- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
Posted November 18, 2012
“What should it profit a man, that he gain the world yet lose his soul.”
“It is more difficult for a wealthy man to pass through the gates of Heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.”
Over and over again, we get this message from revered sages, that true grace is not to be found in pursuit of material gain, but in the development of our character, in making a sincere effort to be as good to each other and the rest of our world as possible. Over and over again, a great many of us largely ignore this wisdom, so strong perhaps is our ancient animal pull toward physical compensation. Over and over again, we spin elaborate tales of excuses for even the most ruthless, damaging behavior as somehow all in the service of the ultimate or greater good, or to our own admitted advantage because were we not this way, we would be run over but all others who are.
It is hard to be good because so often the right thing requires that we put others before ourselves, or that we place goodness ahead of achieving our worldly goals.
It is hard to be self-reflective because the human ego wants to see itself only in the most flattering light, and has at its disposable the creativity of the human mind, which has a seemingly limitless capacity for self-deception in favor of the desired vision of our world and our station within it. Thus, it is laudable that Fitzgerald chooses a story of bearing witness where the protagonist, despite centuries of opportunity, would not do so of his own accord, seeking only to enhance the skewed but flattering vision he had of himself. Would that we were all so lucky to have our day in such a court, but perhaps that will come in the form of the unfolding natural consequences of the ravages we have unleashed upon the world in our pursuit of happiness, of property.
Posted February 2, 2012
POOR RICHARD'S LAMENT is not a book for wimps — let me be perfectly honest from the outset. Michael W. Zuckerman’s comprehensive Foreword makes this declaration all too clear. But good Ben Franklin was no wimp himself — as Tom Fitzgerald’s exhaustive “Milestones in the Life of Benjamin Franklin” makes equally clear. And so, let the clang of Caveat Lector! ring loud and clear.
The truth is, the plot of POOR RICHARD'S LAMENT twists and turns at so many corners, one could fill a second book — an exegetical work, if you will — with nothing more than signposts to the reader to help out with directions. Up, down, sideways, back and forth over time…one feels the need of a map — or at least of a compass. Simple annotations, unfortunately, won’t do.
And the language? Have I mentioned the language? Each time we enter Fitzgerald’s Supreme Court of Petitions, he reconstructs the language of Ben Franklin’s day in a manner worthy of a Swift or a Fielding. When he jumps back into the 20th (or sometimes the 21st) century, however, we’re once again safely ‘at home’ with the shorthand, telegraphic style of contemporary politicians, drug dealers, derelicts, and other assorted miscreants. The transition is sometimes jarring to a reader’s nerves, but never contrived or hackneyed. No, Fitzgerald is a master of both worlds — but woe to the reader who slips into the roiling waters of this writer’s perfervid imagination if he or she can’t swim (or at least tread) the distance!
Is Fitzgerald a stylist of the first rank? I cite, from page 233, this fulmination of the good Examiner Adams by way of an unrelenting condemnation of Ben Franklin’s comportment over the years vis-à-vis his own family — in this particular case, towards his ailing wife. To wit:
“Or do we attempt to weave unto whole cloth here too much by way of warp, too little by way of weft?”
This is merely one of hundreds of skillful stylistic fusillades Fitzgerald launches at Franklin out of the mouths of his Examiners, the smoke and roar of whose oratorical cannons would seem to fill the small chamber of the Supreme Celestial Court of Petitions with enough histrionic fire and brimstone to cause asphyxiation.
If masterful prose can be defined as exhibiting a combination of ‘economy and grace’ (not to mention ‘drama’), count me among those who’d happily suggest that the above aptly demonstrates Fitzgerald’s mastery of them all.
By way of conclusion to this review, I feel compelled to confess that I was finally able, just over a year ago (owing to circumstances more of penury than of opportunity), to read Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra's DON QUIXOTE. The likeness of Fitzgerald’s Ben Franklin to the ‘Knight of the Mournful Countenance’ had already occurred to me on numerous occasions while reading POOR RICHARD'S LAMENT — both in character and in circumstance. Consequently, when I read Fitzgerald’s apt analogy (on p. 521) — to wit: “the specter of an eighteenth-century knight charging about on a twenty-first century Rocinante,” I happily realized that my instincts were not entirely at odds with those of the author. The preeminence of Tom Fitzgerald’s opus comes perhaps closest of anything I’ve read in the past fifty years to the grandeur of Cervantes’ opus — and I believe DON QUIXOTE, still considered to be the first novel ever written, also to be the greatest novel ever written. I don’t know that I could pay any greater compliment to Tom Fitzgerald’s POOR RICHARD'
Posted January 7, 2012
Poor Richard’s Lament is a new 600 page novel from the pen of novelist Tom Fitzgerald. The author is a renaissance man who has expertise in many fields: physics, mathematics, law, English Literature and philosophical inquiry. Fitzgerald has served as a Navy Seal, raced in the Boston Marathon and written several novels. This book is his Magnus opus. It is a magisterial inquiry into the life of Dr. Benjamin Franklin, one of the most complex figures in all the span of American history.
The premise of the book: Dr. Franklin has been confined for over two centuries in a tiny apartment in the Plantation of the Unrepentant. He is accused of hypocrisy and is finally given his day in judicial court proceeding. He is quizzed by John Adams the starchy puritan who never warmed up to Franklin; the Rev. William Smith of Boston and the Rev. William Smith, who disdains Franklin’s agnostic belief system.
Franklin is found to be a founder who has committed many follies in his long life. Franklin was born in Boston in 1706. Ben ran away from home at an early age. During his long life he was a renaissance man of genius who accomplished much. He was a printer, newspaper editor, musician, painter, politician, scientist (his famous kite flying experiment proved that lightning and electricity were the same), diplomat, wit, essayist and bon vivant in the sumptuous salons of Parisian aristocrats. Some say he was also a “babe magnet.” His Poor Richard’s Almanac was widely printed and quoted in colonial British America. Franklin worked with Jefferson on the Declaration of Independence; served as the United States’ first ambassador to France (where he wangled Louis XVI to help fund the American Revolution, thereby bankrupting France and leading to the French Revolution of 1789). The sage Franklin’s late- life Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin has been a best seller for over 200 years.
Yet Franklin was far from perfect! He left his common law wife back home in Philadelphia while he spent long years in Paris and London. He may have involved himself in many affairs with lush ladies living overseas. He had a difficult and stormy relationship with son William. The young man was a loyalist to Britain during the Revolution earning the ire of Daddy Ben. His record on slavery and political hypocrisies are also discussed in detail.
Franklin is not sentenced by the tribunal to the cosmic abyss but instead is set down in modern 21st century urban America. He is dressed in 18th century garb as he revisits his old haunts in major American cities, especially Boston, Philadelphia and New York.
While Fitzgerald traces Franklin’s visit to our modern nation he also examines a subplot in which a heated and corrupt political campaign over the presidency is being conducted. In this part of the book we see exposed religious and personal hypocrisy on a large scale. Fitzgerald is obviously sickened by the state of politics in this nation of over 300 million citizens.
And what of Franklin’s observations and lessons the reader learns from his journey to our century? This reviewer discerns the following major themes:
• We are an isolated nation--faces in the crowd who live lives of what Thoreau would call “quiet desperation.”
• Fitzgerald tells the story of several poor persons living in the jungles of the big city; issues dealing with health care and mental health are painted in detail.
• American culture has degenerated since the days of Franklin. Our music, political disco
Posted January 3, 2012
I have read many books on a wide range of topics and have been invited to review several. But not until I read Poor Richard's Lament did I feel compelled to write one. This is a most unusual tale, written in an 18th century high-minded and forceful style which compares sharply with the now prevalent street vernacular, and is replete with historical facts about Benjamin Franklin - the person - which are virtually unknown and unappreciated in today's sound-bite culture. It's this other side of Mr. Franklin that we may recognize in ourselves, like it or not - the one that contrasts the saying and the doing, the one that forces us to recognize and regret the not doing. But wait. This tale is not of the currently popular "hero expose" genre toppling growing numbers of America's Formative Leaders from the Mount. In this tale, Mr. Franklin actually returns from the "cask" to turn his wisdom and wit to social issues unsurprisingly similar to those of 200 years ago.............thereby forcing us to see clearly, like it or not. Poor Richard's Lament is a wonderfully crafted and challenging read, from Ben-on-stage to Ben-on-"Sloan". I, for one, came away from this timely tale impressed with Tom Fitzgerals's labors, with undiminished high regard for Mr. Franklin, with heightened sensitivity towards regret, and with a path to redemption.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 2, 2012
Poor Richard¿s Lament could not be a more timely, eloquent, and capable invitation for humanity in general and Americans in particular to re-discover what brings real peace and happiness into our lives: making it our top priority to be good to one another, regardless of the cost to the ambitions and appetites of the ego. America in particular has made the latter its chief priority, which is in no small measure why we find our nation so lost and troubled in present times, and we took this path in large part due to the seminal influence of founding fathers such as Benjamin Franklin.
In this novel, Franklin¿s life is examined in extraordinary detail to reveal the ways in which a man viewed as a high achiever and example of the American Spirit nevertheless made many painful mistakes when in came to the service of his fellow human beings. He is given the chance at redemption, to which he applies all of the wit, drive, and creativity he so often misapplied in his former life, and thus provides a new example for America to follow. He dispenses with the mindset of Industry, Frugality, and Expediency, and ushers in the hope of a new age of Compassion, Generosity, and Understanding.
PRL is written with uncommon love for and attention to language, story, and character, and nearly every page sparkles with insight and wisdom. Rarely will you witness a character so exquisitely rendered as Benjamin Franklin is in these pages, and his palpable, charismatic presence lends the book an authority which will penetrate the heart and challenge the reader to re-examine their own life¿and they will be the better for it.
Posted January 1, 2012
This is one of the better American novels I've ever read. Yes, I am the author's son, so you'll consider the source. But I don't think I'm biased. Tom Fitzgerald has published three other novels, all of which I've read, and I don't rank them in the first tier of American literature. This one I do.
It's probably the character of Ben Franklin that I like best about Poor Richard's Lament. Fitzgerald's Ben is utterly real, and becomes heartbreakingly beloved to the reader as his journey unfolds, both because of and despite his three-dimensionality. Perhaps the second most notable virtue of the novel is its deeply affecting moral urgency. The stakes of this tale are as high as the stakes of human society A.D. 2012, and the reader feels it.
Poor Richard's Lament is also a delicious feast of language. Every single sentence is polished to a high sheen. Fitzgerald's prose is another's poetry. Lastly, if this novel had nothing else going for it besides its particular manifestation of the author's imagination, which begins with the most compelling vision of an after-world I've encountered in literature and continues through a Dickensian tying-together of disparate narrative threads at the tale's denouement, it would still qualify as a triumph.
As it is, this masterpiece has not just that but everything going for it.
Posted January 1, 2012
I loved it. Fitzgerald has explored the nooks and crannies of Franklin¿s life to reveal a side of the great man we never knew. He¿s magically woven these into a rich tale of hard-earned redemption borne by regrets about his family life, his stance on slavery and even some of his business dealings. The prose is beautiful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.