Sunday, July 19, 2015

What I Learned: a very short review

In this modern age, with its technological marvels, it has become feasible, even straightforward, to write and publish your own book, using services such as SmashWords, LuLu, etc. And having done so, you can even make your book available to anyone who wants on a marketplace like Amazon.

My father took advantage of this capability to write a book: What I Learned.

When I think about the lives of my parents, they've always seemed divided into three segments:

  1. Before Bryan was born
  2. When I was a child, living with my parents
  3. After I grew up

And of these three segments, the middle segment swells in my viewing to assume the largest size and greatest prominence.

But of course, upon reflection, that childhood time with my parents was barely 20% of their lives.

And thus events that assume an enormous size in my own memory (e.g., our Burmese cats), and which somehow seem like a story that was an entire chapter in my life, only have time for a short paragraph in a longer tale.

So while I've heard most of the stories in the book, on and off, over the years, it turned out to be quite interesting to hear them told in a different order, from a different perspective.

Although the book is subtitled "An Autobiograpy," and tends broadly toward a mostly matter-of-fact depiction of people, places, and events, it is certainly also a memoir, colored by my father's own perception of those parts of his life that he found most worthy of relating.

And yet it also wouldn't be wrong to call the book a testament, or a creed, for some of the most interesting parts are when he points a finger at a moment when something changed for him, or when he realized a point when he had made up his mind about something.

So I could wish there was a little less of the facts and figures, which although important and significant are a tad dry in the telling, and instead could wish there were a few more pictures (and that the pictures were larger and easier to see).

And I could also wish that he had let a bit more of his personality out, granted more prominence to more strongly-issued opinions and proclamations. He has always had interesting and unusual positions about Right and Wrong and Should and Shouldn't and Cause and Coincidence, but I suspect that a 50 year career in organized public education, organized armed services, and organized civil service has forced him, over the years, to organize his life and express himself civilly.

So although it's clear by the end of What I Learned that, in fact, some quite interesting things were learned, those positions, policies, and proposals are not expressed as boldly, baldly, and aggressively as they perhaps could and should have been.

Of course, he isn't running for president, and this isn't a platform, so to observe that this book misses a few chances to Shout About Things That Matter is unfair, because my father, whatever he has been through the years, is certainly not a shouter.

Overall, it's an interesting book, and certainly a well-written one, which flows along and leaves even me, who certainly should have known my father at least as well as most people, feeling that I now know him at least a little bit better.

And so I'm glad he wrote it, and I'm glad I read it.

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