December 30, 2012

“Woven Lives: 100 years in the story of the St. Gertrude faith family” by Patrick T. Reardon

My new book — Woven Lives: 100 years in the story of the St. Gertrude faith family — is a history of my parish, written as part of St. Gertrude’s centennial celebration. It’s a modest, 64-page work, and, alas, isn’t available through or from a bookstore or library. However, if you’d like a copy, send me an email at Include your name and street address, and I’m mail you a copy. Pat Reardon
December 29, 2012

Book review: “Wicked: The life and times of the Wicket Witch of the West” by Gregory Maguire

My sister Mary Beth does a great Wicked Witch of the West. For about half a century, she’s been cracking us up with “I’ll get you my pretty. And your little dog too! Ah-hahaha!” It’s so funny because the green-faced witch from the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz is so freaking scary. Forget Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers and Lord Voldemort. When it comes to frightening the bejesus out of little kids, no one can approach Margaret Hamilton’s turn as the Wicked Witch. So, in 1995, when Gregory Maguire published Wicked, he was confronting a cultural touchstone deeply embedded in the psyches (and nightmares) of generations of moviegoers. And not just confronting it, but turning it on its head. Not the epitome of evil For him, the Wicked Witch, whom he named Elphaba, isn’t an old hag and the epitome of evil. Rather, she’s a sensitive person who, except for her odd coloration, is like any one of us, struggling along her road through life, misunderstood and misunderstanding herself in many ways, prone to failure (or, at least, only partial success), often unsure and unhappy, exquisitely vulnerable and prickly at the same time. She’s not a stand-in for Satan. […]
December 27, 2012

Skipping and twirling through life

I don’t have any grandchildren yet, so I enjoy seeing little kids with their families in fast food restaurants. The babies, of course, and the toddlers, and the two-year-olds, and the three-year-olds. Those older tots take special pleasure in being asked to throw some of the remains of a meal — a balled-up hunk of paper, perhaps, or a few plastic forks — into the garbage. They feel a bit grown-up. They like knowing what to do and how to do it. Often, on his way to the garbage, a little boy will start skipping. Or, on the way back, a little girl will suddenly have the urge to execute a clumsy yet endearing ballet twirl. I’ve wondered why they add these small grace notes to their trip to the trash. Or at other times when I see them — when they’re walking down the street with a parent, for instance, or waiting by the family car to climb into a car seat. It is, I think, an instinctual celebration of life. I can imagine children in medieval Spain spinning and hopping, and in the families of earliest humanity in Africa, or outside a yurt of a nomad tribe in […]
December 19, 2012

Book review: “11/22/63” by Stephen King

For the past 45 years, Stephen King has been writing and writing and writing. He has published 50 novels and more than 100 short stories. He has 350 million books in print and is estimated to be worth about $400 million. He knows how to write a gripping best-selling novel. So why am I disappointed — more than a bit — with 11/22/63?
December 10, 2012

Book review: “Where They Stand: The American Presidents in the Eyes of Voters and Historians” By Robert W. Merry

There is a thin concept behind Where They Stand by Robert W. Merry, an examination of the periodic rankings of U.S. presidents by groups of scholars and political observers. Enough of a concept, maybe, for a magazine story, but not for a book of 200-plus pages. Merry, a political journalist and columnist, believes there is much that these rankings tell us about the presidency and about what makes a successful tenure in the White House. He focuses on seven such lists compiled between 1948 and 2005 and on seemingly interesting wrinkles in those rankings. I say “seemingly” because my suspicion is that there is less substance to the exact placement of a particular president on a particular list than Merry supposes.