Saturday, January 27, 2007

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

I purchased Tuesdays with Morrie at the height of its popularity, while I was in an airport bookshop. I was waiting on a connecting flight, and felt kind of stupid putting a $1.50 pack of gum on my checkcard. For whatever reason, I did not read the book during my flight. (I was probably too busy eating peanuts and drinking watered- down ginger ale.) In fact, I did not read it for many years.

Earlier this evening I was sitting in my easychair, staring at the wall, trying to determine what I should read next; when a stack of books toppled over, and a few of them fell off the bookshelf. Of those mutinous books that made it to the floor, Tuesdays with Morrie was the only one that I had yet to read. I took it as a sign.

When sportswriter Mitch Albom found out that his college mentor had contracted amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (often referred to as Lou Gehrig's Disease), it had been sixteen years since he had last seen the man. He began visiting Morrie every week and discussing topics with him, such as, marriage, family, regrets, forgiveness, and death. The book is a written record of these informal interviews.

While Albom is a good writer, it is not his prose that makes this book shine, but the words of Morrie Schwartz that Albom dutifully transcribed. Morrie's thoughts and witty aphorisms were what kept me eagerly turning each page. They were entertaining, insightful, often poignant, and always candid. While discussing the fear that many people have of aging, Morrie states, "Aging is not just decay, you know. It's growth. It's more than the negative that you're going to die, it's also the positive that you understand you're going to die, and that your live a better life because of it."

Each chapter of the book focuses on a different Tuesday, a different topic. Sandwiched between each chapter, Albom spends a page or two reminiscing about the earlier experiences that he shared with his professor, most of which took place during Albom's time as a college student at Brandeis. Although brief, these reminiscences provide important context for the Tuesday interviews.

At pocket size and only 200 pages, the book is a quick read. But Tuesdays with Morrie's size belies its literary and emotional stature. Simply put, the book is powerful.

Since its initial publication, Tuesdays with Morrie has been read by millions of people, has been made into a feature film, and has earned the somewhat nebulous title of "modern classic." I realize that I am about a decade late in reading this book. Given Morrie's penchant for aphorisms, I think the best way to address my severe tardiness is simply, "Better late than never."

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