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Granny Torrelli Makes Soup

Posted by friendsofthenewarkfreelibrary on November 5, 2018 at 9:25 AM Comments comments (0)

by Sharon Creech

Reviewed by: Molly Shay, aged 10

The world would not be right if Sharon Creech hadn’t written Granny Torrelli Makes Soup. In this book, Rosie tells her Granny Torrelli problems with her blind friend Bailey as they make soup and pasta. I love how Granny Torrelli tells stories of what had happened to her with her friend Pedro to help Rosie deal with what is happening. Granny Torrelli always has something to tell Rosie that helps both her and me think. And after I heard about Rosie learning Braille, can you guess what? I decided to learn Braille, too!

Every single book seems to have a happy ending where A) they find the child, B) they find the parents, C) they get out of the basement, D) they get married, or E) they stop being so sad about their brother’s death. Granny Torrelli, with two parts, two stories, and two endings, has more to it. The stories aren’t resolved; the characters resolve it themselves. When Granny Torrelli goes off to the bathroom, it gives Rosie time to think, time to think about what she should do, what she has done, and you hear those thoughts and think about them. Only Sharon Creech can pull this off, making readers think about not just the book, but real life, their lives. Everybody reading can relate to Rosie somehow, think about something that she should do, think about something that they should do.

Granny Torrelli pulls off something that we can all admire. She tells stories of her life that don’t always have happy endings, but always have a moral, and always have to do with the problem. She tells them while making soup, while making pasta. Subconsciously, the soup and the pasta and how they make it lines up with the story and makes it flow smoother. You can tell that the cooking helps mellow out Rosie, helps her think, helps her talk, helps her listen, helps her understand. This made me think about what I do that helps me think, that helps me talk, that helps me listen, that helps me understand. Whenever I have a problem, whenever I need help, whenever I feel like I am going to scream, all I have to do is think back to this book, and all is well.

Seinfeldia-How a Show About Nothing Changed Everything reviewed by Roy H. Lopata

Posted by friendsofthenewarkfreelibrary on February 5, 2018 at 1:00 PM Comments comments (0)

SEINFELDIA -How a Show About Nothing Changed Everything

By Jennifer Keishin Armstrong (Simon & Schuster; 307 pp.)

Reviewed by Roy H. Lopata

“Yada, Yada, Yada;” “No soup for you;” and “Not that there is anything wrong with that.” Yes, these are lines from perhaps one of the most remarkable television situation comedies of all time – Seinfeld. But you knew that already, didn’t you? And that to a significant extent is the theme that Jennifer Keishin Armstrong wants to impart to us: Seinfeld, a show created by two New York Jews with a very East Coast sensibility that left the prime time airwaves nineteen years ago, has so permeated the nation’s culture that everyone, even those nearing adulthood and born after the show moved from network to syndicated television, smiles knowingly when they hear or read the now ubiquitous catch phrases made famous by Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer. And, according to Armstrong, these names have become iconic as well, so much so that the actors who played these characters are still remembered by these TV labels rather than their own. The star and co-creator, Jerry Seinfeld, apparently had the amazing foresight to use his real name as a character in the show to avoid any confusion in the future!

Armstrong couples her detailed exploration of Seinfeld’s impact on American culture with an interesting history of the show’s beginnings as a Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld thirty minute script written in February, 1989; through its early struggles to find an audience; to its triumph as the nation’s number one hit that by 1996 contributed $200 million dollars to the billion-dollar profit made by General Electric – NBC’s parent company. Seinfeld had become the first regularly scheduled television show to earn $1 million per minute of advertising, something previously reserved for NFL Super Bowl telecasts. Jerry’s relatively inoffensive and observational comedy style, coupled with Larry David’s darker and much more caustic approach (the style that he later brought to his HBO hit – Curb Your Enthusiasm) produced the kind of magic that, according to Armstrong, has seldom had such a significant impact on the shows that followed and the culture within which they were broadcast.

Armstrong also provides considerable material about the numerous Seinfeld writers, who Jerry and Larry deliberately reshuffled every few years, that were encouraged to utilize the most insignificantly seeming details from their day to day lives to provide the framework for episodes. One of the obvious in retrospect attributes that made Seinfeld so successful was that even though the characters were not really likeable, their foibles (waiting for a seat at a restaurant; annoying telemarketing calls; running out of toilet paper; and finding a reserved rental car not “reserved”) were all clearly recognizable to everyone watching. Along the way, Armstrong also explores the onerous and extremely detailed rewrite process that produced, of course, a show that gave the indelible impression that the actors “were” the people they played and were not really acting at all.

So Seinfeld rolls on. According to Armstrong it is now by far the most successful syndicated television show in history. Hundreds of websites (none, of course, in existence when the show originally ran) and the on-gong Seinfeld based special events – Minor League Baseball games with Seinfeld promotions; the real “Kramer” offering New York City Seinfeld location guided tours, and the “Soup Nazi” making personal appearances across the country -- underscore the lasting impact of Jerry and Larry’s creation. And most interesting of all, the show has left so many quotable phrases for us that some seem particularly suited for 2017, like this one:

“Jerry, just remember, it’s not a lie if you believe it.” – George Costanza.