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TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE

AN OLD MAN, A YOUNG MAN, AND LIFE'S GREATEST LESSON

Award-winning sportswriter Albom was a student at Brandeis University, some two decades ago, of sociologist Morrie Schwartz. Here Albom recounts how, recently, as the old man was dying, he renewed his warm relationship with his revered mentor. This is the vivid record of the teacher's battle with muscle- wasting amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease. The dying man, largely because of his life-affirming attitude toward his death-dealing illness, became a sort of thanatopic guru, and was the subject of three Ted Koppel interviews on Nightline. That was how the author first learned of Morrie's condition. Albom well fulfilled the age-old obligation to visit the sick. He calls his weekly visits to his teacher his last class, and the present book a term paper. The subject: The Meaning of Life. Unfortunately, but surely not surprisingly, those relying on this text will not actually learn The Meaning of Life here. Albom does not present a full transcript of the regular Tuesday talks. Rather, he expands a little on the professor's aphorisms, which are, to be sure, unassailable. ``Love is the only rational act,'' Morrie said. ``Love each other or perish,'' he warned, quoting Auden. Albom learned well the teaching that ``death ends a life, not a relationship.'' The love between the old man and the younger one is manifest. This book, small and easily digested, stopping just short of the maudlin and the mawkish, is on the whole sincere, sentimental, and skillful. (The substantial costs of Morrie's last illness, Albom tells us, were partly defrayed by the publisher's advance). Place it under the heading ``Inspirational.'' ``Death,'' said Morrie, ``is as natural as life. It's part of the deal we made.'' If that is so (and it's not a notion quickly gainsaid), this book could well have been called ``The Art of the Deal.''

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 1997

ISBN: 0-385-48451-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1997

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NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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INTO THE WILD

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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