A slim book that mixes autobiography, political commentary, poetry, as well as the author’s personal reflections on gun violence in America.
Billed as an expansion of the author’s autobiographical first novel (Under the Palm Tree: A Journey from Childhood to Retirement, 2013), this follow-up expounds on the Ballie’s biography with frequent political digressions and personal reflections. The opening section—confusingly written from multiple points of view—is the most autobiographical, reflecting on the Ballie’s days in Tulsa, learning to play golf as a caddy for the Southern Hills Golf Club, and his memories driving on Route 66. One chapter briefly surveys the career of Benjamin Ferencz, investigator of Nazi war crimes. Another recounts the life of famed New York Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia, a tribute to a distant version of the Republican Party: “His reputation was one of an honest nonpartisan reformer dedicated to civic improvement.” Such chapters offer frustratingly brief summaries and little analysis or reflection. Staid and simplistic poems on broad themes like fear, grief, truth, and peace—“As the world looks for some respite / Why are you so elusive?”—are interspersed throughout. The book’s most interesting sections consider the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, which is curiously coupled with the Ballie’s truncated recapitulation of the writings of psychoanalyst Erich Fromm. While the book is written in a folksy, plain style—“Hey Bubba, why does it take so long for the truth to come out?”—that readers will find either readable or cloying, the overall thematic material is hard to follow. Little effort is made to knit together the many disparate elements of the text, which lack cohesion and transition. Frequent typos and grammatical errors also hinder comprehension (for example: “He was able and constantly bring dishonest pols to task”).
Scattered and incoherent writings on a disparate set of subjects related to the author’s political interests.