Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What We're Reading -The Soloist.

I work in a Public Library, and of all public institutions, a Library affords one the opportunity to interact with all types of individuals, young, old, rich, poor, and yes, the homeless, the less fortunate and sometimes those with visible mental illness. Part of the reason that I decided to read The Soloist by Steve Lopez is to use his story to get behind the casual encounter and learn more about what has always nipped at my mind, the who, the what, the why, and the how of the circumstances that can result in someone becoming homeless.

Steve Lopez first encounters Nathaniel Ayers, a former student at Juilliard, when out looking for fodder for his LA Times column, he sees a disheveled but talented man, playing a two stringed violin. Intrigued, he begins to get to know Nathaniel as a person and fortunately for us, he crosses the line from impartial journalist, to friend and The Soloist charts the ups and downs, successes, failures, frustrations of his attempts at getting Nathaniel off the streets and into a course of treatment and the very personal consequences of this relationship.

The Soloist is moving, [watery eyes and a lump in the throat], honest and above all a wonderful read. If like me, after reading The Soloist, you are not likely to view the less fortunate without wondering what is their story and also, whispering "there but by the grace of God, go I". Schizophrenia is truly a thin, thin line that once crossed may never allow resumption of a normal life. I don't know if I can do what Steve Lopez did [and still does] for Nathaniel Ayers but we are better for having his book to inspire us to better efforts and a better appreciation of what we have.

FYI, Steve Lopez has written a number of columns about his relationship with Nathaniel Ayers, which you can search and read [as I intend to do] in the LA Times/Proquest database. [Library card needed when accessing from home] and you can look for the film version starring Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey, Jr., directed by Joe Wright of Atonement fame due out in November.

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