The Boys in the Boat

BoysInTheBoatSuggested by Mrs. George • Out of the depths of the Depression comes a story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of times—the improbable, intimate account of how nine working-class boys from the American West showed the world at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin what true grit was.
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33 Responses to The Boys in the Boat

  1. Anniel says:

    Mrs. George, Thank you with all my heart for this book recommendation. I simply could not put it down. I loved the history, the philosophy and the whole story. My husband asked what kind of a book it was. I tried to explain and wound up reading most of it aloud to him. Neither of us knew anything about rowing and were intrigued by both the physical and mental conditions that make a great team. Even though I knew the end the description of the last race in the Olympics was heartpoundingly maddening and thrilling. Even my husband was in tears. What a truly great book. Thank you again.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Thanks, Annie. I shall forward your thanks to Mrs. George next time I see this fine lady at a Little League game. I’ve downloaded the Kindle sample and haven’t quite gotten to it yet. Sounds like a good one indeed.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Annie, I read the Kindle sample of this book last night. So far it is indeed pretty good…probably doubly so for a Northwest native such as myself. My hometown was mentioned in the opening pages. So we’re getting a little history of Seattle (and some surrounding areas) which is likely of a bit more interest to natives then, say, east-coasters.

      I found it interesting that there was a self-conscious effort to bring the sport of rowing to Seattle as a prestige factor. For three bucks, I might buy this one and take a pass on the $15.00 “Killing Patton” one.

      • Anniel says:

        Brad – As I said on Kung Fu’s essay, I really am trying to slow down my reading on this but it is almost impossible to do. We have friends in Sequim and lots of friends, including our youngest son, in and around the Seattle area. One of my dearest friends here grew up on Bainbridge Island and remembers the “Hooverville” well. She has sent for the book too, but I didn’t tell her how down-home it will be for her.

        The German and Nazi history is just as fascinating and my son is going to go back out to the Olympic Stadium and the waters where the big race was held. He is returning to the States and it will be interesting to see where he finally winds up. But his family does not like Germany and none of them really learned the language so they want to be home.

        I hope this book “gets” you, too.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Annie, along with Glenn the Greater, Deana, Mr. Kung, and Timothy, you’re fast becoming my favorite in terms of book recommendations.

          I bought this last night and read 13% into it. The main draw isn’t the sport of rowing (as of yet), or even some of the karma philosophy associated with rowing (which gets a little thick for my taste). It’s the back-story of the characters which also involves a bit of history of the early Northwest (which all seems to revolve around timber, fish, and gold, fool’s or otherwise).

          We learn about George Pocock (famous shell-builder and dispenser of mystical rowing philosophy), his brother, and the rest of his superb boat-building family who started their craft on the Thames in London. The stories in the book thus far are about people who uprooted their lives and moved continents away as easily as you or I go down to the nearest Starbucks for a mocha.

          Most engaging of all is the story of Joe Rantz and his family. Had his story been penned by some novelist, we’d have thought the plot too extravagant and gadgety. His older brother marries a twin sister. His father later marries the other twin. The life of the wife of the father would have alone made a good novel. She’s an accomplished violinist of pampered tastes and background who (for some reason) marries this guy 17 years older than she is and who is anything but refined (although he is extremely imaginative…a visionary).

          She finds herself out in the wilderness doing back-breaking work, cringing at the simple songs that her husband and sons like to bang out on the piano (which is one of the few possessions Mr. Rantz has of his previous wife). She finally has enough (particularly of Joe, who does nothing more offensive than enjoy his life) and forces Mr. Rantz to choose between her and ten-year-old Joe. Incredibly (and apparently she was quite a looker), she wins and ten-year-old Joe is sent packing to make it on his own.

          Imagine that. Talk about free-range children. Holy cow. And the book is full of this kind of uprooting as people die and/or follow new opportunities.

          One of my favorite anecdotes is of the gold mine (named something like “Idaho Gold and Radium Mine”) that the government eventually forces the owner too change the name of because there’s no uranium to be found in the northern panhandle of Idaho. So he changes the name to “Idaho Gold and Ruby Mine” or something like that. The point is, there weren’t any precious stones either…and barely any gold. But he had a thriving mine because he was able to bilk rich east–coast investors of millions based on phony (and obviously persuasive) stories about the potential of the mine.

          Also, and quite central to this book, are the wonderful literary descriptions of the moments and surroundings…much more consistent with a fictional novel than a biography. One assumes that the author isn’t just making this up and has either done a lot of interviews and research and/or knows the Pacific Northwest very very well. His descriptions of the gray skies over the water in the Northwest could only be described by a native:

          Along the waterfront, seaplanes from the Gorst Air Transport company rose slowly from the surface of Puget Sound and droned westward, flying low under the cloud cover, beginning their short hops over to the naval shipyard at Bremerton. Ferries crawled away from Colman Dock on water as flat and dull as old pewter.

          By the way, it would be shocking to most that the region known as “Gorst” even has a name. It is barely an intersection. My grandparents lived there for a time and I drive through there (during baseball season) almost every other day (takes about 30 seconds). I also had another relative who lived there, so I know a thing or two about a place that really shouldn’t have any history at all. And I never knew there was a Gorst Air Transport, although situated as it is next to a strategically vital shipyard (especially during WWII), I imagine there was much more that existed then than there is now.

          • Anniel says:

            The author did say in the intro that Joe was his neighbor and wanted to meet him when he found out Brown was a writer. That being said, he does seem to have a remarkable “feel” for everyplace the story takes him.

            The building of the Grand Coulee Dam and its place in American history is great too. One of my sons had the very best 4th Grade teacher in the world. She played piano really well and taught the kids historical songs to go with their lessons. The year Alex had her she taught them the song “Roll On, Columbia, Roll On,” about the building of the dam. And today there are those who would tear the place down. It’s a sacrilege against the salmon and Gaia, or some horrible crime perpetrated by whomever we are to hate this week.
            Just a side note, yesterday my daughter had a really nice patient who gave her his book recommendation on this book, and then my son dropped by here, asked what I was reading and said a man he’d gone to visit at the hospital had already recommended it. Same person for both of them as it turned out.

            • Timothy Lane says:

              I remember reading in the 1960s that there were planes to upgrade the power plant at Grand Coulee to 9.3 million kilowatts. I’m sure it would be so much better to replace that with the alternative — nuclear power or fossil fuels. Even Bill Gates should see something wrong with failing to replace the lost capacity at all.

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                A dam is a beautiful thing. It is the symbol of man’s mighty progress, his command of nature. The inexpensive electricity has brought huge benefits to those in the Northwest or wherever they have hydroelectric power. And as long as it keeps raining, it can be considered “renewable.”

                The truth of environmental wacko-ism I think is exactly this: It’s not about love of nature. It’s psychological transference. It’s about people saying “Love me, love me, love me…and because you won’t, then screw you, humanity.”

                That’s a little long to fit on a bumper sticker. But I’m pretty sure that’s the dynamic for most zealots. Of course, the environmental wacko programming is so deep now, many people likely aren’t even aware of the anti-human programming they spew forth in supposed love of nature.

                Give me all the dams you can afford. Human civilization trumps salmon.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              That being said, he does seem to have a remarkable “feel” for everyplace the story takes him.

              It’s a challenging extrapolation…and remarkably well done. I’m vaguely familiar with the area in and around Lake Washington that he is talking about. We took a boat through the locks there once including under (if memory serves and if the route is possible) the beautiful Mountlake Bridge that you see in the background of at least one of the photos in the book.

              Surely the writer is backward-inserting descriptions that are plausible and likely weren’t told to him directly. But I’m willing to go with it. Nothing strikes me as false or inappropriate, just a bit omniscient. 🙂

              I’ve been to the Grand Coulee Dam only once. But what a memorable trip. I really should go again. Any takers? Let me know when you and The Bear are in the area. I’ll take the cheap electricity. Everything in life is a trade-off.

              Sounds as if the word-of-mouth on this book is scorching hot right now. I hope the quality of it holds up. A little let-down is expected. But we’ll see.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                I’d like to see something like that. Back in 1959 we passed over Hoover Dam on the way to Monterey, though I don’t remember much about it. I tend to go more for fancy bridges than dams (we passed over a lovely one on the Natchez Trace a few years back). Elizabeth has a thing for dams, though. Sometime we might try to see some of the Tennessee Valley dams, especially Muscle Shoals.

              • Anniel says:

                After I finished reading this book I remembered a single scull rower they always referred to as the “Big Finn”, who won 3 Olympic gold medals in a row, 1976, 1980 and 1984. His name is Pertti Karppinen, 6’7″ tall. I watched his race in 1984 but had no idea what I was seeing then. I googled the race and was amazed at his ability.

                Maybe the philosophy only makes sense when you finally sense what it does for those boys in the boat.

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I read a little further in this book last night. I’ve gotten to the point in this novel (for it reads more like a novel than a history of biography) where Joe (briefly reunited with his family) is ousted again by his mother.

    The were living in Sequim, Washington, which is an hour and half northwest of where I live. And you can always tell someone who isn’t from the Northwest because they have no idea how to pronounce “Sequim.” And I ain’t gonna tell ya. You’ll have to find out for yourself.

    Anyway, Joe Rantz’s dad buys an auto repair shop in Sequim which is successful for a time. It allows him to buy a several acre stump farm where he then proceeds, over the course of months and years, to build a house, chicken coop, etc. They do well in egg and milk production and the business is doing well. The author, for the second time in this book (the last time, I think, was when they lived in Spokane…another word you’re just going to have to learn to pronounce for yourself) describes a truly Norman Rockwellesque idyllic country life, especially as lived by a ten-year-old boy.

    And then the stock market crash comes and even this far northwest corner of the continent isn’t immune. People up and leave their businesses and homes. There are packs of wild dogs (simply abandoned by their owners) roaming, which kill or maim several of the family’s cows. Joe’s wife has had enough and demands to move back home to (Freemont?) Seattle where they live in the basement of her parent’s house…where she is still unhappy (I’m beginning to sense a theme here). But Joe must stay behind in the old house.

    And the author writes of Joe making the conscious decision not to be a victim, to not become a hermit but to instead take life by the horns and take control himself. And he does a number of things to make money, many of which were legal. I love the description of him bilking the bootleggers and reselling the stolen booze to his own clientele. That’s Yankee ingenuity for ya.

    And that’s about where I left off. There are some good descriptions of the physical and technical difficulty of rowing as a crew. This is woven in here and there, but the first 20% (or so) of this book is more a novel on Joe and other interesting characters.

    And, if you’re interested (as I am), this book has some nice history of the Northwest. I knew, for instance, that Sequim (figure it out yet?) sat in the “rain shadow” of the Olympic Mountains and generally had far less wet weather than everyone else. But the author noted that their were cactuses that used to grow there. That’s the first I’d heard of that. And although Sequim does receive less rain and more sunny days than average, this is still relative. Washington is a very wet and cloudy place, generally speaking. Cactuses? Well, if you say so, but that’s the first I heard of it and you’d never suppose in a million years driving through Sequim that anything other than moss, grass, and Douglass fir grew there.

  3. Anniel says:

    Master Kung Fu: The tallest person I have personally stood next to played for the Chicago Bulls. I think he was 6’10”. I asked him if he knew Tom Boerwinkle, who was a cousin of my best friend. He thought for a minute while my neck was cramping from looking up, and said, “Oh, yeah, he was the tall guy.” It’s a matter of perspective. As I recall my friend says she came up to Tom’s belt buckle and it sticks in my mind that he was 7’9″ or so.

  4. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I’m 57% through the Kindle edition of “The Boys in the Boat” and this is just flat-out excellent. If it does a dive from here on out (and it wouldn’t be the first book to do so), it still will have been well worth the three dollars.

    This is, of course, a glimpse into the world of crew racing. You will learn why it is so difficult and physically and mentally demanding. Arguably it is the most physically demanding of all sports in terms of calories burned and oxygen used. You will learn the life-changing (to Joe, anyway) philosophy of George Pocock as well which is peppered throughout the book and usually starts the chapter.

    The second pillar of this three-legged stool is getting the background on these mere “farm boys” (and they were the ones who tended to rise to the crew positions who would take a shot at the Olympics). It’s shocking the small stuff we fuss over. Someone lets their child play innocently in the park and some nut call CPS on them. This is crazy. Forget Pajama Boy. They didn’t exist (or at least didn’t exist in this story) in the 1920’s and 30′. Everyone had to work, and they often worked quite hard. It’s amazing to see the central character, Joe, go from Husky crew member (in really a rich man’s sort of sport) to working various odd jobs both on-season and off-season. One job he took off-season was running a jackhammer while dangling from a rope during the early phase of the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam. And although Joe was extraordinary in some aspects of what he did, these are the same kinds of stories I would hear my father and his father tell. This is what people did. They worked hard, moved often, and were just a bit unorthodox in their way of life.

    The third pillar (certainly related to the first two) is the sense of place and history you get. If you are a Washington resident, buying this book is a no-brainer. But the descriptions are so good because they are so universal. I would imagine someone from Ohio reading this would recognize the picture. The book covers aspects of the Dust Bowl, the Great Depression, and of course the rise of Nazi Germany.

    This story is told in a wonderful and insightful literary style. The picture is often so clear, you feel their hunger pangs (Joe never does seem to get enough to eat). You get a clear idea of the pain and endurance it takes to row one of these shells. You get to know the quite precarious life that was common for many Americans in that turbulent time. (Which time hasn’t been turbulent, I wonder?) It’s a frank exposition of places and personalities that makes no attempt to glamorize them but can’t help uncovering the Normal Rockwell aspects of this America simply by shining the laser beam of sturdy prose.

    Yes, consider this a strong “buy” recommendation.

  5. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    One of my favorite Pocock quotes from the book:

    One of the first admonitions of a good rowing coach, after the fundamentals are over, is “pull your own weight,” and the young oarsman does just that when he finds out that the boat goes better when he does. There is certainly a social implication here. —George Yeoman Pocockd

    And here’s a great store name. He’s writing about the commercial district (B Street is the gambling/prostitution/gambling/drunkenness district) that grew up around the work camps at the Grand Coulee Dam construction site:

    Food also drew them to B Street: chow mein at the Woo Dip Kitchen; homemade tamales from the Hot Tamale Man’s shack; mountainous sundaes at the soda fountain in Atwater’s Drugstore; fresh-baked cherry pie at the Doghouse Café. And the Best Little Store by a Dam Site was a good place to shop for treats and small luxuries, everything from cheap cigars to Oh Henry! candy bars.

    Joe, living in Seattle, finds out that his family has been living fairly close by for some time now. His stepmother still tells him to scram, but Joe, somewhat in collusion with this father, plans to visit his brothers and sisters while the parents are out. And sometime they were really out:

    But the first time he [Joe] and Joyce [his long-time girlfriend] stopped by Bagley Avenue on one of these occasions, they found that Harry and Thula [Joe’s dad and stepmother] had been gone for three days. They’d left Harry Junior, Mike, Rose, and Polly alone, without supervision and largely without food.

    Yikes. Although there is a lot of detail in this book about Joe’s life and his family, I can’t help thinking that much as been left out. We never learn why Thula, his stepmother, so disliked Joe. And his father seemed a creative, hard-working, decent man. But it’s hard to explain how he could leave his young children like that to fend for themselves. Like I said, I smell a missing story in and around this. Oh well.

    The following is part of a larger passage with a theme being developed that leads into it. But I liked this bit:

    The wood, Pocock murmured, taught us about survival, about overcoming difficulty, about prevailing over adversity, but it also taught us something about the underlying reason for surviving in the first place. Something about infinite beauty, about undying grace, about things larger and greater than ourselves. About the reasons we were all here.

    And even in anti-Semitism you can find a moment of dark humor:

    Near the town of Ludwigshafen a road sign read “Drive carefully! Sharp curve! Jews 75 miles per hour.”

    Here’s a sample of some of the typical good literary descriptions:

    As they flew down the last few hundred yards, their eight taut bodies rocked back and forth like pendulums, in perfect synchronicity. Their white blades flashed above the water like the wings of seabirds flying in formation. With every perfectly executed stroke, the expanse between them and the now exhausted Cal boys widened.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      The sharp curve warning reminds me of the old Wayne and Shuster routine about an economy-class flight. The economy class passengers are told that they can leave the plane — after which the announcement is for first-class passengers to “Fasten your seat belts. We’ll be landing in 8 minutes.”

  6. Anniel says:

    I have a very hard time figuring Harry and Thula out, too. She seems like such a narcissist. But Harry drove me nuts, and it does seem like something is missing in his character. Thula had him whipped for sure, but all of his children needed a man for a father. If he had even done part of their mother’s job and made certain the kids were left with enough food to eat, I might not see him as such a wimp. Joe was certainly more forgiving of him than I can understand. It seems that his
    supply of love for his father was almost inexhaustible.

    There is sheer poetry in some of Brown’s writing.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      The “whipped” factor occurred to me as well, Annie, regarding Harry’s willingness to abandon his children at the slightest prompting from Thula.

      I’m up to the point in the book now where the team has just arrived in Germany. And Germany (or at least Berlin) has been turned into a gigantic theme park. (“Smiles, everyone, smiles.”) Forgotten (and forbidden in the newspapers which the Nazi Party controls) is anti-semitism. There’s a great white-washing being done and they’re presenting a friendly face to the world.

      A lot of people aren’t buying it. But there’s some good history here, especially in terms of how Hitler and Company were continually fascinated and surprised at how feeble the response was of the rest of the world to their lies and aggression. Given the Neville Chamberlain-like attitudes all around, we were practically giving Hitler the green light.

      This is a lesson for Chamberlain-like Progressives and Libertarians who think that all problems can be smoothed over if we’re just “nice.” We see this in the feckless response of the Popes (and perhaps most Christians these days) to Islam (why should they be different from everyone else?).

      And although there is a bit of libtard woven into this book (the author never met a union he didn’t like), the astute reading can catch the parallels between Nazi Germany and the Progressive totalitarianism gathering around us. Most libtards can’t walk and chew gum at the same time. They’ve been taught that Hitler was a man of the right. But the Progressives are doing systematically what Hitler did. They eventually mean to forbid all forms of disagreement with their secular religion (which Nazism was). Add in the typical anti-Semitism of the Left, and it’s just a difference of means, not ends.

      But your typical useful idiot liberal has been rope-a-doped by our own Ministry of Propaganda (the mainstream media and the university system). For him the greatest danger is those Christians (the modern-day Jews to the Left). That Jews themselves are overwhelmingly useful idiots for the Left shows just how off-track they are (not all Jews…just most of them).

      Regarding Joe’s forgiving his father, there’s a great section in the book that addresses this. His girlfriend is typically ragging on Joe about his father and wondering why he isn’t as angry as she is by the ill treatment given Joe. Here’s that passage showing that Joe has wisdom beyond his years:

      She demanded to know why Joe let his parents treat him as they did . Why did he go on pretending that they hadn’t done him any harm? What kind of woman would leave a boy alone in the world? What kind of father would let her do that? Why didn’t he ever get angry at them? Why didn’t he just demand that they let him see his half siblings? She was nearly sobbing by the time she finished.

      She glanced across the seat at Joe, and saw at once, through a blur of tears, that his eyes were full of hurt too. But his jaw was set, and he stared ahead over the steering wheel rather than turning to look at her.

      “You don’t understand,” he murmured. “They didn’t have any choice . There were just too many mouths to feed.”

      Joyce pondered that for a moment, then said, “I just don’t understand why you don’t get angry.” Joe continued to stare ahead through the windshield.

      “It takes energy to get angry. It eats you up inside. I can’t waste my energy like that and expect to get ahead. When they left, it took everything I had in me just to survive. Now I have to stay focused. I’ve just gotta take care of it myself.”

      That attitude is almost non-existent today. Look at the energy wasted on grievance, envy, and blame-shifting. No wonder Joe became an Olympic athlete. No wonder so many blacks, for instance, stay mired in Ferguson.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        It takes energy to get angry

        Clever fellow. Hate requires an enormous amount of emotional energy. Interestingly, love does not require energy, it produces new energy.

        • Anniel says:

          I’ve thought a lot about the expenditure of energy it takes, both to survive and to hate. Sometimes hate is a way of not “giving in” to personal injustice, to preserve ones own source of individual wholeness. There is a point at which to maintain that wholeness one has to let go of the hate in order for the health of love to take place. Joe in my estimation matured very young in that respect.

          • Anniel says:

            My 78 year old brother still cries at night because he thinks our father never loved him. He hated what happened to him but always believed he deserved whatever did happen to him. He never fought back in any productive way. Joe’s battles, to an outsider, seemed to be only for physical survival, but what was going on internally was more important.

            Rowing was a very large part of his maturity.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              Annie, some of the stories you’ve been frank enough to tell have been chilling. I sympathize with your brother. When treated like dirt, it can be very very difficult to believe we are not dirt. I have some small experience in that.

              On the other hand, Joe’s advice is very good advice. Who needs the grief? Who needs the anger? Let it go and move on. Don’t let past events control you. Yes, perhaps ill use has deformed us in some ways, but that’s life. It can be a bitch. But it’s that way for everyone to some extent. Some have obvious scars and deformities on the outside. Some hide them within. It’s the way of life.

              Joe was a resilient personality and a fighter. But, if this book gives a true picture (and I do suspect there has been some filtering here), he was not a man who was angry at life. He wasn’t “lashing out” which is so typical of the red diaper doper baby set these days. He seemed quite a remarkable and good man. He loved music. He played guitar and sang at the drop of a hat. He loved working hard and recognized how hard work purified his soul. He was obviously good enough for Joyce, a woman we can be fairly sure would not have put up with anything less.

              I like Joe. There are a lot of Joes in the world, or at least in America. Or at least there used to be.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            Sometimes hate is a way of not “giving in” to personal injustice, to preserve ones own source of individual wholeness

            I agree. And I would call that steeled determination, where you take some injustice or hard knocks and use them to propel you forward past obstacles. You don’t fold like a cheap tent. Having a small rolling boil inside isn’t necessarily a bad thing, at least if tempered by other softer influences. “The angry young man” can be such a bore and is usually highly destructive — to himself and others.

  7. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Another fascinating aspect of “The Boys in the Boat” is the dichotomy between the Old Money East and the Mama Grizzly West. The east was arrogant, elitist, often wealthy, a bit pampered, and insincere.

    The West was self-made, not rich, a bit rough around the edges, frank, and sincere. Never the twain shall meet, I suppose.

    But, good golly, this is such a major theme in this book, and so well articulated, that you can’t help but understand the Jeb Bushes and those born with a silver spoon in their mouths. You can see how and why they think they were bred to lead the rest of us heathens. You see how and why they are so arrogant and so easily condescend.

    This is why I was instantly attracted to Sarah Palin. And this had absolutely nothing to do with her good looks. She’s one of us. She’s one of the last of that old west attitude, the self-made man, the go-getter, the non-pretentious person of good character, not simply made up of an onion skin of layered conceits as with the elitists.

    We’ve lost that, of course. I think it still survives in Texas and in Alaska. But that kind of gumption has been slowly rotted out by liberalism and all the “do-gooder” programs that have hooked so many people on dependency.

    Joe, God bless him, was never a dependent. He, not Pajama Boy, should be the model for American men…and maybe women as well.

  8. Anniel says:

    Brad and Kung Fu: Forgiveness can be a life-long project, a necessary ingredient to reach the kind of love that produces the new energy Master Kung Fu mentions. One thing I always knew about my father that my brother never did, was that he was sick but he loved us. He never left us, and I’m certain there were times when he wanted to. I’m also certain he loved our mother and that she had the power to hurt him, and sometimes did. We all have the power to hurt and the power to heal, and sometimes we have to hurt in order to heal.

    Both my older and middle brother were extremely foul-mouthed. I try not to be and so does Bear. I felt assaulted by their language, but never said much because they were my brothers and I didn’t want to make them angry. My older brother had this sneaky way of talking about people in our youth he claimed to have heard something about, when I got hooked on the story he would deliver the punch line of a filthy joke.

    One day my younger brother called and I couldn’t take his garbage mouth anymore and told him I was hanging up and would not speak to him if he swore. He called me once a week thereafter and never swore again, at least to me.

    At the same time I decided to do the same thing with my older brother. I didn’t know it but his wife, who is a real angel, had told him that morning that she was going to start attending a local church in order to pray for him, that she was tired of his anger. Then I called to tell him to clean up his language and filth or I wouldn’t have anymore to do with him. And he, too, quit.

    I’m ashamed I let it go on so long.

    Brad, it would be interesting if you showed all these comments to Mrs. George to see how she feels about what her book recommendation has led to. I am amazed at how much really good thinking has come from it.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Brad and Kung Fu: Forgiveness can be a life-long project, a necessary ingredient to reach the kind of love that produces the new energy Master Kung Fu mentions.

      Thinking in terms of Joe, Annie, clearly (at least according to the book) he wasn’t a man (or boy) to hold a grudge. He had no problem reuniting with his father when the first opportunity presented itself. And he didn’t seem all that pissed off at Thula either.

      At the end of the day, I think Joe had the right approach. And I wonder sometimes if the project of trying to love is not too much and too impractical. Joe found a pragmatic approach. Yes, something still bothered him inside, but life is full of things that bother us and the true adult simply has to learn to live with it instead of obsessing with trying to expunge it.

      All things in their own time. I would recommend for people to disentangle themselves from trying to solve these things, for in trying to solve them we may unknowingly remain captured by those who have trespassed against us. And as one wise fellow I once read said, the people who have transgressed against us almost assuredly are not thinking about us. They’ve moved on. To look for “closure” is almost assuredly a fools errand and a meaningless buzzword. “Man up” makes more sense to me.

      There is, of course, much to be said for reconciliation. And that’s all well and fine. I wouldn’t be against it. But I think in most cases a person needs to take the attitude of the duck’s back and let the water run right off it. God may give us pure justice, but you’ll not get it from this world or other people. Just not gonna happen.

      When it comes to family, that can be a particularly sticky situation, because you may choose your friends but you don’t choose your family. And we’re basically stuck with them to a certain extent.

      Then I called to tell him to clean up his language and filth or I wouldn’t have anymore to do with him. And he, too, quit.

      You mean you opted for confrontation instead of Kumbaya? LOL. No wonder you’re a conservative. And, really, in most cases that’s the only way to get people to change their rotten behavior.

      If I run into Mrs. George, I’ll tell her to look online.

  9. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I finished this book last night, and it generally held up well. The latter 1/3 of the book was much more about the boat racing than the personality profiles. Normally I would find the diversions to personality profiles to be annoying. Usually such things interrupt the flow of the story.

    In this case, they are the story and, to some extent, the actual details of the racing, although exciting, are a bit of an interruption. But the descriptions of the races are generally very exciting, including the final one at the Olympics. Going into the book, you already know they won the gold medal. But by the description of the race in the book, I don’t know how they ever did it. It was improbable given a couple crucial circumstances (a sick stroke man and German cheating).

    One of my few criticisms of this book is that the asides regarding the nasty aspect of Nazi Germany seemed de rigueur — ass-covering, if you will.

    It’s worth reading at least some of the acknowledgments at the end, something I rarely do. It gives you some insight into how the author put the book together.

    Here’s some video of the race which captures none of the excitement. But it is at least some video. Afterward the favored Nazi filmmaker, Leni Riefenstahl, shot additional staged footage of the crews which was woven in the propaganda film, Olympia. At about the 3:00 minute mark of this video you get some film of the race…not much of the winners, though.

  10. Anniel says:

    Thanks Brad, I think I enjoyed reading your responses as much as I did the book.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Well, this was a pretty good book, Annie. And your early enthusiasm for it prompted me to read it. Thank you for that. And you’ve got a mulligan coming. If you ever recommend a book that I think stinks, you get a pass. 😀

  11. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    One comment I read about this book is that it should be required reading for anyone in any athletic sport. I couldn’t agree more. I found that while in the middle of reading it — and now after — I made two significant gains in elapsed time in one of my timed bike runs that I take. You read about the pain and suffering these guys went through and you just find a little more “oomph” and a little less Pajama Boy.

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