What keeps this uplifting book from being maudlin is Albom's crisp writing and Schwartz's generous heart.
Jim Bencivenga - The Christian Science Monitor
As a student at Brandeis University in the late 1970s, Albom was especially drawn to his sociology professor, Morris Schwartz. On graduation he vowed to keep in touch with him, which he failed to do until 1994, when he saw a segment about Schwartz on the TV program Nightline, and learned that he had just been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease. By then a sports columnist for the Detroit Free Press and author of six books, including Fab Five, Albom was idled by the newspaper strike in the Motor City and so had the opportunity to visit Schwartz in Boston every week until the older man died. Their dialogue is the subject of this moving book in which Schwartz discourses on life, self-pity, regrets, aging, love and death, offering aphorisms about each e.g., "After you have wept and grieved for your physical losses, cherish the functions and the life you have left." Far from being awash in sentiment, the dying man retains a firm grasp on reality. An emotionally rich book and a deeply affecting memorial to a wise mentor, who was 79 when he died in 1995.
Award-winning sportswriter Albom was a student at Brandeis University, some two decades ago, of sociologist Morrie Schwartz. Here Albom recounts how, recently, as the old man was dying, he renewed his warm relationship with his revered mentor. This is the vivid record of the teacher's battle with muscle-wasting amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease. The dying man, largely because of his life-affirming attitude toward his death-dealing illness, became a sort of thanatopic guru, and was the subject of three Ted Koppel interviews on Nightline. That was how the author first learned of Morrie's condition. Albom well fulfilled the age-old obligation to visit the sick. He calls his weekly visits to his teacher his last class, and the present book a term paper. The subject: The Meaning of Life. Unfortunately, but surely not surprisingly, those relying on this text will not actually learn The Meaning of Life here. Albom does not present a full transcript of the regular Tuesday talks. Rather, he expands a little on the professor's aphorisms, which are, to be sure, unassailable. 'Love is the only rational act,' Morrie said. 'Love each other or perish,' he warned, quoting Auden. Albom learned well the teaching that 'death ends a life, not a relationship.' The love between the old man and the younger one is manifest. This book, small and easily digested, stopping just short of the maudlin and the mawkish, is on the whole sincere, sentimental, and skillful. (The substantial costs of Morrie's last illness, Albom tells us, were partly defrayed by the publisher's advance). Place it under the heading 'Inspirational.' Death,' said Morrie, 'is as natural as life. It's part of the deal we made.' If that is so (and it's not a notion quickly gainsaid), this book could well have been called 'The Art of the Deal.'
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