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Newsletter Number 20 • June 6, 2006

 
Books

While browsing in our bookstore I went to the “Bargains on Broadway” section. Tony peruses the closeout catalogues and periodically stocks up on publisher overruns that we buy at a huge discount and sell at ridiculously low prices. Since our store is located at 108 West Broadway, we display these books in a section Tony calls “Bargains on Broadway”. I picked up I am Charlotte Simmons, by one of my favorite authors, Tom Wolfe. I couldn’t resist snatching this 600 plus page hardbound book for the less than princely sum of $2.98. It turned out be a fortuitous purchase, since I thoroughly enjoyed the book and highly recommend it.

Tom Wolfe will never be in the league of the truly great novelists like Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. However, he is a highly competent chronicler of contemporary society. While his characters tend to be a little too stereotyped, his ability to capture and describe interesting subjects results in very highly entertaining and informative novels.

Charlotte Simmons is an extraordinarily bright and equally naïve girl from the hill country of North Carolina. She earns a full scholarship to attend Dupont University. Dupont is a fictional university that I would describe as a cross between Duke and Yale, with maybe a little mix from University of Virginia. Charlotte is thrown into an environment of alcohol, sex, big time athletics, spoiled filthy rich preppies, and pedantic intellectualism for which she has had no preparation. This is the story of her freshman year. It is a year full of seduction, discovery, and experiences that are riveting.

Wolfe did extensive research on campus life in the 2000’s. Whether or not you are a parent with a son or daughter about to enter this world of co-ed dorms and modern values (or the absence thereof) I think you will find this book fascinating and even enlightening. If you want to visit the 21st Century college scene this a great ticket to view the show.

Wolfe is a wonderful observer and story-teller. The book is alive. It is bawdy (maybe “raunchy” is a better description) and beautiful. Though not typical of the type of books I have generally reviewed and recommended in this letter I give this one very high marks. I think most people would really enjoy this book. I know I did. It is now available in paperback, and would be perfect for airplane travel or relaxing on the beach.

My son Mike has been writing a weekly column (blog) or whatever
you want to call it, which he distributes by email. It is available at the following URL, or by sending him an email:
For back issues and personal info, visit: “http://myspace.com/blargelsnarf
Questions, concerns, love, or hate? Email him! mikeyopp@hotmail.com

Mike’s ramblings are a kind of stream of consciousness very funny and often very perceptive ruminations on life as this almost 25 year old sees it. I recommend you sample his writings, just for the sheer joy of it.

A good friend who had read some of his pieces told me that Mike should read Ask the Dust, by John Fante. Fante wrote this obscure cult favorite in 1939. I read it, enjoyed it, and now recommend it.

This story of Arturo Bandini, a young writer living in Los Angeles in the 1930’s certainly has many autobiographical elements. Fante’s novel is a wonderful “period piece”. It is unique little slice of life that immerses the reader into the seedy side of life as it existed in the 1930’s. The book is written in a manner which clearly reflects the 1930’s---I could only envision the story in black and white, just like a movie from that period.

If you are looking for something totally offbeat and a little on the wild side, this is a book that I think you will find quite worth reading.

One of the reasons I picked I am Charlotte Simmons was because Wolfe’s classic piece about the hippie generation, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test was one of my all-time favorite books. This reminded me that I ought to urge many of you to utilize some of the unique features on our website, www.21stbooks.com . Go to the site and at the top click on “Top Ten Lists”. There you can find the 10 books that most influenced a number of interesting people, including myself.

If you have time to browse you should go to “Our Unique Categories”. Pick one of our four unique categories, and scroll down and you will discover some real treasures. If you find a book you haven’t read, read the review and order the book. “Try it, you’ll like it.”

Len Oppenheim

June presents many varied reasons for gift giving, including June weddings, Fathers Day, graduations and of course for all the Gemini and Cancer babies. A wonderful gift book that we have recently come across is Furry Logic: A Guide to Life’s Little Challenges, by Jane Seabrook. This delightful book has whimsical illustrations of animals wonderfully portrayed with sayings that are laugh out-loud funny yet very heartfelt. My favorite is a drawing of a chipmunk grasping a yellow flower with the saying “If you leave me… can I come too?” My 2nd favorite is a giraffe and these words “Do you believe in love at first sight? Or should I walk past again?”
Yes I know these are a little hokey, but they make you laugh and your endorphins will thank you.

A recent arrival on our shelf that is both captivating and intriguing is The Art of Nameology: Uncovering the Meaning behind a Name, by Norma J Watts. Does your name really shape your life? Read this book and decide for yourself. For the serious student as well as the just curious, this is a fun yet practical look on forces that shape our destiny written by a 35 year practitioner of Astrology.

Timeless in Time: The Autobiographical Writings Of Sri Ramana Maharshi is a divine addition to one’s spiritual library. It contains many splendid color photographs of Ramana Maharishi from his earliest years to his last days. The text contains many sayings and lectures of Ramana as well as talks by his disciples and western admirers. This is most highly recommended.

My final recommendation deals with a subject that is becoming more discussed with each passing day. Global warming is an issue that is rightly coming to the forefront and as the evidence mounts that this is not some leftist propaganda there still may be time left for action to help mitigate the effects of this life altering environmental crisis. Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth sheds much light on this controversial subject. The research is thorough and the photographs of the changes our mother earth has endured over the last few decades are disquieting and worth the price of the book alone. This is must read for both the believer and the skeptic.

A telling truth, a thought process that has made a deep connection came to me from the book: BOOK OF ONE, by Dennis Waite.

Waite equates our bodies to a pottery cup--the air within this cup our true self.
The cup would not exist without the air within, yet the air itself has no dependence on the physical cup, When the cup is broken the air remains unfazed, untouched... When our bodies become broken likewise our true nature is unfazed , untouched. For some reason this analogy has left a deep impression upon me. A simple story can do that, create a profound change in ones own habitual patterns breaking through rigidity to create a supple newness. This I am sure we can all relate to and what that story is can be different for different people

A few recent random observations…

I used to have 20/20 vision. Now that I am “slightly” passed my thirties... the vision thing has done some changing on me. For example, when I walk in the woods... what I think I am seeing is in fact sometimes not true. For example, I look ahead and see a large squirrel... but yet as I draw nearer it is but a bump on the tree... or what seems to be a beaver or some other kind of animal ahead on the trail upon closer examination is a spindly ream of straw. This has been happening with a greater degree of frequency whereas my perception of visual reality is skewed.

A large mirror was on the wall of our bathroom, it must have been hanging there for 10 years or so. Recently due to painting and renovation, the mirror was taken down... now whenever I look at the wall expecting to see me it creates a strange experience of no one there.

So what is the significance of these observations?

Really wish I knew.

Happy wedding, birthday, graduation, Fathers Day or just being alive!
Enjoy this wondrous month.

Tony

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