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Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, A Young Man and Life's Greatest Lesson Hardcover – August 18, 1997
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This true story about the love between a spiritual mentor and his pupil has soared to the bestseller list for many reasons. For starters: it reminds us of the affection and gratitude that many of us still feel for the significant mentors of our past. It also plays out a fantasy many of us have entertained: what would it be like to look those people up again, tell them how much they meant to us, maybe even resume the mentorship? Plus, we meet Morrie Schwartz--a one of a kind professor, whom the author describes as looking like a cross between a biblical prophet and Christmas elf. And finally we are privy to intimate moments of Morrie's final days as he lies dying from a terminal illness. Even on his deathbed, this twinkling-eyed mensch manages to teach us all about living robustly and fully. Kudos to author and acclaimed sports columnist Mitch Albom for telling this universally touching story with such grace and humility. --Gail Hudson
From Library Journal
A Detroit Free Press journalist and best-selling author recounts his weekly visits with a dying teacher who years before had set him straight.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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You can't go wrong with such a story, given that so many of us are eager to find ultimate truths, and invest our lives with purpose and meaning. Most of us can feel relieved to see that this dying man, in all his unquestionable wisdom, stands for love, peace, family, compassion and a better world, thus confirming the principles we stand for. See? It's not just Jesus. Now Morrie has confirmed for us that this is the true way of life.
The cold reality, however, is that a slow and painful death does not give Morrie's view, or anyone's, legitimacy. While I am all for love, peace, and so on, I cannot find anything particularly fascinating about Morrie's dying Gospel. At the beginning of the book I thought this could be an interesting story. Mid-way through my reading, however, I was extremely annoyed. The book relies on the "wisdom-of-the-dying-man fallacy" and, once you get past the touchy-feely content that Albom so keenly stresses over and over, you wonder: Is there anything of value in this book? Is there any difference between reading this or listening to the average priest or pastor's sermon on Sunday or listening to what any good fellow has to say?
When people know they are dying, they change. Maybe Morrie was always a saint, but it's no wonder that everything that can possibly come out of his mouth now is benevolent, compassionate, and loving. He's been blessed with a wonderful family who takes care of him to the end. And Albom himself deserves some credit: by appearing once a week to make sure Morrie's thoughts and feelings remain with us after his death, he undoubtedly helped Morrie die a happier death. Morrie's ideas, however, are plain, and always conservative. For example, he recommends us to form families, because without a family, he "could not go through this." Fear of ALS does not strike me as a great reason to start a family.
Albom is a terrible writer. His grammar is poor (e.g. " 'Why, I asked?' ", misplacing the question mark, instead of " 'Why?' I asked "), he has no further thought to add to what Morrie says, and he does not bring any outsider into the lecture either. Whatever Morrie says is sacred, legitimate by virtue of the slow death of a virtuous man.
Furthermore, and the reader too absorbed in the main message (where Albom directs him/her) may not notice, Albom knows virtually nothing about Morrie. If you do the math, you realize that Morrie became a college professor late in life, in his 40s or 50s. His life before that is summarized in a paragraph or two that are way too sketchy. At some point, Albom tells us that Morrie loves to dance and that he dances by himself, free and wholesome. Later, he refers to Morrie's many "dance partners." The book is not about Morrie at all. Albom knows almost nothing about Morrie's life, and he certainly could not care less about it. Why? Because he doesn't need Morrie's life story. His slow and cruel death, plus bits and pieces that show us that he is, in his final weeks and without information about his past, a nice and loving man, is all he needs to invest Morrie with the wisdom of a prophet.
I read this book after someone recommended it to me because I am a college professor myself. The recommender thought that I would love the glorious story of a professor's wisdom. If some students remember me after years have gone by, I would very much prefer that they do so on account of whatever they got from me in the classroom--things like challenging arguments, intellectual engagement and tools to examine our social world--rather than for being a nice guy who says nice things about life. If I happen to die a slow, cruel death, and some Mitch Albom wants to make it more bearable for me by coming to see me every week, so be it, and thank you. But please don't bother to read the posthumous book. I'll be dead and I won't care.
Twenty years before the actual events of the book, Mitch Albom had the privilege of struggling through a university sociology course under the tutelage of a special and very talented teacher, Morrie Schwartz. Despite progressing well beyond a mere student/professor relationship into a deep friendship, despite bestowing on Morrie the endearment "Coach", and despite his promise to stay in close contact after graduation, Morrie, like so many other self-centered graduates, went his own way in the world. He lost track of someone who had been very special to him and it was only a television news interview that let him know his past friend was now dying of ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease.
TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE depicts the 14 Tuesday afternoon visits that Albom made to his dying mentor and relates the substance of the conversations that they had about the vicissitudes of life and death before Morrie's death at the unrelenting hands of the implacable neurological disease that stole his mobility and even his very ability to breathe.
I wanted to like TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE ... I really did! But, while I was moved and often deeply touched as I read it, I also knew that there was something nagging at me that left me unsatisfied with the book! It took me quite a while before I figured out what it was.
Insofar as Morrie's ability to deal with his own ill health and his inevitable death was concerned, I was profoundly moved and singularly impressed. His ability to look at the silver lining of every cloud, to constantly perceive every glass as half full instead of half empty, to always find a reason to celebrate the entirety of his life as opposed to decrying the pain and the miserably small amount of time left to him was truly inspiring.
But I found Albom's ability to pass along the nuggets of wisdom in a fashion that would allow a reader to apply them to their own life looking forward (a life, that is, not looking down the barrel of a shotgun of death sawed-off virtually to the shoulder) was distinctly lacking. Platitudes and aphorisms were plentiful but I found them maudlin and distinctly lacking in meaning or method that could be applied. "Be at peace with yourself" ... well, yes, of course, but HOW does one do that? He would tell us that "love" is the answer! Well, for goodness sake, the Beatles told me that over 40 years ago! Well, you get the idea!
So, how do we find this particular glass half full? Let's say I thoroughly enjoyed the story of Morrie's pluck and courage in the face of his own slow death but found little to constructively apply to my own life.