Nina's Reading Blog

Comments on books I am reading/listening to

Archive for September 29th, 2007

A Drinking Life

Posted by nliakos on September 29, 2007

by Pete Hamill (narrated by Jonathan Davis)

I’ve had this on my To Read list for a while because I absolutely loved Hamill’s Snow in August (a mostly realistic, partly fantastic novel about a young Catholic altar boy who becomes friends with a Czech rabbi, a refugee from the Nazis, in the years after the war when Jackie Robinson was breaking the color barrier in professional baseball) and also really liked Forever (the story of an Irish immigrant who is granted eternal life–as long as he never leaves the island of Manhattan). A Drinking Life is Hamill’s memoir of growing up in Brooklyn, wanting to draw comics,dropping out of high school, joining the Navy, going to work for the New York Post, getting married and divorced, and throughout it all, how he was affected by alcohol–first his father’s drinking, and then his own.

I enjoyed seeing how similar Hamill’s boyhood was to the young protagonist in Snow in August, who also loved comic book heroes, whose father was absent, who served the mass, who lived near a synagogue…. But I kept wondering how someone could make so many bad choices–getting into fights, dropping out of school, drinking like a fish, sleeping with numerous women, neglecting his family–and still somehow survive and be successful! It seems to be he should have been dead long ago of either venereal disease or cirrhosis of the liver. I’m glad he lived to write those books, but I can’t understand his charmed life. He probably doesn’t think of it as charmed–with an alcoholic father whom he could never manage to please and a failed marriage–but the fact that he lived so long seems charmed to me. I’m on the final CD, when his marriage has broken up and his wife has taken his two daughters and gone to study in Mexico, and I am hoping he is going to tell how he finally managed to stop drinking! (Later: I could hardly believe how he quit drinking: he just stopped one day.  He must not have ever been truly addicted, because he doesn’t seem to have suffered DTs or had any real difficulty quitting.  Some people are lucky when it comes to quitting smoking or drinking, but I am sure it’s not a typical experience.)

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The Ravaging Tide

Posted by nliakos on September 29, 2007

by Mike Tidwell

This is our First Year Book at the University of Maryland this year; Mike Tidwell is a local author who lives in Takoma Park, Maryland and is the founder and director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. Tidwell is known for having predicted the disaster of Hurricane Katrina before it happened, but as he makes clear in this book, many native Louisianans and scientists knew very well that a big hurricane would devastate the Louisiana coast; Tidwell got the credit for reporting the predictions of many others, as he freely admits.  An environmentalist who is not afraid to express his intense dislike of George W. Bush and his (lack of an) energy policy, Tidwell describes the Katrina catastrophe and shows how it was made possible and how it could have been prevented (or mitigated), and then goes on to make a strong case for action NOW to reduce CO2 emissions and slow, or maybe even reverse, global warming before it is truly too late.

I am convinced–but is anybody else out there listening?  Is anybody else reading this book?  Why aren’t we demonstrating in front of the White House to force this President, this “oil man”, from destroying the world?  It’s funny; my daughter loves to watch anime shows that feature evil characters whose goal it is to destroy the world.  George Bush doesn’t look evil, but he surely seems bent on destroying the world as we know it.

My class of 17 international students at the University of Maryland is reading the book also.  Their reactions range from resentment of the United States for withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol, to shock at the realization that their home countries (Korea, India, Qatar, Japan, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, China) will lose significant land from sea level rise, to astonishment that an author can voice such open disapproval of his country’s president, to motivation to use less energy than they are accustomed to using.

Everybody should read this book.  Then we should cut our own energy use as much as possible (Tidwell tells us exactly how to do it) and lobby the government to come up with an energy policy with muscle.

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