that trauma in the psyches of the traumatized.

Annabel Gutterman in Time.com summed the book’s essence up this way:”And she shows, in aching terms, how life is made up of random moments—missed opportunities and curious circumstances—and that it only takes a second for everything to change.”

Signal Fires is in essence a rich page turner well worth your time. That is, if you have some to spare. At least you did here.

Another Look at Hourglass by Dani Shapiro, a Book Review

I love the genre of memoir. I have written and published three of them.

I’ve found a famous author who has written several memoirs. At first blush, the most interesting one is entitled, Hourglass. It consists of her reflections on time at midlife and marriage.

I love adding ideal quotations from others at appropriate points in my work. She does as well and does it beautifully.

Shapiro weaves a story of the ups and downs of her 18-year marriage with one child. There is also the raw pain of the fickle winds, of responses from entertainment folk, as, they are both writers, in part, for the entertainment industry.

The book is a lovely tapestry in which the reader can in many cases relate to their years of marriage, raising a child to adulthood, and growing older together.

I highly recommend the memoir to the reader, particularly those who love this genre and cope with like challenges.

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

Another Look at Still Writing by Dani Shapiro, a Book Review

Still Writing is both a writing textbook and a memoir. Though a text, it benefits from the lovely writing style of the author.

She says in her intro “…everything you need to know about life can be learned from a genuine and ongoing attempt to write.” The words certainly amplify the value of the writer’s work.

Writing is both her peace and her turmoil. She is driven to write but it is therapeutic. It is simple when she is in those transcendent moments but complex when she is not.

I like some humor interspersed amongst one’s serious writing. Anne Lamott does that. Dani Shapiro does not, at least in the now three memoirs I have read. However, she writes touching so many chords that she envelops the bookworm and even the occasional reader with her prose.

I recommend this book to even non-writers because Ms. Shapiro is a born storyteller. You may be a non-writer but many of us are storytellers. Don’t miss this one.

Paul Newman, the Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man, A Memoir, a Review

When I was in high school, I saw The Hustler, an excellent film about a pool hustler, about three times. I bought my pool cue and became an avid pool player. It was a magnificent film that introduced me to Paul Newman. 

Later on, I spent my sophomore year in college living in the fraternity house where Joanne Woodward’s aunt, Aunt Nancy, was the housemother. One evening she brought her sister, Joanne Woodward’s mother, to dinner and we all had time to meet her. 

For obvious reasons, I followed Paul Newman’s career carefully and enjoyed other films of his, including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting.

Before reading this book, I had already read Paul’s dear friend, A. E. Hotchner’s biography of Paul. The two books were very different. 

Hochner’s went slightly deep, but David Rosenthal’s, the editor, went much deeper. All the interviews and oral histories were completed by Newman’s late friend Stewart Stern, an excellent writer. They were recorded in Paul Newman’s early sixties, in the late eighties/early nineties. The interviews were found in a storage vault before the editing. The book was just published a few days ago.

It was enlightening to see how difficult this wealthy, sought-after, award-winning, good-looking actor had such severe difficulties during his life. As many of us know, he lost his drug-troubled son, Scott, early in Scott’s life, something Paul could never get past. He had a constant struggle to spend enough time with his many kids, given all the demands of the movies. He had problems with alcohol from the time he was in the U.S. Navy during the Second World War. His mother was highly critical and extremely difficult. Paul was not much of a student and even had occasional trouble memorizing his lines. He keeps reminding us in the interviews/memoirs that the actual Paul Newman is not the dashing man we saw in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid but a troubled human being.

He developed a burning desire to help handicapped and diseased youth in his camps, which he dubbed The Hole in the Wall Gang. He told the following story as he needed to borrow against his future earnings to support the venture: “And even that jeopardy disappeared when one day a young kid from Saudi Arabia comes to Connecticut and you play Ping-Pong with him. The kid tells you he happens to have a usually fatal blood disease and that he’s currently living in Washington, D.C. And that he also happens to have connections with the Saudi royal family whose crown prince just happens to be their ambassador to the US and lives in Washington, too. And as a Muslim and a Saudi, the kid happens to have the right to petition the king himself through the crown prince. Then all of a sudden you’re flying back to Connecticut from DC with a check for five million dollars for the camp and a letter that says the money is a gift from the king and the people of Saudi Arabia. 

He says later about the incident: “A mechanism that opens a door into myself and lets me see what actually might be lurking there. Then you simply change? The answer may just be: “It was time.” Suddenly, here I am, an atheist, a nonmetaphysicalist, who finds himself stuck right in the middle of God.”

It must be clear that the book is a fascinating read that I had trouble putting down.

“The Color of Water”by Richard McBride, a Review, and, Third Look

When he was small the author of this brilliant memoir, whose father was African-American, asked his Caucasian mother an important question. His mom was born an Orthodox Jew, but became a Christian. He asked, “What color is God?” She responded, “The color of water.”

And so one follows two remarkable journeys, that of the author and of his mother alternating through this beautiful work. She had been abused as a child, left home as soon as possible and was widowed consecutively by the deaths of her two African American husbands. She was left to raise twelve children, alone.

Mr. McBride has been an award winning composer and heralded author. All of his siblings have been remarkably successful.

This book in part is about the elements of humanity we all share. It’s specifically about a mother’s momentous effort to make her numerous children whole. To those who love the genre of memoir as I do, this is a read that should NOT be missed.

H. Robert Rubin, a best-selling, Amazon writer and author of Look Backward Angel, How Did I Get Through This? Please Save the Third Dance for Me (memoirs) and The Bloom is on the Rose (novelette), all available on Amazon.



“That’s the great thing about literature — it makes the world less lonely.” Robert Stone, the late Pulitzer Prize finalist. 

Let’s face it. Sometimes each one of us gets lonely. It even happens in our stadia with 100,000 people cheering their lungs out for the home team.

By the way, what’s that sport’s thing about? We just went to that college, a period that had its difficulties. Or we lived in that city for a short time. And yet, both experiences tug at our tribal heartstrings.

But getting back to that loneliness, one can just pick up a brilliant book. This brings to mind, Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air. Quoting from my now five-year-old review:

“His (This neurosurgeon’s) 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 had 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.”

That letter and that book fill one’s heart with the power of love, a gift from God through, a recipe to uplift, however brief.