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April Morning ~ A Capsule Book Review

April Morning ~ A Capsule Book Review by Allen Kopp

The American Revolutionary War began on April 19, 1775, with the Battles of Lexington and Concord. It was professional British troops, numbering in the thousands, against non-professional Colonials, numbering in the hundreds. The British were marching from Boston to procure military supplies the Colonials had stockpiled in Concord. The Colonials didn’t want to fight but were forced to it. They only wanted the English invaders to leave their land and let them live in peace.

April Morning is a historical novel by Howard Fast, told in the first-person voice of one Adam Cooper, fifteen years old. Adam lives with his family in the village of Lexington in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. On the morning of April 19, 1775, the people of Lexington receive word that the British army, possibly two thousand men, is headed toward them. They assemble a small body of “committeemen” to meet the British. The committeemen are underequipped, of course, and they know they are no match for the professional British army. They believe, naively, that all they will need to do is reason with the British to get them to desist and return to Boston.

The British immediately begin firing on the villagers on the “common” of Lexington before a word can be exchanged. (This is “the shot heard ‘round the world.”) Our young protagonist, Adam Cooper, witnesses his father being among the first to be shot. The Colonials fight back, with much bloodshed on both sides. Adam has an inadequate firearm that shoots birdshot, but still he does his part. In the course of one day, he goes from being a boy to being a man.

April Morning is not a serious examination of war, but is more a personal story of how the beginning of a war affects one person, one family, and one small village. It abounds with clichés and at no time has an authentic eighteenth century feel to it, in the way, for example, of Mackinlay Kantor’s historical novel, Valley Forge. Still, it’s an engaging enough book in its own way that has become a much-read classic, especially by younger readers.

Copyright © 2017 by Allen Kopp

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1911 New York City Street Scene

Outside a New York tailor shop in 1911, where new and second-hand clothes are sold. Most of the men wear derby hats and a couple of small boys are engaged in pugilistics. 

 

1915 ~ Ernest Hemingway

The great American novelist and short story writer Ernest Hemingway (center of picture) with his high school football team in 1915, at age 16. 

 

Nurse Ivy Administers the Life-Giving I.V.

Mother-in-Law from Outer Space

1913 ~ Winter in the Netherlands

The Dutch Queen Wilhemina and Princess Juliana as snow people in the Netherlands in 1913.

 

I, Tonya ~ A Capsule Movie Review

I, Tonya ~ A Capsule Movie Review by Allen Kopp

Figure skater Tonya Harding is a high school dropout, a self-professed redneck girl. She’s crude and unsophisticated; she just doesn’t fit in with the American ideal of what a female champion female figure skater should be. The acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree. Her mother is a foul-mouthed, cigarillo-smoking harridan with the social graces of a rattlesnake. From the time Tonya is four years old, her mother (the figure skating equivalent of a stage mother) pushes her to be the best, spending all the money she makes as a waitress on training for Tonya.

Then Tonya meets Jeff Gillooly, a beautiful but dumb young man who, through nincompoopery, all but sabotages Tonya’s figure skating career in a few short years. Jeff has a very short temper; he punches and slaps Tonya on very little provocation, which Tonya confesses she believes she deserves. (She is then forced to cover her facial abrasions with makeup.) Jeff and Tonya get married, and it’s a tumultuous union, with much yelling, hitting, slapping and discharge of firearms.

Regardless of what’s wrong in Tonya’s life, she is good at figure skating. What she does on the ice is a kind of magic. She executes the extremely difficult “triple axel,” the first female skater to perform this move in competition, and earns a spot on the U.S. Olympic team for the 1992 Olympics in France. She doesn’t do so well in the Olympics, however; she comes in fourth. “When you come in fourth,” she says, “you get the six a.m. shift at Spud Heaven.”

After the Olympics debacle, Tonya believes she is finished with figure skating, but her star rises again and she has a shot at the next winter Olympics in Norway. Faced with stiff competition as she is, her husband and his idiotic friend, Shawn Gerhardt, try to help her by sabotaging, ineptly, one of her principal competitors. This doesn’t work out very well and results in criminal charges, a huge scandal, and the end of Tonya’s skating career.

I, Tonya stars Margot Robbie, who I remember from The Wolf of Wall Street, as Tonya Harding; Sebastian Stan, a Romanian actor who speaks American perfectly, as Jeff Gillooly; and the ubiquitous Allison Janney as Tonya’s she-wolf mother. They are all perfect. Never a dull moment. It upholds my belief that trashy, redneck characters are a lot more interesting than wine-sipping, angst-ridden, self-absorbed yuppies who have stock portfolios and Masters of Arts degrees. I know them and they bore me to death.

Copyright © 2018 by Allen Kopp