June Book Reviews

Reviews by Len Oppenheim
Most of the really good things in my life have come to me thanks to the good deeds or help I have received from family and friends. A couple of weeks ago I received a hard-cover book drop shipped to me from our bookstore. I opened the box and took out The Wolf of Wall Street, by Jordan Belfort. I vaguely remembered discussing this book with a friend and I thought I had ordered it. After I was about two-thirds of the way through it I mentioned it to a friend and he said he wondered if I had received it, as he had ordered it from Tony and had it shipped to me. I thanked him and told him how much I was enjoying it.

“Upstairs, we walked down a long hallway, at the end of which was a prodigious set of double doors. On either side of the doors was a uniformed police officer, standing watch. They opened the door and there was the bachelor party. Elliot and I walked into the room and froze: It was the reincarnation of Sodom and Gomorrah. …

The paragraph above is Jordan’s description of his entrance into the room hosting his own bachelor party. I would say that calling it Sodom and Gomorrah was a strong use of understatement. This book is about excess! Jordan Belfort was excessive in his creation of wealth, his addictions to sex, drugs, and power and everything else. This book is full of very crass descriptions of very crass people involved in unspeakable debauchery, or as Jordan kept describing it as “The lifestyle of the rich and dysfunctional.”

Jordan Belfort tells an amazing tale of the Wall Street boiler room operation he started and ran called Stratton-Oakmont. I find it hard to believe everything he says, and I would guess some of the stories are exaggerated, but for the most part this tale has the feel of truth to it.

I found the story fascinating, and the writing was exceptional. The descriptions of the characters and scenes were exquisitely done and I found myself laughing out loud over and over again. Belfort (or his editors or both) is a very talented writer.

I found myself really engrossed with the story and very interested in the main characters who are multi-dimensional. It is a great story and very entertaining and for those of you who are not offended by ultra X-rated and very descriptive materials I highly recommend this book. The wealth and debauchery and stories are outlandish but seemingly real.

I would be remiss if I did not point out that the author is a real charmer and a fascinating study in human nature. There is some real depth to this book and it transcends the tale of excess and debauchery. In fact when I finished the book, my gut reaction was, I want to know more—I hope he writes a sequel!

Thanks to my friend Charlie who sent it to me.

On Wednesday May 14, 2008, one of the headlines in the Arizona Republic read: “Immigration Raid Sets Arrest Record.” The article was about a Federal immigration raid at a kosher meat packing plant in Postville, Iowa. The article stated that 390 people were arrested on immigration charges at Agriprocessors Inc.

Inspired by this article I decided to recommend Postville: A Clash of Cultures in Heartland America, by Stephen G. Bloom. If you have not read this book, you are in for a real treat.

I was fascinated by and thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Postville was the quintessential “white bread” Northeast Iowa very small town of under 1,500 people until 1987 when a group of Hasidic Jews moved in to open what has become the largest kosher slaughterhouse in the world.

The Lubavitchers are a Jewish sect that could best be compared with the Amish, in the sense they are ultra-orthodox fundamentalists and dress and act in ways that are strongly rooted in traditions that are centuries old. This is a story of culture clash. The author, Stephen G. Bloom, a secular Jew, a former newspaper reporter, and a professor of journalism at The University of Iowa, does an excellent job of knitting together his own experience of alienation as a Jew in Iowa with the incredible culture clash between these Hasidic Jews and the small town Christian community of Postville.

As a transplanted Jew in Iowa, I found this book especially compelling and interesting. Bloom does a great job of interviewing both sides in this “real-life social drama.” The book really flowed and was very even-handed in its treatment of each group, exploring their strengths and weaknesses. I am sure this story has universal appeal, and any reader will enjoy getting insights into two very distinct cultures.

Most importantly, the book was as difficult to put down as a gripping novel. It has won numerous awards, and for good reason. I recommend Postville without reservation.

Having read this book I am hardly surprised to read about the FBI raid. The more I think about it, the more amazed I am by this incredible story. It proves once again, that “truth is stranger than fiction.”

Reviews by Tony Kainauskus

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls: is a riveting first class memoir… if it was a novel you would almost feel it is too far out to be realistic… the story is not only true… but unlike any memoir you will ever come to read.

This is Jeannette’s childhood memories of growing up with a dysfunctional family to the 9th degree.

Her parents, highly intelligent and creative choose to live their lives as homeless vagabonds.. Escaping a city by night with the bill collectors or police just one step behind… ‘“time to skedaddle” is the signal to quickly pack all belongings and get a moving.

Sleeping in cars… going hungry for days, living in an unheated house with no indoor plumbing Jeanette and her siblings were not allowed to complain and were expected to enjoy their lives as a tremendous adventure.

Their father is a dreamer who always has an invention or scheme to make their millions, but cannot hold a regular job… Blaming the ignorance of the employer or the lies spread about him as the cause for his being fired. He spends his nights in bars, where he claims he is doing research on mob activity so he can break their hold on local unions.

Jeannette’s mother is an amateur artist, who would rather paint and read books than hold down a job. Her one try at a teaching job turns out to be disastrous. As she does not believe in classroom discipline, feeling that rules stunt the childs’ creativity, the students are free to do whatever they like. Her mother also dislikes to grade papers and write lesson plans… so her eldest daughter ( 12 years old) is assigned the tasks of grading papers and writing lesson plans for her mother.

This is an incredible story that, besides its theme, is not the least bit depressing. With a happy ending to boot. Everyone I have spoken to about this book. Just raves about it.

I give this book five stars as does..
Dena Oppenheim who says you should definitely read this book.

Spiritual Delights and Delusions by Steve Posner

A realistic, down to earth look at enlightenment and the myths that have arisen about this most ordinary of states.

Steve’s central point is spiritual realism… freeing us from the misconception of having to develop a perfect smiling personality (with no negative emotions) to consider ourselves enlightened.

Posner’s realistic approach to spirituality enables us to make peace with the world’s imperfections-and our own, as we are led to the one truth—only silence is perfect. There will always be wars, birth, death, sadness and happiness.. but we can relax with the knowledge that our silence is never touched by this or that or whatever.

In Burma Steve learns a powerful lesson of stillness with a few chosen words by his Buddhist teacher. In Jerusalem while visiting a Holocaust museum, Steve is again led to the eternal non judgmental silence by a powerful sentence uttered by a Spiritual teacher. Sometimes just the right words can help point us in the direction of silence.. a silence that helps us to balance the polarity of our world. Maybe Steve’s words will help lead you there.

Steve has been a spiritual teacher for more than thirty years. He is a former resident of Fairfield, Iowa now living in San Diego California.

Now for something “really” different…
By local author Richard Beymer

Impostor or Whatever happened to Richard Beymer

This memoir is the closest one can come to a hallucinogenic experience without actually ingesting any of the mind altering substance. Whether there are any flashbacks after reading this book, well I have yet to experience one.. But no guarantees.

Beymer takes the illusion of reality and twists it into so many gooey shapes that it loses all semblance of any reality we think is real. A tortuously modern highly sexual Advaita book as you have ever experienced before.

If you ever had doubts about that person in the mirror.. Imposter will shatter that image leaving you with a screenplay without words or blocks / a fade to light … with only one possible ending: the suicide of the actor.

If what you are looking for is diversifying entertainment with a clear cut beginning, middle and end you may be left disappointed… Imposter is more like an absurdist zen koan that a genetically engineered Jed McKenna/ Kurt Vonnegut/Erica Jong might have written. Not for the easily shocked, a must for those needing to be. This book left a deep impression on me. Be forewarned, the book has vivid sexual imagery for spiritually mature audiences only.

Among the many characters Richard has played in this life include but are not limited to…

Tony opposite Natalie Wood in West Side Story

Ben Home on David Lynch’s series Twin Peaks

Cameo appearances in various locations in Fairfield Iowa

Just one more thing and then I am out of here.

When I was a child I would go to stores and be in awe of the powerful people behind the counter.

The adults of my childhood themselves looked in awe upon others whom they felt possessed knowledge & power. Endless mirages behind endless counters with an array of products to display and sell. Everyone thinking the other knows what they themselves did not.

Today I stand behind the counter knowing I possess no more special knowledge or power than any child I wait on. I myself a mirage selling an array of products. The game will finish only when my desire for applause ends and I have nothing more to sell.