Archive | December 2015

An old reading experience so visceral it requires a rant.

Sometimes, you just read things that bother you even years later.

too see you again


I read this book, To See You Again by Betty Schimmel with Joyce Gabriel, years ago. It was, if I remember properly, one of those reading experiences that puts you through the wringer and makes you feel exhausted when you’re finished. It is a nearly unbelievable story of the two lovers being separated by World War II – just so utterly tragic, and showing that there we cannot possible imagine the tragedy, the horror, the pain, the bad awful things that happened to people as a result of the Holocaust. In short, these lovers don’t even know if the other is alive or dead at the end of the war, a situation many people had the tragedy of experiencing. But, this story is a bit different than others because the two lovers in this story always felt the other as an almost present-moment consideration in their lives, always feeling ready to be with the other should she or he be found.

And, many, many years after the war, in a Budapest restaurant, by chance, they do find each other. But they are each married to others. The man held back from marrying for 15 years as he looked for her. Isn’t that amazing? But what do you do when you have one life for living, and you have to choose between the love that may still be out there for you, that idiotic people and world events cruelly tore you away from and….living?? I guess you have to make a choice, and we can all learn from this story to be thankful to God that we haven’t had to make that decision. 

So, reading this story, one feels frustration, anger and a sense of loss that the people who lived it felt, as well experiencing all those feelings as an outside wondering incredulously how anyone could ever have gotten through this, (especially with the almost puzzling grace that Betty Schimmel exhibited). The people in the story seem human, not at all perfect – after all, none of us are – which just increases the feeling of angst in this way too human (though uncommon) story. You feel that no one should ever be tested by life this way. To say it was a trying experience is a supreme understatement.

But that isn’t the only disturbing thing in this story. 

The man that Betty ended up marrying, whom she didn’t love, kept information from her that she deserved and needed: the love from whom she’d been separated by war was alive and single and looking for her.

What a traitorous husband. No friend there. 

It’s easy to say, and a much more difficult subject than I am giving it credit for, and I shouldn’t be so judgmental, but I was livid with this man. The story is so moving that I feel livid again, simply by having read today an article about this story that I’d never read before. This is what I get for revisiting old books on my Goodreads page. 

But this is where the catharsis of writing comes in. Sometimes, the reader just has to get her reaction – impertinent and nervy or not – out. I generally don’t care for the phrase “he has no business doing/saying/etc,” but exaggerating for the sake of expression, here it goes: this husband had no business being with this woman. She never loved him. He pestered her. She married him but let him know she’d leave if she found her love. (Questionable, yes, but the whole situation was very outside of convention.) Then, he betrays her trust. And, frankly, he doesn’t sound so sorry about it in 2013 in the aforementioned article, where he speaks. (The book is just from Betty’s point 0f view).

Another frustrating part of the story is the understanding and the grace with which Betty handles herself when she has an opportunity to get back with her ex-love. She does the right thing by refusing him, as he is also remarried. But she is so gracious. She feels sorry for her husband. She has a responsibility to her family that she heeds, even though life was certainly most unfair to her. It seems as though life is beating her up once again, as though she hadn’t been through enough already. And she just seems so good. Meanwhile, I’m thinking she should divorce Otto and sue him for everything, even if she never gets together with her ex-love, or anyone else, ever again.

Ultimately, reading this book becomes a rather exhausting exercise in vicarious living (interesting but not the fun kind), self-examination (What would I do? What does that say about me? Shouldn’t I have more empathy for Otto, who had no family at all remaining after the war?), philosophy (Humans never seem to fail to hurt each other where no hurt was ever needed. How we unfailingly mess things up!), and, of course, judgment (Why? Why do you stay with the husband who betrayed your trust? Couldn’t you at least have  been friends with your ex-love?).

There are too many questions and too much to think about after a book like this – thank goodness true love stories quite like this aren’t so common! – to just make no comment afterward. Even years afterward. 




Some thoughts after seeing the movie ‘Spotlight’

I LOVED Spotlight. I was so absorbed watching this movie about child abuse scandal in Boston in the early 2000s. It was a shameful, awful episode, and I felt the movie touchingly and stirringly showed journalism at work in the way we wish it would always work.

I’m from Boston. I went to Catholic school (and had an incredibly positive experience there). I co-oped at the Boston Globe, I apparently did my co-op at the same time the Spotlight team was doing its great work (I had no idea, of course). I had lots of reasons to see the film. I wanted to see a good movie about journalism, to see what was said about the Catholic Church in Boston at the time, to see the building I briefly worked in represented onscreen, to see an entertaining dramatic film.

I gushed about the movie after seeing it and did what I, and I’m sure many people, do after an intriguing film: read the reviews, the discussion, the articles about the film. Where did they film the Globe office scenes? Where did they get their info? What did other people think of the movie? As usual, most info went into my head, was considered for the moment, and might -who knows?-still be somewhere in there, but I certainly can’t access it satisfactorily now. There was one thing that I remember finding out about: the issue of what one character said and his real-life counterpart didn’t say. As I read about it and watched a local TV interview, I got kind of angry. Why distort reality like this when it’s unnecessary?

In a nutshell, words -highly unflattering, arrogant, callous sentiments – were attributed to a man (Jack Dunn) who says he never said them. I have no idea if that is under dispute at all, but I tend to believe this man. I’d like to know what the movie’s makers have to say, but according to a Boston Globe Kevin Cullen column, they don’t seem to be too responsive about, except the same old vague, clichéed comments that seem to always get made by people in charge who don’t seem to want to say anything meaningful or particular.

As a person reading seeing the movie, reading reviews and articles about it, interested in answers, this experience is fairly frustrating. Why in the world would, as Cullen’s article asks, a screenwriter unnecessarily put words in the mouth of a real-life person’s fictionalized counterpart when a conduit for those words was already available in a wholly fabricated character? I can see the functionality of the words (showing some people behaved as if they just didn’t care about these horrible crimes), but if you’re going to show that truth in fictional words, why not just stick them in a fictional character’s mouth? Mission accomplished and no one hurt or offended.

Those of us who are not in a position to ask these questions of the sources can only hope that some satisfying answer is given and resolution made. But what a sad and frustrating thing that a movie we otherwise could gush about made such a questionable, flabbergasting decision. Doesn’t this mar the movie? And how many people will really know that Jack Dunn didn’t say these things? These really awful things. The audience, after all, is meant (and rightly so) to be up in arms at the callous attitude of certain people in the film. And they certainly will be when they hear the conversation in question. But how fair is that – is it fair at all? – to the man who is represented saying them?

So, I got to see the inside of the Globe building represented. I got say to myself, Wow. That’s the kind of thing that was going on in the rest of the Globe when I was pulling tear sheets and serving coffee at editorial board meetings? I got to be entertained by a moving, meaningful, beautifully done story with classic elements of good, bad, internal conflict. But, in the process of achieving all of that for me, I wonder why they movie had to make this mistake – so easily avoided. It seems to me, the movie-goer, that if you can have everything without mistake like this, then why have everything plus a mistake like this? It just seems so super-clumsy. And, for Jack Dunn, it seems so offensive, so sad. Why?






You know, it steams me when common sense is ignored. There are just some things a school needs: a library is one of the most basic of those things.

Apparently, Chicago has deemed the library at DuSable High School as expendable due to money problems. The students – GREAT STUDENTS! – clearly, don’t see it that way. They participated in a “read-in” to protest the closing and the firing of the librarian there. Check out the wonderful comments from students in here and the great images of the sit-in.

Here’s a wonderful quote from one of the students cited in an article by Andrea V. Watson entitled Hundreds From DuSable Campus Stage Sit-In To Keep Library Open:

“Libraries are essential to all CPS schools, not just Dusable,” Sabaria said. “Without resources and reliable people, such as librarians, our resources are limited. Being on the South Side of Chicago is already a huge disadvantage.”

It occurs to me that perhaps governments and politicians should never be allowed to complain about student achievement or performance….or even attitudes…. if those same governments and politicians are willing to cut off basic resources from the students in their charge.