Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Review: Based On Availability by Alix Strauss

Based On Availability by Alix Strauss is a haunting tale of the inner lives of eight women tenuously connected. It is dark and moving with very little light.

Morgan is one of the managers of the Four Seasons in Manhattan. Haunted by the loss of her sister, she weaves in and out of the lives of the other characters in the book. The methods that Morgan uses to cope with the void left by her loss are desperate and sad.

In a moment of desperation to connect Morgan reaches out in friendship to Trish, the owner of a new art gallery in town. Trish is obsessed with her best friend's upcoming wedding and dramatic weight loss. The two will struggle to build new connections.

The women are varied in backgrounds but all have deeply hidden inner struggles that may prove to undo them. Anne, an employee of the hotel, who struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder, Louise who is a rock star struggling with addiction, Franny, a Southerner struggling to fit into life in Manhattan, Sheila, a teacher, and Ellen who wants so badly to be a mother, and finely Robin, who is worn down by the abuse of her sister.

Based On Availability illuminates the inner struggles that many women face. Insecurities and low self-esteem are products of this dark abyss that haunts so many women. The book can be hard to read at times because of the cimmerian existence of these women. Their fears seem to be in control much of the time.

It is not a happy read but it will haunt you and perhaps send you inward to examine your own inner fears and insecurities. Although I struggled connecting with the book and the women at the beginning I was drawn into their stories. These women will remain with you for a while after you finish the book. Enjoyed would not be quite the right word for how I experienced this book. Based On Availability was an interesting book that I do find worth recommendation.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Review: Thumbing Through Thoreau

Thumbing Through Thoreau: A Book of Quotations by Henry David Thoreau Compiled by Kenny Luck/Illustrated by Jay Luke and Ren Adams

“…simplify the problem of life, distinguish the necessary and the real. Probe the earth to see where your main roots run.” P160

Thoreau is known for his urgings of man to live simply and honestly. So often we get so caught up in our possessions that we miss the everyday miracles that life bestows. Kenny Luck has put together a beautiful rendition of quotes both famous and less known that encourage us to pause and remember our journey and through our recognition of life around us to improve ourselves.

Thumbing Through Thoreau is a collection of quotations taken from Thoreau's journals, writings, and personal letters. Kenny Luck, a journalist, compiled the quotes to address a variety of subjects that include society & government, spirituality & nature, and love. The book is timely and relevant to today. It is beautifully crafted and easily accessible. As a teacher it is a book that I might use in conjunction with studies of Thoreau and Emerson in the classroom. As an admirer of Thoreau I found the book to be fresh and exciting. I have enjoyed reacquainting myself with these concepts. The book will sit nearby on my desk so that I might grab it at any moment and find inspiration for the day.

Excerpt from book's Introduction:

As I stood on the edge of Walden Pond, about to make a symbolic leap into what had become in my mind a scared place, Hawthorne’s poetic observation was not present in my thoughts. For a summer day, it was unusually cold; a light mist rose above the surface of the water; and having forgotten my towel and bathing suit at home in Pennsylvania, I was forced to strip down, making do with what I was wearing in that revealing moment. I hung my clothes on a nearby tree branch and began inching my way toward the water. It was a ritual Henry David Thoreau, one of America’s first literary giants, had performed countless times during his stay in the woods.

It was June 2007, and this was my second trip to Walden Pond. I had visited the previous summer but resolved only to walk along the shoreline, avoiding the seduction of the water. “This time,” I thought to myself, “I am going in.” Although I was initially reluctant, once the water rose past by waistline, I felt an extraordinary release. I made one final push off the rock where I was standing and let go. I let the water take me. Feeling free from constraints, I had transformed into one of Hawthorne’s angels, baptized by the clear, cool waters of the pond.

My experience at Walden Pond that day was emblematic. It was the culmination of a two-year journey which led me to Concord, Massachusetts, where I hoped to retrace the steps of a man who I had never met, but felt an extraordinary affinity towards. Moreover, I saw a little bit of myself in Thoreau. Here was a man who, despite the conventions of his day, shunned every comfort and convenience. Thoreau once refused to take a doormat, for instance, offered to him by an elderly woman, hoping to avoid what he called the “beginnings of evil.” It seemed like something I would have done had I not read about it first. For the first time in my young life, I met my literary and intellectual soul mate.

You might check out the book at these sites:

The Book's Website

Purchase the book today: Thumbing Through Thoreau

About the Author:
Kenny Luck is a graduate student at Marywood University in Scranton, Pa., and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in History & Political Science from the same institution. He writes for The Weekender – an arts and entertainment weekly – and The Independent. He is currently working on his second book. He enjoys recording music, book browsing and travel.

“If I were to be baptized it should be in this pond,” wrote Nathanial Hawthorne, reflecting upon the majesty of Walden Pond one autumn afternoon in 1843. “But then one would not wish to pollute it by washing off his sins into it. None but angels should bathe here.”

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