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Newsletter Number 23 • September 12, 2006

Books

In August Dena and I visited Portland, home of our younger son, Mike. It was great to see Mike and meet a number of his friends. Portland strikes me as a very civilized place to live. For me, the highlight in Portland was visiting Powell’s Bookstore. Powell’s is incredible. It is huge, lively, and has great character and energy, not to mention floors and rooms full of books on every subject imaginable. Powell’s blew me away.

On our way out I noticed The Man who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and other Clinical Tales, by Oliver Sacks. I told Mike I wanted to buy this for him and he kept saying he had enough to read. Finally he gave in and I bought it for him. It is a book I read 25 or 30 years ago and then re-read about 3 years ago. (Dena says I should never say that she or anyone else “should” read a book. She thinks it is presumptuous.) Despite her antipathy, I am going to flat out say: “This is a book everyone should read.” Furthermore I think everyone will enjoy it. (Mike happened to read a couple of chapters later on that afternoon, and he absolutely loved it.)

The book is a series of case histories of patients who had, as a result of injures, or for some other reason, a series of weird neurological disorders. Sacks is a professor of clinical neurology, an empathetic human being, and a very talented writer. (He is also the author of Awakenings, the basis of the very successful and meaningful movie of the same name, starring Robin Williams.) There are 24 different cases in this book. Some are incredibly bizarre. Most are very moving. Taken together they are mind-boggling and mind-blowing and will definitely get the reader awake and thinking about the brain, personality, and consciousness. I repeat, this is a book everyone should read!!!

Two months ago I mentioned I had read a review recommending Of Human Bondage, by Somerset Maugham. I had read this book as a junior in high school. On my trip I re-read this book, enjoyed it, and certainly recommend it.

Maugham is an exceptional writer. He has a gift for detail, and depth of knowledge that combine to create a novel that has become a classic and will survive for generations. Although I found the first 150 pages or so rather slow and ponderous, I was amply rewarded for my perseverance, as the novel fulfills all the best goals of reading. The plot is intriguing, the characters are fascinating, the lessons about life and humanity are very deep, and the descriptions of various slices of life are fascinating.

I would certainly encourage those who love history, philosophy, human nature, and a great story to read this book. I would encourage younger readers to read this to learn something about the mystery of relationships between men and women.

Recently I heard a golf commentator quote a famous pro who said: “90% of the game of golf is played in the mind, and the other 10% is mental.” I was reminded of that wise analysis by the words of Erica Jong, “Without fantasy, sex is not much more than friction.”

Insights such as that make Seducing the Demon: Writing for My Life, by Erica Jong well worth reading. If you know the name Erica Jong odds are very high you recognize her as the author of Fear of Flying. Jong’s work was a breakthrough as the first book written by a female exposing her inner sexual fantasies—exemplified by the “Zipless …(I can’t finish the phrase, but most of you should know the second word)”

Jong, now in her sixties is a most interesting person. A graduate of Barnard College in the mid-sixties, she was not only an author of fiction, but a poet, and a scholar. This memoir is very fascinating, and although certainly sex is central to her life and this memoir, her musings plunge much deeper (pun intended) into matters of politics, society, psychology, and everything human. Beyond the sexual theme there is much more for the serious reader---insights into the mind, and especially the attitude and craft of the writer. Moreover, the central core of this book is “truth” or at least the author’s attempt to be truthful and why that is what good or important writing should always be based on. Jong has had a very interesting life and her insights are worth pondering.

If you are of my generation, you may remember the earth being shattered by the Supreme Court decisions allowing the importation of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and Tropic of Cancer. That began a sea change in the openness of sexual discussion in the U.S. Fear of Flying was an important next step, especially from the feminist point of view.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and think almost anyone would find it interesting and enjoyable. Finally, if, Erica, as you seem to teach, sex is a game mainly played in the mind, Erica, “you still got game”.

Len.

A dear friend of our store recently highly recommended a title written by her friend…

The Good Works of Ayela Linde, a collection of short stories by Charlotte Forbes lingers long after the last startling story unfolds. Ms. Forbes first novel has been categorized in the same breath as giants in literature such as Hemingway, O’Connor, Alvarez, and Marquez. What wonderful company to keep for a new novelist whose writing inspires, surprises, and makes us appreciate the simplest interactions that define us much more profoundly than who we think we are or what we say or do not say to please others.”  Here is what Dena Oppenheim (co-owner of 21st Century Books) had to say about the book…

“I just finished reading this novel and thoroughly enjoyed it. The way the story unfolds through the eyes of different characters gives the reader a unique and deep understanding of Ayela. This fascinating woman’s life, her experiences, and how the world perceives her make for compelling and enjoyable reading. I loved the way Ms. Forbes ends the novel.”

Please click on title for a more detailed review.

One of our best selling books on Vedic Astrology has been Beneath a Vedic Sky by William Levacy. We have just received his latest work on Vedic Astrology: Beneath a Vedic Sun: Discover Your Life Purpose with Vedic Astrology. William’s first book was a great introduction to the art of Vedic Astrology, his newest title focuses on Astrology and life purpose and career.
Some of the material covered include: Vedic Philosophy and life Purpose, Vedic Life-Management., How to Interpret a Career Chart as well as understanding Career timing periods.

For lovers of Krishna we have a beautiful gift book. The Tenth Book of the Bhagavata Purana Celebrating Krishna: Sacred Words and Sensuous Images. This book contains beautiful art drawings, parchment quality paper with original Sanskrit and English translation. The tenth book of the Bhagavata Purana recounts the amorous adventures of Krishna with the gopis in the enchanted forest of Vrindavana. This book is a real sensuous treat.

In 1945 several buried gospels were discovered in the Egyptian desert. These gospels focused on the Gnostic (or hidden mystery) sect of Christianity. 2 of the most famous: are now combined in this beautiful hardcover gift like volume: The Gnostic Gospels: Including The Gospel of Thomas and The Gospel of Mary Magdalene. These inspiring works shed new light on ancient Christianity.

“When you rid yourselves of guilt and shame and tear off your old rags and trample them beneath your feet like children, then you’ll see the Son of He who is the living God.” (From The Gospel of Thomas.)

Lightness of Being… I always thought was a great title for a book

After moving from our house we occupied for 22 Years I feel that would also make a great title for this chapter in my life.

22 years of accumulated materials all needed to be touched examined and decisions made … keep or discard. Some items have not seen the light of day for years, yet the pain of letting go was inherent in all these and with each discard a sense of poignancy.

Letting go, even if it is for the best, can be very painful… but I noticed after the initial pain the lightness of being is awesome and is similar to an advanced spiritual technique.

Whether you are moving on after many years or just thinking about downsizing your life … letting go can become a deeply healing spiritual practice.

Tony

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