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Handstand Paperback – August 23, 2010
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About the Author
John H. Steinemann was born on October 19, 1920, in Sandusky, Ohio. He went to Saints Peter and Paul Parochial School and Sandusky High School, then on to college at Ohio State University, John Carroll University, and Ohio University. Attracted by the California sunshine, he attended the University of Southern California, where he earned a Bachelor's degree (1949) and Master's degree in Education (1951). Continuing with doctoral studies at the University of California, Berkeley, he was awarded a Ph.D. in Education (June 1957), and the call-shot championship at the local pool hall. After graduation, he worked as a program director at the Naval Personnel Research and Development Center in San Diego, California, until 1984, where he developed, evaluated, and improved training methods, and swam in the ocean nearly every day. It was there that he met his future wife, Patricia Jane Crandall, who rescued his sinking boat, and him. As he sentimentally says, "She was the first woman whom I ever told, 'I love you.'" John and Patricia were married on November 26, 1960. They had five children - Anne, Susan, Laura, Debra, John - and a great sense of humor. John continues to keep busy with playing piano, playing bridge, and playing with his grandchildren.
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Handstand is as intensely personal as any memoir, but writing it as an autobiographical novel allowed the author to take the role of narrator and comment on the events of his youth as an observer. The result is fascinating.
The author masterfully weaves the many threads of his life's story together into a marvelous tapestry. Sometimes, one of these threads will disappear from view and then resurface unexpectedly. George and the custodianship of the camera is a notable example.
As a male, I found it particularly interesting to follow the protagonist's quest to understand females and how to interact with them. Although the protagonist doesn't ultimately gain complete understanding, it's clear that he enjoyed the journey. I wish I had been given his advice for finding a prom date when I was a high school senior. On the other hand, I was probably beyond help... Perhaps other male high school seniors could do better than I did using the advice in Handstand.
Writing Handstand as an autobiographical novel allowed the author to comment on the significance of events in his life. For example, the author portrays learning to do a handstand as "a triumph of persistence over lack of talent." Although this observation is an important life lesson, no one who reads Handstand will come away believing that the author was lacking in talent.
I should mention that reading Handstand would likely expand your vocabulary. Perhaps you already know the meaning of words like "callipygous", "pulchritude", and "eleemosynary". If you do, then you are more erudite than I was before reading Handstand. In any case, I had great fun reading Handstand.