The books: (1) Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand; and (2) My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business: A Memoir by Dick Van Dyke. Here’s the irony. Hillenbrand’s book is 400+ pages of small print and rich in detail, while Dick Van Dyke’s book is slim and light—and I raced to finish the former first. If you pick up Hillenbrand's book you’ll see that raced is fitting since it’s about Olympic miler Louie Zamperini, who endured harrowing obstacles during and after the war. I can’t praise the book enough. And you won’t soon forget Zamperini’s story. I don’t want to go into any detail and ruin anything because every chapter includes gripping details and surprises. Here’s a sure sign of a good book though: I want to read more about the subject matter, in this case, Japan during WWII.
Two predictions. One, they will make a movie of the book. That’s an easy one. Two, the movie will open with Louie running and will flash back and forth between California and Japan. The book is written so well, the details so vivid, that I can already see the movie. I’ll start working on the screenplay tonight.
I’ve been obsessed with the Dick Van Dyke Show for many years, so the book has been a treat for me, especially when he discusses the show. He acknowledges his alcoholism, but this isn’t a dark, brooding book. It’s full of optimism and Dick Van Dyke’s goodwill, which is refreshing.
After reading three books in the past couple of weeks that all reference WWII, even the Dick Van Dyke book, I can’t help but wonder what my own ancestors were doing at that time. I’ve heard a few stories, but only a few. My immigrant parents were busy cooking and working and surviving—or maybe they didn’t want to remember. They said that German soldiers often marched along the dirt paths through their village, taking what they wanted. My parents often hid in their respective storm shelters until the soldiers passed. One group decided to take my grandfather’s house for a while. The family fled, but my grandfather decided to go back one night for some reason. He was shot and killed. The details are murky, but my father shakes his head every time he tells the story, as if the memory is as vivid as yesterday.
The two war books mentioned here and in the last post, since they’re documented so painstakingly, also have me thinking about my more distant history, which I wish I knew more about. What were my ancestors doing during WWI, during the time when Spain occupied Italy, during Shakespeare’s life? And will my descendants hundreds of years from now have a clearer understanding of me and my family in 2011 because of our ceaseless efforts to document everything in photos and blogs and videos? Are these cyber-documents going to last? Or will there just be too much?