Elie Wiesel Coming To Illinois State University

I am incredibly excited to announce Elie Wiesel is coming to Illinois State University!  Mr. Wiesel has written many works, but his book Night seems to resonate the most profoundly among people.  I’ve taught Night on several occasions and recommended it to multitudes; I’ve never had anyone express disappointment in the book and many even reported their lives changed for the better after having read it.

I’d like to congratulate Toni Tucker at Milner Library for securing this living legend and I urge all of you to make it to Mr. Wiesel’s event.

Here are the details as taken from the event’s FACEBOOK invite:

Date:  Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Time:  7:00-8:00 p.m.
Location:  Bone Student Center
Street:  Illinois State University
Town:  Normal
State:  IL
Contact:  (309)  438-7402
Email:  ttucker@ilstu.edu

Description:
Hear Nobel Prize Winner, Holocaust Survivor and Author Elie Wiesel talk about his personal experience of the Holocaust that has led him to use his talents as an author, teacher and storyteller to defend human rights and peace throughout the world.

Sponsored by the Sage Fund.

Contact Toni Tucker at ttucker@ilstu.edu for more information.

Additional Information:

Q & A: Attend a Q & A session with Dr. Wiesel at 3:30 on the main floor of Milner Library.

Book Signing: Following the evening presentation at Barnes & Noble Illinois State University Book Store

Accommodations: If you will need a special accommodation, please contact the event sponsor.

Teacher Man by Frank McCourt – A Book Review

I avoided this book like the plague for as long as I could until my brother-in-law bought it for me last Christmas.  Many people told me I would love it because it was basically my life (without the illicit behavior, of course), which is why I tried to keep away.  However, my loyalty to my wife’s brother dictated I make use of his gift, and so read it I did.

I’ve been teaching high school English for about six years now.  Sometimes I love it, sometimes I hate it.  I hoped McCourt’s memoir detailing his experiences as an English teacher for thirty years would serve inspirational and motivate me to press on.  It didn’t.

I think it’s because of this that the book rather succeeds.  He doesn’t pull any punches.  He talks about how teaching can completely wear you away to a shadow of your former self, but he also talks about those triumphs that occasionally take place in the classroom.  Best of all, he doesn’t give a fairy tale version of what teaching is like.  He doesn’t pretend he was super-teacher with no personal problems of his own.  In fact, he is quite candid in talking about affairs and other inappropriate behavior, both in and out of the classroom.

I know memoirs can be juiced up a bit, but I think this is about as true to life as a memoir can get for a retired teacher looking back over a thirty year career.  I think everyone should read this book to, if nothing else, get some idea of what it’s like to be on the other side of the desk. 

But, prepare yourself-McCourt candy coats nothing.

This Boy’s Life: A Memoir by Tobias Wolff – A Book Review

This book proved a superb read.  In all seriousness, I cannot recommend this book highly enough.  I do so because, beyond his instinctive narrative style that both captivates and delights, Wolff substantiates the hard and fast rule in life that no matter how difficult of a childhood, one can always improve upon oneself. 

Wolff is currently a professor at Stanford (unless things have changed without my knowledge), earned his B.A. at Oxford and received his M.S. at Stanford as well.  This is incredible considering the childhood he laid out in This Boy’s Life.  Wolff was not a good little boy, to say the least.  He was guilty of lying, stealing, cursing, fighting, forgery, and being rather unattached to anything or anyone but his mother.  He spent several years with an abusive stepfather who, while never out-and-out beating him, put him through psychological trauma just as severe.  It’s amazing this man has become one of America’s greatest writers, but I suppose all great talent was forged in blazing fires.

Wolff does not mince words and, while not a simple read, his memoir it moves very quickly.  He did a masterful job of pacing the narrative so as to make things suspenseful without any truly dramatic plot twists.  After all, this is his real life.  Real life is something that happens, not something that follows a plot line.  Wolff takes his real life and weaves it into a fascinating tale that I couldn’t put down.

Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt – A Book Review

For some reason, and I don’t know why, I had it in my head that Angela’s Ashes was about Frank McCourt and his brothers returning to Ireland as adults and fumbling about as they tried to decide how to dispose of their cremated mother’s ashes.

It’s not.

Angela’s Ashes is actually a memoir essentially detailing Frank McCourt’s life from the age of three through nineteen. 

Born into a life of poverty, McCourt’s immigrant parents decide to return to Ireland.  Unfortunately, conditions are actually worse for them in Ireland.  Add to the equation that McCourt’s father is an alcoholic who thinks nothing of drinking away what little money they come across while his family starves … well, the book gets more than a little depressing.

And that’s the real magic of McCourt’s writing.  For as awful as things are (and they get pretty awful), McCourt’s wicked sense of humor has you laughing at things that shouldn’t be the least bit funny.  I actually felt guilty at times as I couldn’t help but chuckle at McCourt’s description or use of dialogue.

Make no mistake, however, like in his memoir Teacher Man, McCourt does not try to deceive us into thinking he’s the hero of the story.  He’s tough on everyone, but he’s toughest on himself.  He reports to us misdeeds and lewd thoughts that most of us would never dream of sharing, and that sort of honesty is quite refreshing.

Though funny, the book was also so disturbing (especially McCourt’s father) that I really wanted to get through it as fast as I could.  I absolutely appreciate both McCourt’s humor and charismatic writing, but I won’t lie to you and say this was one of my favorite reads.  But, life is hard and disturbing for many people, and my perspective of the world improved thanks to the Pulitzer Prize winning Angela’s Ashes.