Tag Archives: Mentor

Do the Lighten Up

Lighten Up: Love What You Have, Have What You Need, Be Happier With Less by Peter Walsh (Free Press; $26.00; 304 pages)

This review is of the unabridged audio book version on CDs (Tantor Media; $19.99)

“We’ve lost money but we’ve found a sense of priority in our lives…  We are increasingly conscious of our environment, and no longer have to drive the heftiest SUV on the road.   We don’t care for another 2,000 square feet of living space if we can live comfortably with less.”   Peter Walsh

As was anticipated, Lighten Up is classic Peter Walsh.   Peter is known for taking a patient, thoughtful and respectful stance when approaching his clients’ issues.   Viewers of the many episodes of Clean Sweep, a television show that aired on The Learning Channel, or of his current show on the Oprah Winfrey Network, are familiar with the set up.   Peter answers a request for help from a family with a house full of clutter (also known as junk).   He provides the family with an opportunity to address their underlying issues and at the same time rid themselves of the life-defeating mess that has been robbing them of time, energy and space.

The plan set forth in this latest offer of assistance is specific to the overwhelming problem of debt that has become a world-wide concern.   This is not just a rehash of ideas; rather, Peter frames concepts in the context of digging out from the burden of debt.   A listener living in the USA is the target audience.   The audience includes a full spectrum of folks from those who are buried in debt and the stuff it purchased, to others who’ve got a more manageable financial situation and may desire guidance for keeping on the path of a comfortable, enjoyable life.

The book stays on point using a progression of scenarios and questionnaires to assist the listener in evaluating their own situation.   There are timely cross-references to other books Peter has written.   These books address specific areas of concern and are dealt with in-depth.   The referencing keeps this book focused on the burden of runaway finances.

This reviewer had the audio version of the book and was pleasantly surprised by the use of John Lee as the narrator because Lee’s accent is strongly reminiscent of Peter’s own Australian accent.   Lee gives the listener an easy connection to Peter without being imitative.   This reviewer was surprised to learn that Peter has been a naturalized U.S. citizen for 16 years.   His pride in this fact shows through.

Peter Walsh easily assumes the role of trusted friend and mentor, one who knows how to get an honest response from his client without abusing the trust placed in him.   Lighten Up is enjoyable with both easy-to-absorb concepts and easy-to-use strategies.

Highly recommended.

This review was written by Ruta Arellano.   A copy of the unabridged audiobook was purchased for her.

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Son of Your Father

Mentor: A Memoir by Tom Grimes (Tin House Books, August 2010)

“Every writer is alone…”

This is a memoir about a writer, Tom Grimes, whose idol was famous for writing a memoir.   It began as a eulogy written by Grimes for Frank Conroy, the author of Stop-Time: A Memoir that was published in 1977.   Grimes decided to expand that eulogy by writing in detail about how he came to be discovered by Conroy, a noted instructor at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.   This, however, describes just half of the narrative – the book might just as easily have been titled A Writing Life, as it fully details the obstacles, impediments and vagaries that can overwhelm an ambitious young writer.

Interestingly, Grimes and Conroy first happened to meet when the former was an applicant to the Workshop.   The meeting went so badly that Grimes left and destroyed his copy of Stop-Time.   But Conroy randomly happened to read the manuscript for a novel written by Grimes, and greased his admission into the Iowa Writer’s program.   Conroy and Grimes had such an obvious father-and-son relationship that many of Grimes’ fellow students derided him as Conroy’s “golden boy.”

In the sections where Grimes writes about Conroy, I was reminded of the tone used by John Gunther in Death Be Not Proud, the account of his son’s death at the age of 17.   The tone is quiet, sad, respectful.   (Especially as Grimes comes to regret the periods where he failed to keep in touch with Conroy.)   In contrast, the writing has a sometimes jarring quality when Grimes details his own rollercoaster-like (and manic) career as a young author.   With the strong support of Conroy, Grimes’ first novel resulted in a small bidding war among publishers for the rights.   Grimes went for the highest pay-day only to find that the promised public relations campaign for his novel was never to materialize.   And then no publisher wanted Grimes’ second novel.

Grimes clearly covers his descent into depression and near-madness in a manner that only some will wish to read.   The more fascinating pages are the ones where he provides a view into the world of publishing; it’s a world where a writer can be offered a high six-figure advance one day and find that the offer has dropped to the very lowest of five figures the next.

“You’ve changed my life…  love, love, love.”

This memoir concludes in a way that the reader will find – depending on his/her perspective – either encouraging or unimpressive.   Grimes was 54 at the time he wrote Mentor, the same age that Conroy was when the student-writer Grimes met his most important instructor.   Grimes is now a college-level journalism professor.   He teaches in Texas rather than in Iowa, but serves as a replica of Frank Conroy.   This can be viewed as a heartfelt, living, tribute to his mentor or, alternatively, as the reliving of a life that had already run its course.

This reader found this to be an admirable and frank memoir of two lives that, for all of its stark candor, fell just a bit short of being the type of inspirational story that one would read and subsequently re-read.   The first half of the account was far more engaging than the second half.   Mentor leaves one with a sense of sadness and wariness about life, which was likely the writer’s intent.

Takeaway:   This is a memoir that some (writers, mainly) will love – they will view it as a loving tribute to a teacher from his student.   Others will understandably see it as a bit too unvarnished.

A review copy was received from the publisher.

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