Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 64: Memoir From Antproof Case by Mark Helprin

Mark Helprin has written two of my favorite novels: Winter’s Tale (In my top 5 novels) & A Soldier of the Great War (In my top 20 novels). I had been looking forward to reading another Helprin novel for a long time. I remembered when Memoir From Antproof Case came out in the Spring 1995. It was his first novel after the success of the aformentioned A Soldier of The Great War.  There was quite a few readers at the bookstore I worked at in Santa Fe eager to read it.  Well, twenty-five years have passed and I finally got around to reading the novel.

Memoir From Antproof Case was the story of an elderly American named Oscar Progresso who shared his lifestory from a mountain garden in Brazil. Oscar wrote a memoir chronicling his adventures, loves, and hatred of coffee in a funny and illuminating manner. He was an investment banker at the turn of the 20th century and moved in circles where he met the Pope and President of the United States.  Oscar was also a pilot, thief, killer, and a man who loved passionately. Helprin created a larger than life protagonist to reveal a man who had everything but wanted to love and be loved more than anything.

“To keep your alive you must be willing to be obstinate, and irrational, and true, to fashion your entire life as a construct, a metaphor, a fiction, a device for the exercise of faith. Without this, you will live like a beast and have nothing but an aching heart. With it, your heart, though broken, will be full, and you will stay in the fight unto the very last.”

This paragraph came from the last page of the novel as Oscar closed his memoir (in a one of kind antproof case) and provided wisdom that will speak beyond the pages of the book.  Memoir From Antproof Case did not rise to level of my Helprin’s favorite novels. However, I enjoyed reading it and will remember many paragraphs from a protagonist that gave me a lot of food for thought.

Helprin seems to understand that great fiction is not only about character but setting and the power of the imagination.  Fiction is not just about the environment of the everyday or the lives of dysfunctional people.  It is about taking a reader somewhere beyond what they expect and show what makes us human.  Our contradictions.  Our beliefs. Our wildest dreams and fantasies.  That is what makes reading so wonderful and powerful simultaneously.


Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 63: The Practice by Seth Godin

Seth Godin is becoming one of my favorite public thinkers. I read his blog daily and listen to his podcast, Akimbo, as often I can.  Also, I have read several of his books like Tribes, Permission Marketing, and This Is Marketing.  He’s had a pulse on the business world for over three decades. His latest… Continue Reading

Marion’s Favorites: Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin Documentary

I just finished watching a documentary on Ursula K. Le Guin, the great writer of Imaginative and speculative fiction. I know that Le Guin has categorized and championed herself as a science fiction and fantasy writer.  After watching this documentary, I get why she has embraced the genre as where she belongs. However, I believe… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 62: The Ancient Child by N. Scott Momaday

I have shared many times on this blog I read for story, characters, setting, and what an author is trying to say about life. Story is my reading language.  I don’t put down many books once I read them.  However, if there’s no story, I’m out as a reader.  I will admit that I don’t… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 60: Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older

What if your family tried to keep their connection to a powerful magic away from you? What happens when you find out that your family is connected to that magic for years? Sierra Santiago learns about her family’s connection to a powerful magic in Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older, the first book of the Shadowshaper… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 59: How To Be An Artist by Jerry Saltz

Podcasts have become my other favorite platform for content alongside books.  I can listen to a podcast on various subjects and the long form interview from 30 minutes up to 2 hours is an excellent way to go deep on a topic. The Dave Chang Show is one of my favorite podcasts and a regular… Continue Reading

Marion’s Favorites: Albrecht 2015 Pinot Gris

I’ve been wanting to branch out into white wines recently.  I have always preferred red wines (Malbec, Merlot, & Cabernet Sauvignon) over white wines.  However, I heard a recent podcast about wines from the Alsace Region of France and the podcast host recommended that Pinot Gris was a good transition wine for red wine drinkers.… Continue Reading