Book Reviews

Must-Read Book: The Long Hall

tlhkindlecoverThey were like any other young married couple in love and expecting their first baby, anticipating the labor and delivery with typical anxiety but thrilled to be on the cusp of parenthood. Yet life has a way of striking down even the best-laid plans straight out of the blue, turning something that should have been a celebration into a devastating tragedy beyond measure.

Charles Gulotta’s haunting memoir, The Long Hall, is an intimate and painfully raw journey beginning with the sudden turn of events the day his wife went into labor and the years of grueling recovery they both faced long after. His story is told with incredible insight and honest emotion. At its heart are the central concepts of love and family, and how we must all find the strength deep inside to carry on even in the face of immense loss and grief.

Charles’ story will stay with me the rest of my days. It’s a compelling read filled with beautiful writing.  I read this book in two days as I couldn’t put it down. It’s a rare book that manages to simultaneously break my heart and renew my spirit.  I found myself alternately laughing out loud or weeping with grief.

The following is an excerpt describing the moment he and his wife, Jill, discovered she was pregnant with their first baby:

We found out in November of 1984. Jill had missed her period and was feeling strange, and already suspected what was going on. We bought a home pregnancy test, took it out of the package, and clutched it as if we were holding the future in our hands. Here was the thing that would give us the most significant piece of information we would ever receive, and I remember thinking that it didn’t look important enough. In fact, it looked a lot like those kits we had when I was a kid, the ones that told us if there was enough chlorine in the pool. Yet, it represented the link between not knowing and then knowing that we were going to have a baby.

It was just a plastic tube and a small bottle of liquid. Jill filled the tube with urine, and added a few drops to the bottle. We were supposed to check back in an hour. If a doughnut appeared in the urine, that meant she was pregnant. Seeing the words doughnut and pregnant in the same sentence seemed a little weird, but that’s what it said.

We were scared out of our minds and so we joked stupidly about the doughnut thing. If it was a boy, should we name him Duncan? With Jewish parents, does a bagel appear instead of a doughnut? When we finished the stupid joking, we still had fifty-eight minutes to wait. We decided the time would pass more quickly if we took a nap. Lying on the bed, I stared at the bottom of the windowsill for fifty-seven minutes. I thought Jill had fallen asleep, but she had spent the whole time staring at the back of my head.

When the hour was up we raced to the bathroom, turned on the light, and picked up the tube. Something shaped like a ring was floating in the liquid. We screamed, looked at each other, looked back at the tube, and screamed again. I had to remind myself that the doughnut was not the baby, but was just the chemical reaction. We looked again to make sure, then poured the doughnut down the drain, which also felt weird.

Later that day, we drove to Jill’s parents’ home, to tell them. Bob took the news with nervous silence, then a warm smile. Barbara looked at me and yelled, “What have you done to my daughter?” It was a question that would echo in my head for years.

The following details the fateful day she went into labor and the devastating turn of events that would change their lives forever:

We called the doctors’ office and the nurse told us to get to the hospital. So this was it. Here was that car ride I’d thought so much about, the one you see on television and you think, please don’t let it happen like that. I’d practiced it over and over in my mind. We’d done a trial run the week before. We’d been to the hospital for the new parents’ tour. We should’ve been ready, and we were. Everything was under control. My driving was smooth and effortless. We could have been going to the supermarket for a loaf of bread, except it was almost midnight, and you leave your house at that hour only for life-altering events.

After parking the car, I felt bothered for just a moment by the bright yellow EMERGENCY sign. I opened Jill’s door and she climbed out. Then we walked slowly through the doors of Bridgeport Hospital.

It was 11:40. The day we would have our first baby — July 12, 1985 — was itself about to be born. We were in that moment when everything changes. The bridge from here to there was twenty feet of linoleum. We stopped at the desk and answered questions. Name, address, insurance. A thin man in pale green scrubs appeared out of nowhere, steered a wheelchair up behind Jill, snapped the footrests into position, and pushed her toward the elevator. We had no way of knowing, but Jill had just walked the last twenty feet she would ever walk. Right there. That faded, scuffed stretch of hallway. She was thirty years old. I was twenty-nine. We had been on top of the world for the past four years. But the world rolls. Sometimes you roll with it, and sometimes it rolls on top of you.

Charles Gullota’s memoir is a must-read, it will forever change the way you view love and loss, life and death.  It shines a light on the tenuous grasp we all have on our own lives, how our innate personalities and who we thought we were — our hopes, our dreams, the very essence of our being — can be snatched away, snuffed out in an instant like a flame. Yet, it’s tragedy that forces us to embrace the here and now, compelling us to fully live each day while we still have a chance. Only love has the power to heal us in the end.

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The Long Hall is 320 pages, and can be purchased for $12.95 from Amazon.com. The e-book edition is also available, for about $3.99 US, in any country where Amazon has a Kindle store.

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cg-on-2011-02-21Charles Gulotta is a freelance writer and incredibly popular WordPress blogger at Mostly Bright Ideas. His blog is a WordPress Recommended Humor Blog and was Freshly Pressed numerous times. I had the pleasure of meeting Charles and his lovely wife, Maria, a few years ago and yes, he is just as warm, witty, and insightful in person.

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Book Reviews · Giveaway

Book Giveaway: The Todd Glass Situation

 

image: Simon & Schuster
image: Simon & Schuster

Growing up and trying to navigate your way through this big scary world is tough for any kid.  But what if you’re also challenged with having ADD and dyslexia? And happen to be gay? Veteran comedian Todd Glass understands what it’s like to feel different and experience the pain of hiding a true identity for years.

In his funny, honest and heartfelt memoir, The Todd Glass Situation, he details his quick rise to stand-up comedy fame and the struggle he endured for decades keeping his life as a gay man secret.

It took the recent spike of suicides among young gay people and a close brush with death to give Todd that extra push to finally be true to himself and everyone else. One night he was finishing up the closing set alongside other comedian friends including Sarah Silverman, when he suddenly felt short of breath and nauseous. Soon the medics arrived.

“Sir, I don’t want to alarm you,” the EMT says, “but you’re having a heart attack.”

I don’t want to alarm you? If he didn’t want to alarm me he should have told me I was fine. Telling someone they’re having a heart attack is very goddamn alarming. “We’re going to take you to Cedars,” he continues. “Is there anyone we should call?”

Right. If I’m dying — which is suddenly starting to feel like a real possibility — I should probably tell the person I’ve been sharing a life with for the last fourteen years. I look through the faces around me until I find Sarah’s. “Call Andrea for me, ” I say, trying to wink. At this point it looks more like an involuntary facial tic.

Sarah winks back. “Don’t worry, I’ll call…Andrea.”

We both knew that “Andrea” is actually Chris, my boyfriend. But there’s no way in hell I’m going to say his name in front of everyone.

I mean, that might make people think that I was gay or something.

Here I am, forty-five years old, possibly at death’s door, surrounded by friends–and I still can’t be honest about who I am.

How the fuck did I get here?

Todd’s book successfully explores these serious issues with keen insight and humor. He details his childhood years and how he discovered at an early age he had a knack for making people laugh.  As a teen he was already a professional stand-up, opening for musical acts such as Patti LaBelle and comedians like Jay Leno. I was intrigued to learn how he climbed the stand-up comedian ladder to success, honing his act over the years while picking up valuable advice from other comedians along the way.

Being funny requires allowing yourself to be vulnerable. You must be fearless when putting your true self out there. At its center this book is about one thing: Being yourself no matter what the bastards say.

Other Things I Learned From Todd Glass:

  • Always embrace all aspects of yourself and let them shine.
  • Screw what other people might think of you.
  • If you’re gay and someone asks you, “How did you know you were gay?” ask them how or when they knew they were straight.
  • I sincerely hope one day there will be no “closet” for anyone gay or bisexual to “come out of”. Because it’s dark and stuffy in there, and smells like mothballs and needless repression.
  • Humor is incredibly powerful and the greatest comedians, like Todd’s idol George Carlin, are truth-seekers. As Todd pointed out in the book, Oscar Wilde once said, “If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.”
  • If you’re having a heart attack, always make sure Sarah Silverman is in the room.
Getting Doug with High
image: Getting Doug with High

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182940_446039868823211_1482428845_nTodd Glass is a stand-up comedian who has performed on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Chelsea Lately, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and The Jimmy Kimmel Show, among many other programs. He’s also the host of The Todd Glass Show, a popular podcast on the Nerdist Network.
–Simon & Schuster

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I was given a copy of the book, The Todd Glass Situation, by Simon & Schuster in exchange for writing this review. All opinions in this post are my own and not Todd’s, Simon’s nor even Schuster’s.

BOOK GIVEAWAY!

Dearest Maineiacs — YOU can win a copy of this book simply by responding with a comment below.  Yes, it’s just that easy! Did you ever feel different as a kid? Do you like humor? Do you know what a book is? Are you also good friends with Sarah Silverman? Let me know!

I will pick a winner by random.  All valid entries must reside in the US or Canada (sorry to my one reader from Uzbekistan)

*Deadline to enter is noon EST July 4th*

UPDATE: Congrats to Debbie Harbeson! She was randomly chosen to win this book. Hope you enjoy it, Debbie!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Reviews · Humor

What’s so funny?

photo credit: hbo.com
photo credit: hbo.com

Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.

I wanna live. I don’t wanna die. That’s the whole meaning of life: Not dying! I figured that shit out by myself in the third grade.

People who say they don’t care what people think are usually desperate to have people think they don’t care what people think.

The reason I talk to myself is because I’m the only one whose answers I accept.

Swimming is not a sport. Swimming is a way to keep from drowning. That’s just common sense!

What year did Jesus think it was?

I think it’s the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately.

–George Carlin

To me, George Carlin was the funniest person on the planet. What made him so funny? Was it his word choice? The way he delivered a punch line? His body language or his tone of voice? Why is it I find him funny, but other people might find him offensive? At its purest form, humor is highly subjective.

There are two main things I do know for sure about comedy: it’s hard to be funny, and there will always be someone who thinks you suck at being funny.

To me? So not funny.
To me? So not funny.

There is a new book out next week, The Humor Code, that tries to attempt the impossible — analyze comedy. Two authors travel the world and the stand-up stage trying to figure out what makes a joke zing and what causes it to fall flat. Along the way, they investigate some pretty bold assumptions about funny people. They wonder if comedians are by nature:

  • Grumpy.
  • Assholes.
  • Introverted grumpy assholes.

I’ve been accused of being a little funny from time to time, although I have to admit, sometimes it’s not intentional. I can only speak for myself when I say that yes, being a slightly grumpy introverted asshole seems to be the foundation of a good humorist. Throw in sharp observational skills and a huge dose of honesty and you’ve got yourself all the ingredients to make a joke.

So what do you think is funny? What type of jokes fall flat for you?  Who is your favorite comedian? Who are the comedians you don’t like? Tell me in the comments below and you’ll be entered into a giveaway with a chance to win the book, The Humor Code. Maybe you’ll read it and finally figure out what’s so funny. Personally, I look forward to reading the books analyzing what is love, death and the meaning behind the existence of cellulite.

The deadline to enter this book giveaway is Monday, March 31. I will pick a name out of a hat at random. I will pick the hat I use at random. I will add my own name a random number of times in the hope I can keep this book. If you are chosen, you must tell me where you live in an email, otherwise it would be hard to mail you this book and then you’d never know what’s so funny.

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