The Book of the Week is “One of Us” by Tom Wicker. This is a biography of Richard Nixon, published in 1991.
This book discusses aspects of the late president’s psychology as well as his life story and historical events. Nixon had an inferiority complex. He always felt like an outsider in Washington because he was a Duke University, rather than an Ivy League, graduate. He used an apt phrase to describe the focus one needs to succeed in a law career: a “lead butt” that can sit in a chair for hours, reading.
Despite his shameful crimes and resignation, he still took some actions that benefited the United States, the most well known of which was “opening up” China.
The Book of the Week is “Growing Up Laughing” by Marlo Thomas, published in 2010. This book is part memoir, part biography of the author’s father, part snippets of conversations with comedians of different generations, and lots of jokes.
Marlo’s famous father, Danny, ran with a crowd of live entertainers, which included, but was not limited to George Burns, Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Don Rickles, the Marx Brothers, Joey Bishop and Sid Caesar. Danny was mistaken for Jewish due to his nose and the company he kept, but he was actually of Lebanese, Catholic extraction.
In this book, Marlo chats with various personalities– Lily Tomlin, Jon Stewart, Jerry Seinfeld and Stephen Colbert among them– about how they started their comedy careers, and why their acts are funny.
Marlo is probably most famous for starring in the sitcom “That Girl” and co-creating– along with a group of other celebrities– the book, movie and record, “Free to Be You and Me,” a hodgepodge of songs and skits for kids.
The Book of the Week is “Gore Vidal: A Biography” by Fred Kaplan, published in 1999. This volume geared toward educated readers describes memorable facets of the life of Vidal, who is a political pundit, playwright and author. He is a colorful character. A distant relative of Al Gore, he helped make Anais Nin a famous author.
Additionally, Vidal engaged in heated political debates with Norman Mailer and William F. Buckley. On one occasion, when Buckley had failed to appear for a scheduled debate, the press asked Vidal where Buckley was. Vidal answered, “Mr Buckley? Oh, he’s at Wallace headquarters, stitching hoods.” Also mentioned in this book is Vidal’s dated screenplay about a martian, that contains a disturbing message about human nature. A unique read, indeed.
The Book of the Week is “A Boy Named Shel: The Life and Times of Shel Silverstein” by Lisa Rogak, published in 2007. This biography describes the life of the cartoonist, children’s poet and songwriter.
Silverstein was an eccentric, creative thinker who collaborated with other like-minded individuals. He started out as a cartoonist. However, his social skills were poor. One such friend of his who was interviewed for this book remarked that he never stayed in one place for long.
As an adult, whenever he got bored with a conversation he might be having with a friend at an eatery where they met to exchange ideas, he would simply get up and leave without warning. He would also switch residences frequently– he kept several inside and outside the United States. Fortunately, he could afford to do whatever he liked, whenever he liked, once royalties started rolling in from sales of various works he wrote, such as the best-selling classic children’s book of poems, “Where the Sidewalk Ends,” the song “A Boy Named Sue” (sung by Johnny Cash) and the rather depressing children’s book “The Giving Tree.”
Although Silverstein had difficulty getting along with his father, he still grieved at his father’s death. He realized “You never get over it.”
The Book of the Week is “Piaf” by Simone Bertaut, published in 1969. This is Bertaut’s biography of her sister, Edith Piaf. They shared the same father, and both grew up in Paris in the nineteen teens and twenties, with nary a formal education.
Edith spent her early childhood in a brothel whose occupants acted as her surrogate mothers, because her biological mother never cared much for her. However, her father was an artist and street performer, who took her with him as soon as she was old enough to sing so he could earn enough money to survive. Fortunately, she had incredible natural talent. Simone also accompanied her father on his rounds after Edith had left him, but she could only do some simple acrobatics. At fifteen years old, Edith took twelve year old Simone into her employ, and Edith embarked on her quest for fame and fortune as a singer.
The inseparable sisters endured many hardships before Edith achieved fame. Throughout her life, the strong-willed, bossy Edith fell in and out of love with numerous men, some of whom she made into singing stars. Read the book to learn about her antics with them, and other aspects of her edgy existence in the fast lane.
The Book of the Week is “Teacher: The One Who Made the Difference” by Mark Edmundson, published in 2002. The author wrote this book as a tribute to his high school philosophy teacher. One of many memorable questions the teacher asked during the school year was, “Why do we need leaders?” Answer: We need someone to think for us. Many of us human beings are lazy and we do not want to think for ourselves. The author described how even the class clown was made to think, and learned something in this teacher’s class.