Nostalgia from: A City Set Upon a Hill

Nostalgia from: A City Set Upon a Hill
ISBN: 9781514628928 is an e-book by Garfield “Garry” Whyte describing: “Memories of boarding school. It was Seven years…Seven damn good years (1977 – 1984).”

The reader first is presented with a quote from Isabel Waxman: “It is indeed ironic that we spend our school days yearning to graduate and our remaining days waxing nostalgic about our school days.” The author’s ‘disclaimer’ follows: “The book was written with the primary purpose of encouraging all Munronians (School graduates) to keep their memories of this great institution alive. It is not intended to be the be-all and end-all about Munro. It is simply my chapter in the history of this great institution.” Historically the school was established in 1856 as a school for poor boys of St. Elizabeth but “evolved into a cauldron in which boys from all backgrounds converged” There were rich, poor, black, white, local and foreigners, as well as those who were motherless or fatherless. Munro College is “Perched 2,560 feet on the peak of the Santa Cruz Mountains in one of the remotest sections of Jamaica and is the oldest all-boys boarding school in the Caribbean with a commanding view of the horizon and the Caribbean Sea…”. Also provided are a description of all aspects of the college – acreage and sports fields, Barbecue (main quadrangle); building descriptions, several with pictures, and their designation, e.g. Chapel, Boarding House, Bus Garage; sustaining employees; and faculty with descriptions of individual idiosyncrasies that contributed to the school’s “..enviable reputation of being one of Jamaica’s most prestigious citadels of learning.” And: “It is the alma mater of several Jamaican icons and dignitaries…” including Jamaican Prime ministers, Rhodes scholars, lawyers, physicians and others. The tale further, as would be expected, is replete with stories of individual boyish antics and their sequelae, and here the author himself perhaps best describes his story: “The pranks; the outlandish vocabulary; the innovative ways of dealing with what could be considered a boring life void of modern-day technologies; the camaraderie; the lack of modern amenities; the fights today and the making-up tomorrow; the acceptance of discipline as a way of life; the making the most of an environment that we had no control over, but following in the path laid out by our predecessors.” This ‘is the stuff that memories are made of.’ There is a glossary at the end of each chapter and again at the end of the book to explain local terms and some of the patois that is used.

Discussion: The author has provided an interesting picture of what most people think of as an island tourist attraction. It is a presentation of Jamaica that few of the many visitors to the island even know existed. It is a memoir written by a man who obviously retains great love for his home and his alma mater. A well-educated person who knowingly has provided a rambling narrative setting forth enjoyable thoughts as they arose with a main intention of providing himself and others poignant and other remembrances ‘of another time, another place’. Thus, my only criticism, per se is the redundancy of the glossaries.

Summary: Perhaps the best summary of this book and this review is to use the author’s own provision of the most charming quote from Mary Lou Retton. “A trophy caries dust. Memories last forever.”

3*     5* memoir for target group; 3* for general readership.


Let There Be Linda

Let There Be Linda
ISBN: 9780990544227, Laugh Riot Press a dark comedy/thriller in e-book format by Rich Leder.

Plot/Characters: Mike is a middle-aged steady, honest CPA following his mother’s teachings in a large prestigious firm in L.A. and is expecting a partnership. Instead he is ‘let go’ when an account he is managing goes bankrupt and the senior partners are threatened by the bankrupt developer. They blame Mike and to cover, hint that he may not have handled the account properly so he no longer is employable in the profession. His wife leaves with his two daughters, returning to N.J. and her mother who never liked him. Meanwhile his brother Danny a neer-do-well wastrel like his father who left years ago for New Orleans and never returned, runs a flea-bag talent agency and bets the horses. The two men are inextricably bound together by an oath their mother made Mike swear on her death bed. From this point the plot takes off on a bizarre rollercoaster ride of absurd proportions involving a motley group of characters including a dwarf, a giant, a dentist, his weird wife and his sword wielding girlfriend, a cop who wants to be a ‘stand-up comic’, a zombie, an accountant, a talent agent, a weird ‘gypsy-like girl who can bring back the dead’, a clown and others assembling in a Pawn Palace (Pawn Shop), a police deposit area for impounded cars, a couple of wacky houses and a badly degenerated Airstream trailer with the entire tale ending in a ‘sort of all’s well that ends well’.

Discussion: The plot for this book may best be explained by the author’s own words: “Great thanks to two of my heroes, creative artists who have entertained me, educated me, guided me, and encouraged me over the years, geniuses who, in one way or another inspired the bloody irreverence that became this book.” They were Monty Python “who made me laugh since 1969” and “Quentin Tarantino, a brilliant filmmaker whose orchestrally violent and hilarious movies leave me awestruck.” Specifically, the plot is in turn, or perhaps symbiotically, inventive, wacky, bazaar, absurd, and insane but also verbally well done, fast paced, ridiculous and containing psychotic twists, graphic violence and at best may be considered a twisted example of black comedy involving complex characters who mostly are barely unbelievable.

Conclusion: The author has provided a book whose distorted humor and often graphically described violence will have great appeal for a certain type of reader. Others, including this reviewer, will find a well-written, well-paced story that has little appeal. In other words, you’ll either love it or discover it provides little ‘entertainment’.

3* 5* for readers described; 2* or less for the others.