I do not think that there can ever be enough books about anything and I say that knowing that some of them are going to be about Pilates.The more knowledge the better seems like a solid rule of thumb, even though I have watched enough science fiction films to accept that humanity’s unchecked pursuit of learning will end with robots taking over the world.-Sarah Vowell

Monday, February 22, 2016

Dave Barry's Book of Bad Songs by Dave Barry

Why you ask, would I recommend reading a book dedicated to the worst songs written? For one thing, don't you want to know if any songs you like are in there? Or if you were right all along about that song being truly horrible? The main reason, of course, is that the great humor columnist Dave Barry wrote it, so it is guaranteed to be hilarious.  I will state right off that I am notorious for loving bad songs, bad movies, and bad books. I'm quirky. And a huge fan of The Diamond.

This started in 1992 when Barry wrote a column complaining about the radio not playing any "good" songs any more. Then he really stepped in it when he wrote: "It would not trouble me if the radio totally ceased playing ballad-style songs by Neil Diamond. I realize that many of you are huge Neil Diamond fans, so let me stress that, in matters of musical taste, everyone is entitled to an opinion, and yours is wrong. Consider the song "I Am, I Said," wherein Neil, with great emotion, sings: I am, I said/To no one there/And no one heard at all/Not even the chair. What kind of line is that? Is Neil telling us he's surprised that the chair didn't hear him? Maybe he expected the chair to say, "Whoa, I heard THAT.'"  He got the expected hate mail from Diamond fans, but he received just as much mail from people who hate Diamond. Then he started getting mail from people telling him the songs they don't want to hear on the radio anymore. This one column stirred up more response than anything he had ever written before. He decided to do a Bad Music Survey and wrote two columns about it. But it wouldn't end. He kept getting mail from people mad that he left this song off, people's whose lives were changed by the survey (one woman was questioning whether to stay with her boyfriend now that she has realized what horrible taste in music he has), and of course mail from people he has offended. Why? Well, people feel passionate about music because it's personal. Music can trigger memories, good or bad, that are burned into our minds. The problem with a bad song is that once it's triggered, it will play in your head all day, but only those few lines of the song you actually remember. Dave believes this is because of our brain's memory system: Low priority (ATM number, blood type, location of car keys, names of people you have known for years); Medium priority (Totally useless information you learned in fifth grade); High priority (Commercial jingles for products that no longer exist); Ultimate Highest (Songs you really, really hate).

With all this mail, Dave decided to put it in a book and end this once and for all. There are some ground rules for his Worst Songs Ever Book. 1. The song has to have come out between the years 1960-1990, since the original survey was done in 1992 and for a song to be considered "bad" it should be out for at least five years (This book was published in 1997) There were plenty of votes for songs from the 1950s, Wagner, and one person noted that when you translate opera songs the lyrics are pretty stupid. 2. No novelty songs. No matter how tempting. Those songs were written to be bad. 3. No country songs (some of their titles alone could be a book all by itself).

And the number one song is...MacArthur Park, written by Jimmy Webb and originally done by Richard Harris. Even worse, just when this song was starting to die, Donna Summers came out with a disco version. Others have also done a version of this song for reasons that defy logic. Here is why: Someone left the cake out in the rain/I don't think that I can TAKE it!/'cause it took so long to BAKE it!/And I'll never have that recipe againnnn...  If anyone can tell me what this song is about, I would really like to know.  I'd never heard of this song until I read this book when it came out back in 1997. I would have to wait until the internet came out with YouTube before I could listen to it (I sure as heck wasn't going to buy it) and when I did, I had to agree; this truly is the worst song ever.  Years have passed and many, many bad songs have come out, but I still think this is the worst song ever.

The number two slot goes to "Yummy Yummy Yummy (I Got Love in My Tummy)", which was first done by Ohio Express.  Yes, I have loved this song since I was a kid. This song was also done by actress Julie London (because no one was brave enough to stop her). There is a CD (Golden Throats) out there that we need to find and destroy every copy of, that includes her version of this song, as well as: William Shatner doing "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds"; Mae West (I love her, but no) doing "Twist and Shout"; Eddie Albert doing "Blowin' in the Wind"; and Jack "Dragnet" Webb performing a version of "Try a Little Tenderness" (which is a sacrilege).

Neil Sadaka swings in next with the hideous "(You're) Having My Baby", which contains the lyrics: You could have swept it from your life/But you wouldn't do it. Ugh.  The next one is one not many may have heard of, but it does get the yuck factor. It's called "Timothy" recorded by the Buoys and involves a mining disaster and cannibalism.  "My stomach was full as it could be/And nobody ever got around to finding Timothy". "Timothy", was written by Rupert Holmes who also wrote "Escape", also known as "The Pina Colada Song", which got lots of votes too.

In the sub-category of Bad Songs about horses there was of course America's classic "A Horse With No Name", where one person wrote: You're in a desert. You got nothin' else to do. NAME THE FREAKIN' HORSE. Also, an interesting point was made about the song "Wildfire" sung by Michael Murphey. The lines, "Oh, they say she died one winter/When there came a killing frost" was pointed out by a reader to be ludicrous.  When a killing frost comes, you cover your flowers and vegetables. "A killing frost only happens when the sky is very clear and starry by night and deep blue in the morning--a fine day, if you don't have tomatoes. Nobody ever got lost in one who wouldn't get lost in July as well."

Some other songs that got a lot of mentions were: "The Candy Man" by Sammy Davis Jr.; "I Am Woman" sung by Helen Reddy ("I'm still an embryo with a long, long way to go"); "My Ding-A-Ling" by Chuck Berry; "My Sharona" by the Knack (Yeah, another fav); "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?" by Chicago; "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree" sung by Tony Orlando and Dawn ("..if we really want people to come home, perhaps we should not have this song playing"); "Signs" by Five Man Electrical Band; "American Woman" by Guess Who (Once I found out this song was a put down on Lady Liberty, I stopped listening, even when Lenny Kravitz sings it); "The Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald" by Gordon Lightfoot" (I love Gordon--I could listen to Sundown all day--but that song goes on longer than it took that freighter to sink);  and "Wind Beneath My Wings" by Bette Midler. Achy, Breaky Heart made it in on a technicality (that has a great deal of merit)  and Right Said Fred's "I'm Too Sexy" slid in just under the wire (of course I have a bizarre fondness for that one that I cannot explain).

I feel the need to mention something I discovered reading this book. One of the songs listed was "The Night Chicago Died" sung by Paper Lace. I listened to that song over and over again growing up. It was the coolest song about a kid who is sitting at home watching the clock tick by one night, while hid dad, a cop, is out fighting Al Capone's men. I mean a song about cops and gangsters, how cool! Then one reader wrote in objecting to this line: Daddy was a cop on the east side of Chicago. According to Yvonne Koyzis, "There IS no east side of Chicago; just an awfully, awfully big lake. Daddy would've needed scuba gear to walk the beat." I about fell off the couch laughing so hard at that. Geography has never been my forte. It changes nothing, though. I will always love this song.

There's a whole chapter on Bad Love Songs. Top of the list is "(They Long to Be) Close to You" by the Carpenters (of course I like them).  The argument being why would you want birds to "suddenly appear", Hitchcock did a horror movie about that.  There's also "Abracadabra" by Steve Miller (I love all his stuff, which includes this one). Barry lets him off the hook for "Take the Money and Run", which got votes (I mean he does insist on rhyming "Texas", "fact is", " justice", and "taxes". ), because he also wrote "The Joker".  Poor Paul McCartney gets slammed for his songs "Silly Love Songs" and "My Love", which seems to run out of words ("Wo wo wo wo/ Wo wo wo wo/ My love does it good!). He wonders if Paul got taken over by aliens, because after writing the butt-kicking rocker "I'm Down", for some reason he wrote the, well, words cannot describe the depths of badness of these songs (I mean, even I despise them and want to perform a lobotomy on myself when they get into my head), "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey", "Listen to What the Man Said", and "Let 'Em In".

The chapter on Bad Songs Women Hate is one not to miss.  They include many songs that Gary Puckett seems to have also done a version of.  Top of the list is the classic Glen Campbell song "Dreams of the Everyday Housewife". Then there's one of my favorite's, "Take a Letter Maria", where a boss is dictating a letter to his wife that he is leaving her (but the tune is really so darn catchy, I can't help but sing along when I hear it). One person wrote in wondering if this is where the song "Take This Job and Shove It" came from. Then there's Vikki Carr's song "It Must Be Him" where she sings "Let it be him/Oh dear God it MUST be him/Or I will stick my head in the oven again". And who could forget Little Peggy March going on and on in her song "I Will Follow Him".  But those are nothing to the bizarre song "He Hit Me (and It Felt Like a Kiss) recorded by The Crystals, which features the lyrics: And when I told him I had been untrue/He hit me and it felt like a kiss/He hit me and I knew he loved me/If he didn't care for me/I could have never made him mad/But he hit me, and I was glad.

The chapter Songs People Get Wrong, was made for me. I am notorious for getting lyrics wrong. The internet has truly been a godsend for me.  As Dave Barry say, he loves the song "Help Me Rhonda" by the Beach Boys, but has never known the opening lyrics (neither have I). The best he can figure is: Well since she put me down/There's been owl's pukin' in my bed.  And he's on the money about Elton John. He probably is singing in a foreign language like Welsh (though I now know the lyrics to my favorite song of his "Goodbye Yellowbrick Road" and I really wonder what Bernie Taupin was smoking when he wrote that).  And who the hell knows what gibberish James Brown is saying other than "Hey".  The odd ones sent in, though were: from "Billie Jean" "The chair is not my son" (We don't know if this is the same chair that refused to listen to Neil Diamond); "Sixteen Vested Virgins"; "I am the walrus, boo boo bi do"; from "Annie's Song", "You fill up my census"; and "Goombayah, My Lord".

It's important to note that we still remember these bad songs, while other songs seem to be forgotten completely.  They evoke such passion in us that we break fingers, and radios, trying to turn the station when one comes on.  One book, though, is not enough to contain them all. And more are being written every day, which may be enough to make you want to crawl under the covers of your bed and never come out.  Me, I happen to love so many of them that all these people who wrote in hate.  So, now, I'm going to maybe put on some Diamond, or "My Sharona", the "Pina Colada Song", "The Night Chicago Died", or "Copa Cabana" and jam out.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Dave-Barrys-Book-Bad-Songs-ebook/dp/B00B8UK9QG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1500386278&sr=8-1&keywords=dave+barry%27s+book+of+bad+songs

Thursday, February 18, 2016

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

Dodie Smith is probably best known for writing the book One Hundred and One Dalmatians.  This book, set in the 1930s, however, will not be found in the children's section of the library, although her love of animals is there in small ways that remind you that this is the same author.  The book is told through the eyes of Cassandra Mortmain, 16, who starts off the family's tale in her six-penny book journal.  She wants to be a writer like her father, who wrote one famous book, Jacob Wrestling, and hasn't written anything since.  She can remember her mother's voice, but not her face. After she died, her father married an artist's model named Topaz (Topaz also plays the lute, paints oddly, and likes to romp outside in the nude). She has an older sister, Rose, and a younger brother Thomas, who still goes to school on a scholarship. A young man named Stephen who was the now deceased maid's son, has stayed on to work, even though they do not pay him. Topaz sometimes goes to London to work as a model to get money to help them out and the father still gets some royalties on his book, but they get smaller every year.  This is a group that is from a certain class of people, whom also happen to have no actual skills to bring in money. Stephen ends up deciding to go to work during the day at a farm to earn money for them to keep going, which considering he is technically the "servant", though no one treats him that way really, is rather ludicrous.

It was not always that way.  One day father was in a heated argument with Cassandra's mother and just happened to be holding a cake knife at the time. The neighbor saw this and "came to the rescue". Father knocked the man down. The whole thing was silly, of course, and when it went to court he was of course found innocent of trying to kill his wife. But he made an enemy of the judge, who sent him to prison for three months for assaulting the neighbor.  When he got out of prison they decided to move out to the country of England, but every nice house they saw he hated because there were always neighbors.  When they got lost, they stumbled upon a crumbling old castle called Belmotte Castle, which comes with towers and a moat. Horrid things have been done to it in recent generations (especially by the Victorians), but father and the children have fallen in love with it. Mr. Cotton of Scoatney Hall, who owns it, lets them lease it for forty years and do anything they wish to it.  Father undoes some of the garish mess, but when it came time to install the things of comfort, such as central heat and electricity, he has spent so much money on antique furniture for the place there was no more money left to be spent on the castle.  So, they use candles, cook over the fireplace, and the beautiful bathroom they fell in love with has a huge bathtub that only fills up to about an inch of warm water, so they use an old tub in the kitchen and heat water to pour into it.

They have a terrier named Heloise and a cat named Abelard (of course) and two swans in the moat. Miss Marcy, the local teacher, comes by to bring books from the library and check in on them, especially father, of whom she is a fan.  The Vicar is also a friend to the family.  Both Cassandra's mother and Topaz treat her father as this genius who must not be disturbed as he spends his days in the gatehouse reading and doing who-knows-what, except writing.  But he does notice that Stephen, a rather handsome and incredibly nice guy, has fallen for Cassandra, and warns her that she must be brisk with him and stop it now, before he gets really hurt.

One night, Rose has just had it with being poor and not seeing much of a future. The group (Cassandra, Thomas and Stephen) get into a discussion of Faust and selling your soul to the devil, which Rose is quite ready to do, when Cassandra suggests wishing on the gargoyle in the kitchen, which rather looks like the devil.  So the boys hoist Rose up precariously, they chant some words aloud, then Rose yells to be put down.  Rose won't tell anyone what she said up there.

Cassandra gets ready to take a bath with some chocolate Stephen has bought for her (no she has not managed to be brisk with him).  While relaxing, two men, with American accents, come in the back door of the kitchen.  The kitchen is rather huge and she is hidden behind a screen, so they don't see her.  Her brother Thomas hears them and it seems their car got stuck in the mud when they came to take a look at the castle, which they thought was unoccupied. Thomas goes and gets Stephen and some horses to help get their car out of the mud.  Then one of them returns to the kitchen and Cassandra announces herself in order to keep from being discovered.  This is when she and Rose meet Simon Cotton (who sports a devilish black beard), and then his brother Neil.

Old Mr. Cotton, the man they leased the castle from, and never paid rent to (he didn't seem to care) had died to previous year and Simon, the oldest, had inherited Scoatney Hall and their castle.  This is Rose's chance at a good marriage and helping the family out of the predicament it is in.  Simon, it turns out, is a huge fan of their father's.  That first night goes off like gangbusters.  Its rather magical.  When they come back for a second visit, Rose, who has had no experience with boys, except through her old fashioned books and refuses to take advise from Topaz, makes a total mess of the whole thing and Cassandra overhears what they had to say about her family as they are leaving, which isn't very nice.  It is obvious they will not be coming around again.

Now, Cassandra has started a journal bought for her by Stephen for a shilling.  With the arrival of their mother, the Cottons are now inviting people over for lunch and tea from all over the village, but they have yet to invite them, which is causing Rose some trouble and Topaz and Cassandra have decided not to tell her why.  Then their great Aunt Millicent dies, leaving them her clothes, which seems a boon, especially for Cassandra as she does not own an adult dress and has outgrown nearly everything she owns. They used to visit her every Christmas in London until father married Topaz. Its expected to support the arts. Its quite another thing to marry an artist's model, so she cut him out of her will and refused to have anything to do with them.  The girls have quite the adventure in London getting the odd clothes and the very old furs that were stored, because Millicent was against wearing furs, but these had been passed down and were almost unidentifiable.  On the train ride home the girls wear two of the furs to keep warm, which ends up causing a comedy of errors when they get to the station and they are trying to avoid being seen by the Cotton brothers. The result of this bizarre night was a change of heart by the Cotton brothers concerning Rose and the family is invited to dinner.

The dinner is a success and raises some other problems in the process. Rose captures Simon's eye, while the divorced Mrs. Cotton, a fan of father's, makes it her mission to get him writing again and grabs hold of him for the evening in a way that Topaz has never been able to do. Mr. Fox-Cotton, a distant relative, is smitten with Topaz and won't leave her alone, while his wife, a photographer (and a bit of a Mrs. Robinson) has her eye on Stephen to take his picture, who is caught with Thomas watching at the window.  Cassandra likes Neil, who is amusing, but like Rose says, he does seem down on people from England, and he plans to buy a ranch in America as soon as he can get the money together.

Things move full steam ahead to get Simon to propose to Rose.  Cassandra worries that Rose does not love Simon and is only marrying him for the money, but Rose never lies, and she tells Cassandra at one point that she really does love him.  Rose believes that Neil is keeping her and Simon apart. He thinks she's a gold-digger and she thinks he wants to steal Simon away to America.  Cassandra finds herself in a bit of a quandary over the situation with Stephen, and whether or not she actually has any feelings for him; if there is anything between her and Neil; and Simon whom she is afraid she has fallen hopelessly in love with and does not know what to do.

Topaz is worried that her husband is having an affair with Mrs. Cotton, because he is going over to Scoatney Hall often and making trips to London, where she is visiting. He has also started locking up the gatehouse and acting much odder than usual, leading Cassandra to believe he might be either working on a new novel or some other creative work, or going mad. Her and Thomas become more and more concerned that it is the latter, and following what little they know of Freudian therapy, they do something totally crazy to their father to try to help him.  At this point in the book, crazy, can be rather relative.  The question is, will it work?

This book is a bit of a "coming of age" book about Cassandra, but it's really so much more than that.  This is a rather dysfunctional family that cares about each other deeply, if for no other reason than that they have no one else.  The backdrop of the gorgeous old crumbling castle is perfect for this story of a childhood ending, and a young woman coming into being who slowly "puts away childish things" (which sadly includes her Midsummer Solstice Ritual).  She also stands up to her sister Rose to make sure she is doing the right thing and becomes the first person to not treat her father like the genius he has always been treated as in order to save a man, she has realized she barely knows.  Cassandra is a really wonderful character and such a true delight to spend time with that it is almost a shame it ends then, because you want the adventure to continue.  She is wise beyond her years in many ways and learns so much more in this book.  Too many people make the mistake of treating her like a child, when she knows quite a lot more about things than they think she does.  She is also smart enough, in the end, to know the right thing to do and that probably makes her the best of the lot (with the exception of Stephen, of course, who is just too nice for words).

Note: I read this book for my book club and one of them noted that the name Mortmain translates from the french into "dead hand". Make of that what you will.

Note: There is a BBC movie that came out in 2003 with Bill Nighy, Romolo Garai, Rose Bynre Tara Fitzgerald, Henry Cavill, and Henry Thomas.  The castle is supposed to be amazing. 

Link to Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/I-Capture-Castle-Dodie-Smith/dp/031231616X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1461782242&sr=8-1&keywords=i+capture+the+castle   

Monday, February 1, 2016

Dear Mr. You by Mary-Louise Parker

I have enjoyed watching Parker's career as an actress over the years, but just because you have an artistic talent in one area, does not mean you have one in another area.  She does. She is an incredible writer. Her words flow like lyrical poetry and are so imaginative and vivid.  Each chapter is a letter to a man, she may or may not have met this man, she may or may not know this man she encounters, heck, one of them isn't even a man, but a billy goat (in that case, it's done with such style, grace and charm, with a touch of wit, that you actually expect the goat to talk back).  It is a very unique way of telling pieces of her life story through letters to men whose lives have intersected hers.

The first one is to the grandfather she never met who sends his son a special gift for his birthday while he is fighting in the Pacific.  The next one is to her father who was shot in the leg in the Philippines in 1944. A soldier tied a stick to his leg and he used his rifle as a cane. As the soldiers marched on, the ones in the  back were getting picked off, so he kept marching as fast as he could, but he would start to lag. When they would take a break, he would keep moving and end up at the front of the line by the end of the break, only to slowly fall behind. He would just repeat this, keeping one foot in front of the other, never giving up.  And because of that, she has a family to raise, with him as an example in so many ways.

In Dear Mr. Risk Taker, she writes to a famous musician she began listening to in high school.  In high school, she was a bit of an outcast. The songs came to mean a great deal to her.  We all have a song or artist that speaks to us in some special way. She was able to graduate early and with her sister's help, gain some confidence and enroll in art school, where everyone was a freak, an outcast, a weirdo. She had found her place.  Years later she would get a chance to see him in concert and sit at the soundboard. He came to talk to her afterwards and told her "We are the custodians of people's memories." He also told her he believed in taking risks when he played in front of an audience.  He has passed on, so she contents herself with pulling out the old vinyls and playing them on the porch and remembering when.

In Dear Father Bob, he was the homosexual Lutheran minister she has known her whole life. He always has an answer to her questions, even when she was eight and asked if there were people in hell. He replied, "You mean right now? No." "I realized that it was your opinion, in that moment. Faith to you was more clay than mortar, and if you could interpret the gospel, so could I." He was there when her oldest brother, a skinny asthmatic kid, took a speech, with footnotes, to the Draft Board to argue against the War. As her brother began to talk, the Board looked up his card which said he was F-4, a medical reject.  Father Bob was there to comfort him in his disappointment at not being able to protest and to steer him away from going into cannon law.  He is there when her children have questions about the Crucifixion. He gave her words of comfort when her father passed. Most important he taught that kindness was the most important thing in the world.

Dear Cerberus is a rather dark letter to three men whom she puts in the form of the three-headed dog that guards Hades.  Each one flows seamlessly into the next.  They're about men who are mean or abusive and no, I do not believe she delves too deeply on what happened in these relationships.  They are snapshots.  She is a woman who thinks that once she has gotten rid of the first one, she finds she really hasn't. Another one, different, but the same, shows up, with the first guy's head mocking her.  The third one really fools her, but eventually he reveals himself, too.  She realizes she must put the dog down forever, to protect her kids and to try to have a happy life.

In Dear NASA she apologizes to NASA for saying they were a misuse of tax dollars that could have been spent on health care and school programs. She admits she's a grade A idiot about some things and this is one of them. Without NASA there would be no: artificial heart pump, the surface that protects the Golden Gate Bridge, the jaws of life, invisible braces, a drop in salmonella cases, the ability to read charred Roman manuscripts, and school buses in Chicago.  "Thank you, NASA, for keeping watch and realizing that our universe will never be anything but light-years new.  I want to understand that, and I am so comforted by the fact that I can't. It only proves that some things won't allow themselves to be understood. They aren't for us to know and there's a rapture in that, don't you think?"

She hadn't been leaving her house much, but she had an appointment to keep for something that would take forty minutes. Making sure no one saw her, she saw your cab on the corner waiting .  She gave you the address and sat back for about ten minutes, before realizing that you were going the wrong way. She starts swearing at you and pointing at the written address, yelling that you are going the wrong way. You insist you are going the right way and ask that she not swear at you and turn your music up to drown her out.  He turns around but continues to go the wrong way. Then he pulls out a map, but its a map of the United States, which she screams at him that will be of no use.  When she yells at him at the top of her lungs to stop the cab, he does and is a block from her apartment.  He yells at her to hurry up and get out, but she quietly tells him she can't hurry. In this letter she apologizes to this cab driver for her behavior (except the part about him having the map of the United States). It was just a bad cab ride and every New Yorker has one and this is why you cut people some slack, but she was too wrapped up in what she was going through to be able to do that.  She does hope he has GPS now.

She walks into Abraham's office, in her early twenties, rather dazed, wearing purposely torn tights and shirt and boots.  He is an accountant and he tells her that she is broke.  He has heard that she is looking for an accountant.  It is a bizarre conversation and she ends up falling asleep on his couch. Over the years he will help her with an ATM emergency, after consulting the rabbi, as it is during Shabbat.  When her son's passport is out of date and they are at the airport, he arrives to straighten it out and comes back when she loses hers and again, when she loses that one two hours later and hits her with his hat when she asks if her hair looks stupid while they wait in line to take a passport photo.  He has treated her like a daughter and has always been there for her.  

In Dear Uncle, she goes to meet the Uncle and family of the daughter she hopes to adopt from a foreign country. She finds out about their existence in a document she receives in the mail. This thought of her having a family never occurred to her. He put her up for adoption in order to give her a better chance.  Now they want to meet her to determine if she is the right person.  It gets off to a rocky start when the Uncle, a religious man, asks where her husband is and she can only stammer that she doesn't have one of those. She has brought an album of pictures of what the girl's room will look like, but to the children it must look like Mars.  "None of the families I met were intact, everyone had lost children, parents, or a spouse.  there was not enough of anything for anyone. The only bounty was in categories of suffering or possible ways to die.  I didn't feel them looking at me with distance, they all smiled and shook my hand." She knew they had no electricity in the hut, but knowing is different than experiencing.  He pointed to empty spots in the hut where people slept, animals were kept, where they ate, etc... "You were kind. I don't want to quantify or describe it to anyone who won't see how far you walk or what you have to eat or where you go to pray...I don't think you would appreciate being characterized as anything other than a man who loves God and tries to be good...I think I know what actual divinity is because you handed it to me [when you said] we are all a family now."

She had been feeling unwell for a while and her regular doctor told her it was just a cold and not to worry. At 2am she awoke in pain and went to the internet to search for "agony of the left side of the body and read that you only needed to be alarmed when vomiting blood, and as if on cue I coughed up something...pale pink, which I though qualified as only blood-y?" She goes back to bed, but it only gets worse and she calls the children's nanny, but remembers little after that.  When she arrived at the hospital she was in and out of things and heard words like "septic shock", "hypoxemia" and "cyanosis".  After all the work, she was brought back and she got to see them save her life, even though it was not a certain thing, and everyone had to wear masks around her afterwards.  He didn't just save her life, but also her children. She doesn't have to worry what will happen to them if she died.  "This is the only moment and it has already passed. The only things suspending time are children and cross-country travel. Not even all our stars are moving, that was light-years ago; it's only us here, dying as slowly as we can."

I have to say, she saves the best for last and it packs a wallop. It could very well make you cry.  These collection of letters form a chain that tell a story of her life in a way as well as the life of the man she is writing about.  You catch a glimmer here and there of who she is and that is just fine. There are too many memoirs out there where celebrities spill their guts and put their own spin on it.  This is a rippling river that takes you on a journey and you should just lay back and enjoy the scenery along the way.


It’s so transparent, how willing we are to dismiss the intelligence of someone who rejects us, though that renders them incapable of sound judgment.
-        Mary-Louise Parker (Dear Mr. You p 36)

I, yes, am very sleepy and unable to control reflexes. What does it really matter, though, if  I just belched softly and consequently peed on myself? Yes, I am breathing so loudly through my mouth that I appear to be snoring with my eyes open and I smell. I am smelly. Look past that to the swaddled perfection in the bassinet.  He vibrates with goodness and he is mine. You are correct that I am making a blunder but it’s my mistake to make. And just you wait. This is nothing. I may put a fresh spin on ruinous parenting. I will undoubtedly scar him repeatedly, no matter how hard I try no to. I don’t need help. I’m fully equipped to screw up my child all by myself and I promise I’ll get right on it. Now in fact.  But in my own special ways that don’t need your input.
--Mary-Louise Parker (Dear Mr. You p 147)
  I suppose it was the first moment I was thoroughly alive because I fell too far in it to ever describe it. There was nothing to look at because I was too busy seeing, and I got to be a beginner too. Will always be now, as every moment with you child will never  repeat itself with something lovely after it, like a sunset or a passage in a book. Real time with them, I think, is the only actual.  Everything left over is just a weather report.

-Mary-Louise Parker (Dear Mr. You p 149)
 “There is no now,” my father would say, banging his cane on the floor on the word now. “ As soon as you say the word, it’s already in the past. When is it? There isn’t one.”

--Mary-Louise Parker (Dear Mr. You p 194)

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