The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto: A Novel
by Mitch Albom (Goodreads Author)
Michael Beyer‘s review
Jul 23, 2017
It was amazing!
This book is a miracle. It makes words into music and fills your imagination with some of the most beautiful guitar music ever played. It introduces you not only to a very convincing portrait of a fictional musician and Rock and Roll icon, but a vast array of very real musicians and show people who agreed to be used as a part of the story, approved the sections about them, and even helped Mitch Albom to compose it. These include notable music makers like Lyle Lovett, Darlene Love, Tony Bennett, Paul Stanley, and Burt Bacharach. The story itself transcends its fictional form, giving us a look at a musical history whose scope goes from the Spanish Civil War of the 1930’s to Woodstock, and on to the present day. It even gives us glimpses into the distant musical past, framing the story with the song Lágrima by the classical guitarist Francisco Tárrega. And all this music the book fills your mind with is actually performed only in your imagination and memory. Albom proves again with this book how his mastery of language makes him an absolute master story-teller.
And now, here is me trying to make sense out of a reading experience that made my figurative heart grow wings and soar into the clouds in ways brought forth only by the strains of a sweet, classical Spanish guitar.
Stories like this one make a unique music in the mind, and though it is all fiction, occurring silently in the theater of your mind, you hear the music in your heart. This story elicited the music of Rodrigo’s Adagio throughout, a piece I know intimately. I myself have never written a musical book the way this fiction book was written. But I know now that I have to try. Poetry becomes song lyrics, right? There is a connection between a good archetypal story about life and love and laughter, and the bittersweet strains of music on a Spanish guitar.
I truly and utterly fell in love with this beautiful book. Mitch Albom is a genius… for a Detroit Tigers baseball fan. And I would not risk telling you anything that might spoil such a beautiful story. All I can say is, don’t read it… listen to it as you would a piece of beautiful music. Listen to it and love it.
I was going to tell you a lot about my novel Magical Miss Morgan today. My computer had other ideas. I was almost done with the post and working on the final edits when the computer suddenly burped and wiped it all out. Nothing was saved but the title. Well, I signed a contract for the novel. I will tell you more about that as time goes on. The computer doesn’t want me to do more today.
I still ain’t dead. So I am still collecting pictures of sunrises. Today I managed a sunrise picture, or two, or seven, at the family farm in Iowa, where my grandparents once lived, and my octogenarian parents now live.
Thomas Wolfe famously wrote a book, You Can’t Go Home Again, but for all the clever reasoning and poetic insight, you really can. It is a memory held in the foundation of your soul. I am almost 60 years old now, and in very poor health. And the sunrise this morning found a different world to shine upon than it found yesterday. But I am home. And I have one more sunrise to add to my collection.
Yes, this painting looks West down Highway 3, but the end is often really the beginning… of something new, and a bridge to a new sunrise.
Senator Tedhkruzh, the lizard-man from the doomed planet Galtorr Prime.
The orange-haired bloviator known as Donald Trump.
John Kasich flipping the byrd at teachers.
Last night brought second-hand victories to Mickeyworld. I am definitely NOT a Republican, but the Indiana Primary results put a smile on my face. Not, of course, because the Orangutan Man with a pocket-full of wall plans won and will probably be the GOP nominee. Rather, because the evil space lizard who wants to put an end to everything good that comes from government finally dropped out of the race for President. Yes, Ted Cruz has put his world domination ambitions on hold until some future election or military or political coup. And Trump against any candidate the Democrats put forward will probably lose… unless Americans all have lobotomies before November.
The NHL playoff game last night also yielded good news. The St. Louis Blues, after having beaten last year’s Stanley Cup champion, beat the Dallas Stars 6 goals to 1 in the third game of round two. They totally dominated the division champions and took the lead in the series in a way that makes it seem that going to roll over them.
I am certainly not fool enough to imagine the good times will last. Good things happen one day, only to evaporate into nothingness the next. But I tend to believe that I have every right to enjoy the good things while they happen. Boo-hoos for tomorrow. Yippee-kai-yays for today.
Sometimes ideas for essays find me instead of making me find them. It happened to me again tonight. I have been posting a lot of liberal political gook on Facebook lately to see how many of my conservative friends will shoot me a mad-faced “like” or write a comment about how stupid and blind and ignorant I am (with the word ignorant misspelled). One angry face came from Ronald Broccoli (not his real name because I don’t do that to students). I thought I knew who that was. But I just couldn’t place the name. Then he messaged me on Facebook chat asking if I didn’t remember him from Creek Valley Middle School. He was an eighth grader in my English class during the worst year I ever endured as a teacher. That was the year I had all the worst kids available in the whole school so that the other English teacher on our team could have only good ones. I had all the emotionally disturbed kids, the low socio-economic-level kids, the kids with discipline files thicker than Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary. It was the year that my diabetes kept depleting my blood sugar to the point that I couldn’t remember my own name by the afternoon. I even got lost one afternoon and found myself in Lewisville, the next city over, by mistake, completely lost, but in a restaurant and needing to eat, with absolutely no money on me anywhere. But Ronny was not one of the bad kids. (In fact, there were truly no bad kids in my classes, just kids with expectations totally stacked against them. I was just in very poor shape to deal with them.) He told me on Facebook that though I was only his teacher for a very short time, I had a big impact on him and his confidence in himself, and that he would never forget me. If you want to know the truth, he made me cry. Not tears of unhappiness… tears of joy. Even if you are lying, if you say something like that to one of your former teachers, you are going to make him or her cry.
This video of Miss Watson is also something that I encountered on Facebook. I should warn you. If you watch it, she cries in the video, and you will probably cry too if you don’t remove your heart and hide it safely in your sock drawer first.
I had a wonderful teacher once too. Her name was Mrs. Houser (That is her real name, because I won’t embarrass her… but I need everybody to know she was a life-changing sort of teacher too.) When she accepted my friend request on Facebook, I wrote a note on her wall. I said, “I just wanted you to know that I recently retired after 31 years of being a teacher in middle school and high school. And a number of my former students have found me on Facebook and told me how much of a difference I made in their lives and how much I meant to them. I wanted you to know that you were that wonderful, inspiring teacher for me, and I couldn’t have done it without you.” That goopy little comment got more likes on Facebook than anything else I have ever written. People all over the United States were adding their thumbs-up to that post. They were her family and former students. And it wasn’t about me. It was about her. Teachers throw stones into the pools that are the lives of their students. And sometimes they can muddy the water, but more often than not, they make a splash that needed to be made, and the ripples of it can flow all the way to the ocean.
So, what is this really about? I have just revealed a secret to you. If you remember any of your teachers, and you need to get even with them, or you just need to pass it on, now you know how to make them cry… and feel good about it at the same time.
Grandpa and Grandma Aldrich lived on the family farm outside of town, a little more than two miles from the tiny farm town of Rowan, Iowa. I walked it more than once. It was faster to walk the railroad tracks between the two places. About a mile and three quarters as the crow flies… three hours as the boy investigates the critters in the weeds, throws rocks at dragonflies, and listens to the birdsong along the way. But the point is, my maternal grandparents lived close enough to have a profound influence on my young life. Much of what they loved became what I love. And every Saturday night, they loved to watch the Lawrence Welk Show. And that show had highlights that we longed to see again and again… on a show that never really went into reruns. We lived to see Jo Ann Castle play the old rinky-tink piano, Bobby and Cissy doing a dance routine, and most of all… the lovely Lennon Sisters.
I always wanted to be the things they wished me to be in the song “May You Always”. I wanted to “walk in sunshine” and “live with laughter”. They presented a world of possibilities all clean and good and wholesome. As a young boy who hated girls, I had a secret crush on Janet Lennon who was the youngest, though a decade older than me, and on Peggy Lennon, the one with the exotic Asian eyes. They sang to me and spoke directly to my heart.
You have to believe in something when you are young. The world can present you with so many dark and hurtful experiences, that you simply have to have something to hang onto and keep you from being blighted and crippled by the pain. For me it often came in the form of a lovely and simple lyric sung by the lovely Lennon Sisters. When you are faced with hard choices… especially in those dark moments when you think about ending it all because it is all just too much to bear, the things stored in those special pockets of your heart are the only things that can save you. For me, one of those things will always be the music of the Lennon Sisters… especially when watched on the old black and white TV in the farmhouse where my grandparents lived, and helped to raise me, every Saturday night in the 1960’s.
Larry makes a 76-yard catch and run on a pass from Carson Palmer in overtime. and then follows with a short TouchDown catch on the next play! I am walking on clouds tonight after cussing my tongue purple earlier in the game.