Summer Reads: Four Friends

Rumors of my demise are probably pretty accurate. I had a blog. I had readers. I loved it. and lately I barely exist in that world. I have been writing, writing, and writing more for my novel. I’m editing like crazy and re-writing. I’m deep in there. And I’m reading, a lot. I’m sharing some of my book reviews, pretending I’m blogging. Bear with me. Have my back. I miss you.

42036541

FOUR FRIENDS, PROMISING LIVES CUT SHORT, by William D. Cohan

** I am vague in areas to avoid spoilers.

I heard about this book when Willian Cohan was interviewed for something on CNN. They gave a little plug for the book, and I was intrigued. Having grown up in Massachusetts, and as a college prep tutor, I know a lot about Andover, and the story sounded compelling. However, I found this book very disappointing. In fact, I returned it once about half way through, but decided I should finish it to write a fair review. I bought it again and wish I hadn’t.

I was turned off by page 24 in this book, when Cohan writes about the death of a childhood classmate, Brad Morrison. Referring to Morrison’s death, Cohan summarizes with: “his life snuffed out in an instant, a victim of appallingly bad judgment.” I was barely in to this book and found this comment so incredibly harsh and insensitive. Brad Morrison was 14 years old! I wondered how his family would feel reading this, and commented on that in my notes. I subsequently found this comment by Brad’s sister very powerful to read: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/1…The rest of my review hits on this point repeatedly: there is a shocking lack of empathy or human concern by William Cohan for the subjects in this book, or their friends and families. As a journalist, he does not need to sugar-coat or report only the good, but is there a need to denigrate these people? It put me off to a negative start, and nothing changed my mind throughout this book.

As other reviews have noted, the author beats the reader over the head with Andover. Yes, it’s a very prestigious school. Many readers may not have heard of it before, but sixty pages in, when Cohan finally introduces the first “friend,” I was getting really sick of hearing about how special it is, and how only the elite of the elite get in, unless they are special, or token minorities. The Andover bits are peppered with misogynistic comments; catty observations, and holier-than-thou storytelling. It came off as vapid and repetitive. Interestingly, the first chapter (about Andover) is titled: “Not for Oneself,” when everything Cohan reports about these four men (except Jack Berman), seems to focus for the most part, on very egocentric lives.

The story of Jack Berman, the first of the four friends, is the one story that truly held my attention and speaks to true tragedy. The child of Holocaust survivors, Berman’s story is powerful and inspiring. Berman was not raised in a privileged, pretentious home; he worked hard, was highly intelligent, and his parents built a life from nothing. His older brother recognized Jack’s incredible intelligence, when Jack was quite young, and sought a better education and life for his little brother. Berman did not arrive at Andover with a legacy, or wealth; he got in on his strength of character and academic accomplishments. All of these stories end in tragedy, but Jack Berman’s is the only one that does not stem from his own failings (as suggested by Cohan). This story is truly heart-breaking–– about a man who was good and righteous. He did not ride on coat tails, he forged his own path to success and his life ended in the most horrible of ways.

Unfortunately, all three of the other stories focus on hubris, entitlement, legacies that are hard to live up to, and boys (then men) behaving badly. None of the subjects seem to be actual “Friends” of the author, and at times, the reporting reads as jealous nit-picking and salacious gossip–– for instance, it was not unusual for young people to be smoking weed, or doing cocaine in the mid-seventies and early eighties, but Cohan reports these activities as if those involved are criminals, with intense focus on these foibles, and little attention to their strengths or accomplishments. Granted, there is some very irresponsible behavior (serious car accidents, over-use of drugs, etc), but there is too much focus on this aspect of their personalities, and not enough on the good.

These four men all graduated from one of the most prestigious, rigorous college prep schools in the world (again, be prepared to hear that over and over), and yet Cohan makes it sound like all but Berman got through without any effort. I don’t buy that. They failed exams and partied, but we don’t get to see the hard work and focus that must have been part of their success and graduations from Andover. I found it very tedious and repetitive. There’s little depth in the reporting, but a litany of bad behaviors, about four boys who become successful men, then die tragically.

And that is another key thing that bothered me in this book: all of these deaths are indeed tragic. These men died young, and all of them in unnatural, shocking ways. Yet, aside from Berman, Cohan tells each story in a way that seems to indict each man in his own death. While I see that there were decisions made that led to these tragedies, I found this storytelling akin to the trolls who weigh in on tragedies in online news stories––arm-chair analysis, based on hearsay and presumptions. After Berman’s story, this repetitive (Engquirer’esque) style of reporting turned me off this book. Having bought the book a second time, I finished it.

The author frequently quotes friends, family, and acquaintances of the subjects, but intersperses very bold statements between quotes, as if they are continuations of the quotes; when in fact they appear to be Cohan’s assumptions. For instance, about John Kennedy and Carolyn Bessette (who is dragged through the mud in this book–– zero compassion or balance in reporting!); Cohan is quoting Sasha Chermayeff (a close friend of John) about his marriage: “He took these incredibly super sexy pictures of John and Carolyn where they were like on fire. She even said to me,’We were like on fire during that session,’ and you can tell”… (same paragraph, but outside quotes:) But she was fickle, Chermayeff continued. Caroyln was married to John but had fallen back in love with Bergin. “She wanted it all…” This kind of “reporting” or storytelling is very misleading, I believe. Cohan slips these observations in, stating that Chermayeff stated this, but it’s not in quotes. This happens often in all of the stories, but particularly in the JFKjr story. In addition, there are countless editorial mistakes that really jumped out at me (as an editor)–– dates and details that change, with no explanation. I read this on Kindle, so maybe there were glitches (?), but I highlighted many of them.

Finally, the book gives about 60 pages to the first three men, but about 135 to John Kennedy. This came off as particularly exploitive and sensational. As others have noted, there is nothing new here, but I felt that Cohan put an exceptionally negative spin on almost all aspects of John’s life. He is painted as an entitled, (excessive) drug using, angry, promiscuous, risk-taking, careless, (insert endless other negative assertions) boy and then man. There is little compassion for the young man who grew up in a spotlight not of his choosing. That he did many things that young people his age did. He wanted a happy life, and lived life fully… and died in an accident that can’t be fully explained, because all 3 passengers died tragically, that day. To insinuate that it was due to Carolyn’s pedicure (I’ve run late for silly reasons), or John’s hubris, is underestimating the power of fate. We make a series of decisions every day, that sometimes end in horrible ways… when on another day, these same things might go very differently.

I found this section particularly salacious and insensitive. I wasn’t looking to learn anything new about JFK Jr; I doubt there is much more to learn. The man’s life was lived under a microscope, and after his death everyone with a story came out to talk. These stories were reported endlessly, as they are on the anniversary of his death each year. It’s sad. Cohan didn’t need to focus double the space on one “friend,” when all four men lived lives that were full and ended equally tragically.

I tried to read each story as written, but found the overall arc of each one focused too much on negative details, and hurtful interpretations. There is too little good here. There is too little about the other things that made each of these people human, and fully fleshed out. It’s sad that William Cohan, a “friend” of these men has written a book that takes away from their lives, rather than telling a more balanced story, that brings compassionate light to their lives and deaths. I was very disappointed, and can only imagine that the families of these men, are too.

Final note: this is an easy read, and each story is told separately. If you’re on the fence, it doesn’t take a big chunk of time to read this book.

*     *     *

GIPYKAPOW! Have you stopped by Tales From the Motherland Facebook page to spread some fairy dust? I’m grateful for each Like. Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does (for real… well, he did. But he may have dropped me recently)! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email,  no spam.

©2011-2019  All content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, I’m grateful, but please give proper credit and Link back to my work; plagiarism sucks!

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Friday Fictioneers: When It All Falls Apart

Couldn’t find the muse last week; this week the muse found me. Thanks to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for her weekly patience and work, and for the wonderful photo by Valerie J. Barrett. I welcome honest, constructive feedback; please take a moment and share your thoughts.

vintage-kitchen-tools-valerie-barrett

 

When It All Falls Apart

Standing in the kitchen Ella’s face flushed, as Sam explained for the second time why he needed space. Why she wasn’t good enough.

“I wish we could iron out our differences, but I think we’ve just grown apart.”

The kettle whistled an alarm, as Ella slammed her hand on the counter. She ignored the pain that shot up her arm.

“We haven’t grown apart; you stopped trying months ago, Sam!”

“What do you want me to say?” He groaned.

“I can’t spoon feed you answers anymore, if you don’t even love me.”

Ella took a deep breathe, and let go.

(100 words)

*     *     *

GIPYKAPOW! Have you stopped by Tales From the Motherland Facebook page to spread some fairy dust? I’m grateful for each Like. Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does (for real… well, he did. But he may have dropped me recently)! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email,  no spam.

©2011-2019  All content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, I’m grateful, but please give proper credit and Link back to my work; plagiarism sucks!

 

 

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , | 27 Comments

Friday Fictioneers: He Leaves Me Hanging

Computer issues and shadowing Rochelle in Israel… in the same cities, but we never ran into each other. I’m back! I’m grateful for Ms. Wisoff-Fields and her hard work each week, and the photo prompt this week from Susan Eames.

This story was inspired by an old diary I recently came across, when I was in love for the first time. We dated for three years–– seventeen to nearly twenty, and as these things often go, it ended with a broken heart, and growth.

As always, I welcome honest, constructive feedback.

finding-a-signal

© Susan Eames

 

HE LEAVES ME HANGING

As he kissed me goodnight, I felt him leaving me. I wanted to hold on, beg him to stay; I wanted him to go and let me breathe again. It was all in that one kiss.

“Is everything okay,” I whispered, waiting for the blow.

“Sure. I’m just tired.” His eyes betrayed him. “I love you.”

I clung to the hope his lies offered.

He left me hanging, and we lingered in a bittersweet ending for weeks. When he finally said the worlds: “I think we should see other people,” I breathed a sigh. And cried for weeks.

(98 words)

*     *     *

GIPYKAPOW! Have you stopped by Tales From the Motherland Facebook page to spread some fairy dust? I’m grateful for each Like. Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does (for real… well, he did. But he may have dropped me recently)! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email,  no spam.

©2011-2019  All content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, I’m grateful, but please give proper credit and Link back to my work; plagiarism sucks!

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , | 53 Comments

Friday Fictioneers: All The Lonely People

Thank you Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for your weekly dedication and hard work for Friday Fictioneers. When I first saw Roger Bultot’s photo prompt this morning, I thought it was a church; I immediately thought of writing this story. Then I noticed the Star of David on the window, and went somewhere else instead. This other story stayed with me all day, until it finally fit the 100 word format and I could type it out. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. I will visit your page as well, but it may take a while. If you read both of my stories this week, you rock extra! Thank you!

roger-bultot-synagogue

© Roger Bultot

 

All The Lonely People

Eleanor hides in a pew, and swallows one last pill. Having strived to live a faithful life, she hopes this will look like something else… a heart attack, perhaps? Only cordial smiles from Father and worshippers; no one loves or notices her, beyond her duties at the church. Measuring days in grains of rice, from weddings she never attends, is no life.

Father McKenzie tries to remember anything personal for Eleanor’s sermon. Years of cleaning and moving about like a ghost; he never asked about her life. Where did she belong? A pang of guilt makes him pause, and then passes.

(100 words)

And now you must go here to enjoy true genius.

*     *     *

GIPYKAPOW! Have you stopped by Tales From the Motherland Facebook page to spread some fairy dust? I’m grateful for each Like. Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does (for real… well, he did. But he may have dropped me recently)! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email,  no spam.

©2011-2019  All content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, I’m grateful, but please give proper credit and Link back to my work; plagiarism sucks!

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , | 32 Comments

Friday Fictioneers: Next Year In Israel

Thank you Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for your weekly commitment and passion. Thank you Roger Bultot for this week’s photo. I’m grateful for the time each of you takes to read my work. I’m moving slowly, but do my best to return that kindness. As always I welcome honest, constructive feedback.

roger-bultot-synagogue

© Roger Bultot

Next Year In Israel

Lori gathered her long auburn hair, securing it under her favorite hat. Prepared for final Passover celebrations, she glanced in the mirror, grabbed her prayer book, and left with her family for services.

“Shabbat Shalom; chag sameach!” she sang out to Rabbi Goldstein, as she entered the hall. Mutual respect for their faith forbade any physical contact, but twenty years of friendship sparkled between them.

A loud crack filled the synagogue. A second one sent searing pain down the Rabbi’s hand and arm.

“Lori, run! I’ll get the children!”

Lori lay in her beautiful Pesach dress, her eyes watching God.

(100 Words of grief)

 

download

Lori Kaye, age 60

** This week, my story shares a moment of the horror at Chabad of Poway in CA. Lori Gilbert Kaye was murdered by an anti-Semite, despite her husband’s efforts to save her. זכרונה לברכה May her memory forever be a blessing.

Rabbi Goldstein lost 3 fingers, and ushered a room full of children to safety–– including his four-year old granddaughter. Two Israelis, who came to the US to be free of violence, were injured, including a nine year old girl.

Each year in our Passover/Pesach Seder, we utter the words: “This year we celebrate here, next year in Israel,” for all Jews call Israel their home.

*     *     *

GIPYKAPOW! Have you stopped by Tales From the Motherland Facebook page to spread some fairy dust? I’m grateful for each Like. Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does (for real… well, he did. But he may have dropped me recently)! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email,  no spam.

©2011-2019  All content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, I’m grateful, but please give proper credit and Link back to my work; plagiarism sucks!

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , | 47 Comments

Friday Fictioneers: Memories of June

As always, a giant thank you to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for her weekly dedication. This week’s photo prompt comes from Sandra Crook (we’ve missed you). As always I welcome honest, constructive feedback; please a comment and tell me what you think.

on-the-beach-with-sandra

© Sandra Crook

 

Memories of June

Clang! The metal walker collided with the hall corner.

Jimmy, duck!

“Mr. Murray, you OK?”

A shudder ran down his bent spine, as he righted his footing.

That was close, Buddy! Nearly got us both. Eddie’s voice was tight.

“You’re doing fine; watch that post, dear.”

Incoming! Run!

“That’s a sharp hat you’re wearing again today. Where’d you get this pin?”

The smell of Eddie’s flesh and then silence, as the world erupted.

“Mr. Murray… the pin?”

“It was given to me for the seventieth memorial, at Omaha Beach.”

“Oh, nice. Now let’s get you to the dining room.”

(100 words)

Omaha Beach, June 1944

*     *     *

GIPYKAPOW! Have you stopped by Tales From the Motherland Facebook page to spread some fairy dust? I’m grateful for each Like. Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does (for real… well, he did. But he may have dropped me recently)! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email,  no spam.

©2011-2019  All content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, I’m grateful, but please give proper credit and Link back to my work; plagiarism sucks!

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , | 49 Comments

Friday Fictioneers: A Light In The Window

Unfortunately, I had surgery last week and was not able to get to as many stories as I would have liked. I apologize if you read mine, and I didn’t return the favor. I’ll try to do better this week! As always, a giant thank you to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for her weekly dedication. This week’s photo prompt comes from Dale Rogerson. My story is a reflection of the current epidemic, completely avoidable with modern medicine. It’s easy to forget that measles once killed a million people a year. As always I welcome honest, constructive feedback.

winter-street-dale

A Light In The Window

Shivering, Trina held her hands before dying embers; the heat barely warmed her icy fingers. She blew the ash in hopes of stoking a flame.

Her brothers and parents were long gone, but she could still see her mother’s tears as Father led her away––

“Come dear, there is nothing else we can do. The measles; we must leave here.”

“Hey Joe! Look at the top floors of the Hubbard building; do you see that light?”

“Don’t be silly; it’s been abandoned for a hundred-and-fifty years! It’s just lights off the snow.”

“Don’t leave me!” Trina cried, year after year.

(Exactly 100 words)

*     *     *

GIPYKAPOW! Have you stopped by Tales From the Motherland Facebook page to spread some fairy dust? I’m grateful for each Like. Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does (for real… well, he did. But he may have dropped me recently)! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email,  no spam.

©2011-2019  All content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, I’m grateful, but please give proper credit and Link back to my work; plagiarism sucks!

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , | 41 Comments

Friday Fictioneers: A Solitary Woman

Thanks for your incredible commitment Rochelle Wisoff-Fields! This week’s photo is provided by  Roger Bultot. Despite this beautiful, atmospheric photo, I was stuck this week. I’ve used a brief portion of a short story I’ve been working on. It fit the scene. Honest, constructive feedback is always welcome.

cloister-roger-b

© Roger Bultot

 

A Solitary Woman

 

The woman stirred her coffee and gazed out the window at her garden.

“I should have cut back those irises weeks ago,” she said to no one.

Her dog glanced in her direction, ready and waiting. When she spoke to the window, he stayed put.

“I can’t believe it’s the end of October already…

Where have the weeks gone?

Hmm, Roosh, old boy!”

This was the cue: her gaze moving to him; her voice sliding up three octaves. The black lab mix got to his feet, tail wagging –– thump, thump, thump­–– and came over to nuzzle her hand.

(98 words)

*     *     *

GIPYKAPOW! Have you stopped by Tales From the Motherland Facebook page to spread some fairy dust? I’m grateful for each Like. Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does (for real… well, he did. But he may have dropped me recently)! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email,  no spam.

©2011-2019  All content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, I’m grateful, but please give proper credit and Link back to my work; plagiarism sucks!

 

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , | 28 Comments

Friday Fictioneers: Caught In Your Web Of Lies

Three steps forward, two back still equals forward! But still not writing as much as I’d like. Thanks for always showing up, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields! This week’s photo is provided by  Ronda Del Boccio. Honest, constructive feedback is always welcome.

trees-ronda-del-boccio

© Ronda Del Boccio

 

Caught In Your Web of Lies

Last night was amazing! You sure know how to make me feel special, babe. Your body’s so hot! Baby, I’ve been thinking about you all day––

Alice re-read the last two lines of the email and slammed the laptop shut. Her eyes burned with tears as she glanced at the photos along the mantel, then ran to the bathroom to vomit.

Two hours later she opened the computer again.

John, I’ve taken what I need from our bank account. Call your baby. I’m through.

Alice hit send, and left her home for good.

(Word count: 92)

*     *     *

GIPYKAPOW! Have you stopped by Tales From the Motherland Facebook page to spread some fairy dust? I’m grateful for each Like. Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does (for real… well, he did. But he may have dropped me recently)! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email,  no spam.

©2011-2019  All content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, I’m grateful, but please give proper credit and Link back to my work; plagiarism sucks!

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , | 56 Comments

Gray on Gray…

I posted this five years ago, and while so much has changed in the lives of my three kids, the feelings I wrote here are just as strong, just as real. I now have two grandchildren–– something I could barely fathom then. My life has settled into one of reconnecting with my kids, not being tied to them or living with or near them.

It is also striking and interesting to read through the comments again, and realize which connections I’ve sustained and which I’ve lost… thru’ my less than active blogging. Some of the folks who read this then and commented, have now seen their wee ones fledge as well. Oh, the earth just continues to turn. And we survive it.

TALES FROM THE MOTHERLAND

Little boots, sit by the door... waiting for children who have grown up. Little boots, sit by the door… waiting for children who have grown up.

I am sitting at a beautiful Inn on an island in the San Juan Islands. It’s as magical and beautiful, as that sounds. At a writer’s retreat for the weekend, I’ve had trouble writing– lulled by the stunning beauty around me, and the welling of gratitude in my heart. The wet snow is pattering on the roof; music plays softly– a soundtrack of songs that speaks to how I’m feeling. I look dreamily out at the gray sky, the gray water, the darker gray islands, with only the evergreens to break the monochrome palette… and my emotions overwhelm me. I gaze out; I blink, and it all comes back to me.

As I sit, an email comes in to inform me that my twenty-one year old son has claimed the miles from one of my airline accounts…

View original post 1,053 more words

Aside | Posted on by | 2 Comments