My Journey
to Faith

Tonya Flynt-Vega
(Westminster John Knox)

We were trying to think what could be worse than to wake up one day and find that Larry Flynt is your father. Well, how about:
  • Growing up in Jacksonville, Florida?
  • Being what they used to call "glandular?"
  • Having to join the 700 Club?
  • Not being able to construct, much less write, a book?

Well, all these things --- and more --- befell Tonya Flynt, according to Hustled.

It's a long, very long, and whiny --- very whiny --- description of what it's all like.

Twitch and Shout
A Touretter's Tale
Lowell Handler

Imagine this. You are out in the world --- on the street, at a bar, on the bus, in the bank --- and you start barking, kicking against the seat, making funny faces, and blurting out words that no nice, polite person ever says in public. And it is totally uncontrollable.

Handler lived with this strange condition for years before he found out it wasn't all in his head. Or rather, it was in his head (too much dopamine). It's called "Tourette's Syndrome." It's genteel civilization's worst nightmare. "Coprolalia, or involuntary cursing, including racial expressions, occurs in about 15% of people with Tourette's," he tells us. One of his friends was in a line, in a bank, and,

    an attractive black man was standing in front of her wearing a purple sweater. Over and over she kept repeating to herself, purple nigger, purple nigger, until she actually said it out loud. She felt no racial prejudice toward this man but simply couldn't get out of her mind the one word she knew was most inappropriate to say...

Before he was diagnosed, Handler went from doctor to doctor, and finally, in despair, left his family and home, went to live in New Orleans. "The carnival atmosphere in New Orleans made anything seem possible," he says. It was there that he was able --- as much as possible --- to relax, begin the long process of accepting his strange way of moving and talking.

He went on to become a photographer, ultimately filming other brothers- and sisters-in-pain, including an MD, Orrin Palmer [see Fig. 1 below --- Palmer in the midst of a Tourette-induced face; note the reaction of the woman across the way.]

Handler ran across Jean-Claude Labbé, another Touretter, a French photographer who had spent some time in Viet-Nam. During an awards ceremony at Rockefeller Center, Jean-Claude and Handler sat together.

    As the room became quiet and Howard began to speak, the loud noises Jean-Claude and I made became increasingly noticeable. What was worst was that the more Jean Claude was Touretting, the more I made noises and twitched. This "copy-cat" Touretting is typical when groups of people with Tourette get together. We tend to set each other off on a relay of symptoms. The public relations man from Nikon said to Robert, "Your friends are making too much noise. They must be drunk or something, If they do not stop, we are going to have them removed..."

He goes on:

    The next day I dropped Jean-Claude off at Kennedy Airport for his return flight. We had lunch at a cafe while waiting for him to board the plane. Amid kicking and barking, the waitress said, "Are you two all right?"

    "We are high on crack!" Jean-Claude quickly responded.

    "No," I said, "We both have a neurological disorder."

    "I believe him," the waitress said, pointing to me."

The Space
Between Our
Poems and Paintings
From the Middle East

Naomi Shihab Nye
(Simon & Schuster)

Twenty countries, over 100 poems, forty illustrations and drawings. A superb selection --- some funny, some sad, some winsome, some silly. The editor's desire is merely to show us that what she calls "the most negatively stereotyped place on earth..." is, indeed, a place that is the center "of so much dramatic cultural and religious history."

It can be no more or less wrong, she tells us, than the stories the citizens of Lebanon or Yemen, Turkey or Egypt, Morocco or Syria hear about the United States: that ours is a place of murders and drug-addiction, where people are afraid to walk on the street.

She wants this collection to give us a feel for the rich poetical tradition of the Middle East; she says we should view it as a mezzaq --- a tiny feast that often precedes the greater feast:

    I want a book of poems and paintings to be a surprise spring waking us from our daily sleep, a feast of little unexpected walk along the rim of a majestic city.

And it is.

The Full Story of RMS Titanic
Daniel Allen Butler

You'd think after all these years, with all these movies and books, we'd get a sinking feeling when they sent us another book about The Big One. But there's something, something about it that will always be gripping. It must be the bitterly cold night, the huge warm glorious, arrogant ship: that arrogance, people thinking that man could build something so stupendous, so rich, so perfect --- that nature could be defeated. That's it: the cold night, the stars so very very bright, and Mr. McFate, lying there, waiting.

By all rights, this newest version shouldn't catch us --- but who can gainsay that the tale of rich and poor alike coming to a very arbitrary end (for 1,500 of them) and pure shock (for the other 700.) It's delicious, and impossible to stop reading.

Still, and all, we prefer Walter Lord's slightly dated version, A Night to Remember, with its list of that which went down:

    29 boilers...the jewelled copy of the Rubaiyat...800 cases of shelled walnuts...15,000 bottles of ale and stout...huge anchor chains (each link weighing 175 pounds)...30 cases of golf clubs and tennis rackets...tons of coal...30,000 fresh eggs...dozens of potted palms...5 grand pianos...a massive silver duck press...two reciprocating engines......8 dozen tennis balls...Billy Carter's new English automobile...

Perhaps, to keep all in perspective, we should recall that in the same year, just a few months later, at the Battle of Monastir, 20,000 Turks died; and, during the same month (April, 1912), it is estimated that almost 50,000 men women and children died of malnutrition in India, in what was to become Bangladesh. None of these has received one-tenth of one-percent of the copy of the demise of the Titanic.

--- R R Doister

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