Monday, November 9, 2015

The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto

Thanks, Amy!  Several years ago, Amy, my youngest sister, urged me to read Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom, which tells the story of Morrie Schwartz, who was a college professor of the author.  I read it, and like many others, was incredibly touched by the book.  It is, I've learned recently, the bestselling memoir of all time.

Have you read any books by Mitch Albom?  If so, which ones did you enjoy the most?  I've read quite a few of them, including The Five People You Meet in HeavenFor One More Day, Have a Little Faith, and The First Phone Call from Heaven.  I reviewed Have a Little Faith and The First Phone Call from Heaven on this blog.  Obviously, I'm a fan of the author's work.  Books written by Mitch Albom take hold of my emotions, of my heart.  Naturally, I was eager to read an advance reader's edition of Mitch Albom's new novel, The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto, which will be released very soon, on November 10.

The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto is the story of a very talented singer and guitarist.  The book begins by noting the death of the main character, Francisco de Asisi Pascual Presto, known as Frankie Presto, who was born in Spain in the city of Villareal in 1936.  The novel goes back and forth in time to tell the story of Frankie's life, and the lives he changed with his music and his six blue strings.  The story is told by various narrators, including real musicians and singers such as Darlene Love, Roger McGuinn (the Byrds), Paul Stanley (KISS), Tony Bennett, and Wynton Marsalis, and by the most essential and prevalent narrator, Music.  It's a bold way to present the story, using the voice of Music, but it works because Mitch Albom is such a talented and creative writer (I also learned that he's a talented, lifelong musician himself).

"All humans are musical.  Why else would the Lord give you a beating heart?"
"Here is what I know of love.  It changes the way you treat me.  I feel it in your hands.  Your fingers. Your compositions. The sudden rush of peppy phrases, major sevenths, melody lines that resolve neatly and sweetly, like a valentine tucked in an envelope."
~ The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto, Mitch Albom 

The Magical Strings of Frankie Presto makes numerous wonderful statements about music (please note that the quotations above may change, as they are not from the final edition of the book).  Music is certainly one of life's great pleasures as far as I'm concerned.  The older I get, the more I appreciate (many different kinds of) music.  When I listen to music, I feel it deeply.

In addition to the music in this book, there's a wonderful love story, between Frankie and Aurora York, and there is more magic as well, sprinkled throughout the pages. And there are many "little touches" in this book that I enjoyed a great deal, such as a "cameo appearance" by Hank Williams (I adore his music). 

Like his other books, The Magical Strings of Frankie Presto reminds us and inspires us to live with passion and purpose, and to love deeply.  Although it's fiction, there's some true history in this book, and many musicians and musical events, such as Woodstock, are depicted, in a realistic manner.  The author met with many of the musician "characters" in this book, and the result is an imaginative yet believable, thoroughly entertaining novel.  I LOVED this book!

Special thanks to Trish from TLC for including me on this tour.  For more reviews of this book, please visit the other stops on TLC's blog tour for The Magical Strings of Frankie Presto.  Thanks for reading!  Your comments are welcomed.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Wet Silence

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of Sweta Srivastava Vikram.  I've read and reviewed many of her books, including: Because All is Not Lost, Kaleidoscope: An Asian Journey of Colors, Beyond the Scent of Sorrow, No Ocean Here, and her terrific novel, Perfectly Untraditional. When I discovered that she had a new collection of poetry, Wet Silence: Poems about Hindu Widows, published in July 2015 by Modern History Press, I was thrilled.  I couldn't wait to read it, and luckily, I didn't have to, because Serena from Poetic Book Tours asked me to participate in the tour for this book. 

This collection begins with an insightful and eloquent foreword  by author  Shaila Abdullah, whose work I've reviewed and also adore.  As Shaila says in the foreword, Sweta's poetry deals with the many faces of widowhood in India.  Shaila calls it a "startling account of Indian widows"--and I agree.  My knowledge of Hindu widows in India was scant before reading this book.  I've learned that in India (and in other places), when a woman loses her husband, she also loses many rights.  She is not allowed to remarry, to eat certain foods, or to wear colorful clothing.  Widows are supposed to wear white saris, remain celibate, and mourn for the rest of their lives.  According to Shaila, widows are "blamed for bringing death to the family's doorstep", and "shamed into silence".  Wet Silence features poems that depict the varying emotions of Hindu widows (and other women) in India.

Dear husband: try to leave your scent behind.

I know
your Old Spice on my pillowcase will drive me insane.
(from Ghazal, p. 8)

Some of the widows featured in this book loved their husbands and miss them.  Others are relieved when their husbands are gone; they'd lived in fear or loathing of their husbands, because the men were abusive or unfaithful.  According to Sweta, all of the poems are based on or inspired by true stories.  This makes them even more poignant. The women in these poems are telling the truth, which is often painful.

From a poetic standpoint, this collection is remarkable.  These poems are honest, profound, beautiful, and brilliant. They courageously depict compelling stories with dignity and grace, although many of them are disturbing.  I must admit that while reading this book I was often angered and saddened.  I tended to focus on the terrible ways that the men treated the women, and asked my usual question, "why?".  (Even if cheating is "merely" the byproduct of a greater sex drive on the part of men, it's still devastating to women, particularly to wives, who've often invested great time and energy into their marriages.)  Some of the women in these poems were stuck in abusive marriages. They suffered quietly. The  lines below are from the poem Wet Silence.  It's heartbreaking.

You dragged me by my throat,
I knew it wasn't the right way
for a husband to treat his wife.
(from Wet Silence, p. 47)

However, the women featured in Wet Silence are not asking for pity.  They are simply telling their stories.  They are simply speaking out loud.  And they are simply making themselves heard, maybe for the first time ever.  These poems break the silence.

The final poem in this collection is particularly powerful and positive and empowering to women, and is the perfect ending for this collection. 


I am a woman
who can be left in a desert,
and I'll come back smelling of jasmine.


In the YouTube video below, Sweta reads four poems from Wet Silence at the Queens Literary Festival: Craving you, What does a servant girl know?, Your wife, and A widow's confession. Watching the video is a great way to sample her work.

Please do yourself a favor and listen to this poetry reading when you have some time.  It's very worthwhile.  I've watched it several times.  Poetry should be read out loud, and hearing Sweta read her own poetry is a real treat.  Sweta is a talented writer, and she's an expressive speaker.  She also has great warmth and a sense of humor, even though the poems are serious in nature.  I enjoyed this video, and felt as if I were at the event.


Thanks to Serena from Poetic Book Tours for inviting me to be a part of this tour.  For more reviews of this poetry collection, please visit the other stops on the tour for Wet Silence.  Thanks for reading! Your thoughts and comments are welcomed.
Willpower, a poem, originally appeared on page 50 in Sweta Srivastava Vikram's poetry book: Wet Silence (Modern History Press: July 1, 2015. ISBN-13: 978-1615992560)

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