Tuesdays with Morrie, by Mitch Albom
Review by Margaret Mascarenhas in Gomantak Times
I was irritated that Gladiator got the Best Film award, being, as it is, a carnival party of blood and gore and a monument to mans most primitive instincts. Strength and honour! yelled one of the producers as he left the stage. Cro-Magnon. But I was touched by the simplicity of Film Director Steven Soderberghs speech dedicating his Oscar for Traffic to all those who spend part of their day engaged in creative acts. It was a breath of fresh air. Particularly so in the aftermath of the Buddha bombing in Afghanistan, the recent spate of killing in Macedonia, and the vision of out-of-control, soul-killing greed in government brought home so vividly by Tehelka.com. It made me feel a little more hopeful about the new century. It made me want to be more selective than I already am about who I spend time with.
For example, I decided I would spend less time on the party circuit where no one has anything thought-provoking or imaginative to say, and more time with people like my friends Tanya Mendonca and Antonio e Costa, both artists of considerable talent with great potential, whose idea of a good time is to sit around the garden celebrating art by reading aloud from Dorothy Parker, Pablo Neruda, or Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Café, while their dog Thomas performs Tai Chi on the periphery (I didnt believe this until I saw it). For example, I decided to stop being involved with the reviews of my current book and get seriously cracking on the next one. For example, I decided I would ignore the news, which is depressing and soul-killing, and concentrate on books, voraciously, like I did in college. Accordingly, I selected my reading material for next monthan eclectic mix of true literature (Cuckold by Kiran Nagarkar), biting humour (Bridget Jones' Diary by Helen Fielding),and, just out of curiosity, a current US bestseller--a book called Tuesdays with Morrie, an old man, a young man, and lifes greatest lesson.
I spent the first five minutes reading the blurb on the back and the information about the author of Tuesdays with Morrie, Mitch Albom, who has been voted Americas top sports columnist ten times by the Associated Press sports editors.And I thought, Oh, no, Im in for some horrible rah, rah, how to be a winner macho locker-room last words. Rocky revisited. But after the first few pages, I realized that the old man in the story had nothing to do with sportshe was Alboms college sociology professor and he was dying slowly, painfully, and, as it turned out, gracefully, of Lou Gehrigs disease, which is not a graceful disease. And I was somewhat relieved, but also a little angry, thinking, Typical. Heres this sports guy, whos probably richer than Sukh Ram, capitalizing on some old guys pain. Yet, in spite of my prejudices about male sports writers, I
persevered. Not because I was captivated by the poetic language of the writer's prose; not because that prose, peppered with the author's clichés and the subject's aphorisms, held any Pulitzer promise; not even because the story was more humanly compelling than any I might have read in Readers Digest. I stuck with it because it is a story told with a love and tenderness totally unanticipated, and because it is a reminder that in many of our clichés about life, love, death, there are kernels of simple truth--so simple, in fact, that we no longer recognize them.
"Money is not a substitute for tenderness, and power is not a substitute for tenderness," says the old man half-way through the book. "I can tell you, as I'm sitting here dying, when you most need it, neither money nor power
will give you that feeling youre looking for, no matter how much of them you
We all have.
But did I really KNOW it?
Love each other or perish, said the poet Auden. Maybe it was the picture I had in my minds eye by the time I reached the end of the book-- the one of a big burly sports writer bending down to kiss a frail old man on the cheek, wiping his runny nose, massaging his withered feet-- that left me with a feeling of wistfulness long after Id put the book down. Maybe that's why I suddenly felt like phoning my father and talking for an hour, writing a long-overdue letter to my old lit professor who cant relate to email, rushing out and visiting my paralyzed great-aunt on a Saturday, which is usually reserved for me, myself and I. And, incidentally, Albom says the book wasMorrie's idea, and the advance helped pay for his medical expenses. And so I am glad that Tuesdays turned out to be a bestseller after all. It made me think about what is important, what my priorities should be. Soppy? You bet. And if it could do this to me, a hard-boiled cynic since the age of nine, I guess I should recommend it.
So what, if it isn't Shakespeare?