book reviews, memories

Repost: Reviewing John Peale’s Just How Far From the Apple Tree…

This is a repost of a book review I wrote in 2015. The book was written by my former philosophy professor, Dr. John Peale. I am posting the review as it was originally written in 2015.

Yesterday, I posted about my old philosophy professor, Dr. John Peale.  My post was about my initial impressions of a book he wrote in 2012 called Just How Far From the Apple Tree: A Son in Relation to His Famous Father as well as a couple of memories I had of college, when he taught me.  I admit my first post about Dr. Peale is a bit critical and negative.  Having just finished his book, I think I can be a little less critical with my review, which is what I’m going to write today.  I found the second half of the book more engaging and interesting than the first part, which was mostly about his long academic road to being a full professor of philosophy at my alma mater, Longwood College (now Longwood University).

Dr. Peale’s book is mainly about his life and some of his experiences growing up the son of famed preacher and author Norman Vincent Peale.  He writes Just How Far From the Apple Tree as I would expect a professor to write.  His style is scholarly and somewhat formal, with no contractions or slang.  Though he does use the first person as he relates his life story, the book comes across as more than a bit dry.  There were a few times when I swore I read the same passage twice.  I hadn’t read the same passage twice; instead, Dr. Peale had repeated himself.  My guess is that this book didn’t get much attention from an editor.

The second half of Dr. Peale’s book, the part I hadn’t yet read when I wrote yesterday, shows a side of him that is more relatable to me.  In that portion, Peale comes down from the academic high horse and writes about things he’s faced.  I mentioned yesterday that Dr. Peale has battled cancer and alcoholism.  He writes that he has been diagnosed with cancer three times.  The first time was in 1991, after a trip to China.  His wife spotted a crusty lesion on his back that turned out to be melanoma.  I believe he was dealing with the melanoma when I had him as a professor.  Ever since 1991, he’s been living with cancer.

Dr. Peale is also an alcoholic.  Having read about his battles with alcoholism, I have a bit more empathy for him.  I grew up with an alcoholic father who exhibited a lot of the same behaviors Dr. Peale describes in his book.  In fact, in some ways, I think Peale’s situation was worse.  My father, to my knowledge, was never arrested for drunk driving.  Dr. Peale was stopped three times.  The first time was in 1971 in North Carolina’s Outer Banks.  A lawyer managed to get the judge to reduce the charges to reckless driving, sparing Dr. Peale’s record until many years later, when he got drunk in his office and decided to try to drive to Hampden-Sydney College.  He ended up running off the road and passing out in the car, where he was confronted by a police officer who spotted the almost empty bottle of gin next to him.

I must admit, I was surprised to read that Dr. Peale was caught drinking and driving, was arrested, and had come very close to spending the night in jail.  He was charged with a DUI and finally entered treatment, but continued to drink.  The third time he was stopped, the cop let him off with a warning.  It took a little later before he finally hit bottom and admitted his problem.  He went into rehab and joined Alcoholics Anonymous.  Unlike my dad, Dr. Peale was able to quit drinking entirely and has apparently been off the sauce since March 2000.  I applaud him for that.

Reading about Dr. Peale’s struggles with drinking reminded me of my dad…  finding him in various positions in a state of extreme inebriation.  Like me and my mom, Dr. Peale’s wife found her husband passed out more than once.  Like me and my sisters, Dr. Peale’s children had to deal with their father’s anger issues, much exacerbated by booze.  Dr. Peale writes that most alcoholics are angry people dealing with deep, unresolved pain.  I believe it.  I saw it firsthand in my own immediate family.  Dr. Peale’s pain apparently came from his experiences being his father’s son and feeling like he couldn’t measure up.  He writes that he once felt like his life amounted to nothing.  He didn’t appreciate or value his accomplishments.  He felt ashamed of who he was and drank to try to erase that feeling of shame and despair.  His story is one I can relate to. 

I think Dr. Peale’s book improves dramatically beyond the 45% mark.  The first part of it was off-putting to me and reminded of me of my in person impressions of him.  The second part, the part where he actually reveals part of himself that is painful and personal, redeems the effort that went into reading his book. 

Dr. Peale is obviously very committed to A.A.  He is one of the many people it’s worked for, although not everyone is as successful with it as he’s been.  I think it helps to believe strongly in God for A.A. to work.  Dr. Peale believes in a higher power and I think that, along with having a sponsor who is a good friend to him, has helped him overcome his addiction. 

Anyway…  I’m not sure his book is something that would appeal to a lot of people.  I think it could appeal to people who are interested in the Peale family, but only if an editor revised it and removed the redundancies and stiff, formal, academic style Peale uses.  However, as a former student who attended the university that employed him for so many years, I will say that I found some value in Just How Far From the Apple Tree.  If anything, it was a good reminder to me that everyone has a story and everyone is fighting a battle of some sort.  While I didn’t necessarily appreciate Dr. Peale as a professor, I can appreciate him more as an author. 

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon when purchases are made through my site.

Standard
true crime

Felicity Huffman gets two weeks in “the joint”…

Last night, as I was about to go to bed, I read the news that Felicity Huffman, of Desperate Housewives fame, was sentenced for her part in “Varsity Blues”, the college cheating scandal involving dozens of people that has gripped the United States since the spring. Wealthy parents were paying off university officials to get their children into prestigious institutions of higher learning. Although most of the parents involved aren’t necessarily famous, there have been a few Hollywood notables involved in this case– namely Huffman, Lori Loughlin, and Mossimo Giannulli.

I was shocked to read that Huffman and fellow actress Lori Loughlin, and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, had spent thousands of dollars in bribes in bids to get their daughters enrolled in prestigious colleges. Loughlin, who famously portrayed the wholesome “Aunt Becky” on Full House and Fuller House, and has been on a bunch of other family friendly shows in the interim, is probably watching Huffman’s case with interest. Loughlin and her husband have pleaded not guilty, and they will go on trial. Huffman, by contrast, pled guilty and threw herself at the court’s mercy.

Felicity Huffman paid about $15,000 to a fake charity to get someone to change her daughter’s answers on the Scholastic Aptitude Test so that her scores would be higher. Loughlin and Giannulli are accused of spending over $500,000 to get their daughters, Isabella and Olivia Jade, into the University of Southern California as fake members of the crew team. Neither daughter has ever participated in crew and, in fact, Olivia Jade even publicly stated that she doesn’t even care about college. She had a thriving social media influencer business going until this mess came to light.

Naturally, many Americans are outraged at what is clearly a case of people abusing their wealth and privilege to get ahead. Every year, thousands of students work extremely hard to legitimately earn their spots at top U.S. universities. It’s not fair to them that super wealthy people, like Huffman and Loughlin, can simply pay people off to get their children into the “right” college.

Since the spring of 2019, many people have been wondering what these privileged parents can expect as the court system begins to hand down punishments. Huffman was the first among them to be sentenced. After what I’m sure was a very stressful summer, Huffman got her answer yesterday. On October 25, 2019, she will present herself to a federal prison to serve her fourteen day sentence. The facility Huffman will be assigned to will most likely be minimum security, though I’m sure the experience will still be horrifying. She will spend fourteen days in the prison, pay a $30,000 fine, and complete a year of supervised probation. She must also complete 250 hours of community service.

I think Huffman’s sentence is just, although I can see by the angry reactions on social media that not everyone agrees with it. Many people seem to think she should spend a lot more time incarcerated. For some reason, a lot of my countrymen are in favor of putting people behind bars for years and years. We, in the United States, have a very revenge oriented culture, particularly when it comes to crime. I’ll admit it, when I get angry enough, I often want revenge, too. Ultimately, though, I think justice should be more about rectifying wrongs than exacting revenge.

Felicity Huffman isn’t a career criminal, nor is she a violent person. Her two daughters are grown and are reportedly quite humiliated by these events. In fact, I’d say the biggest loser in Huffman’s case, is her daughter, Sophia. Because her daughters are grown and Huffman is clearly distraught about the effect her actions had on her relationship with them, Huffman definitely won’t be repeating her crime. And while I can understand why so many people are outraged that such a privileged woman got such a “light” sentence, it doesn’t serve society to lock up Huffman for years. All that would do is punish the ultimate victim, Huffman’s daughter, who now has to live with the fact that her mother very publicly communicated that didn’t believe her child could achieve academic success on her own.

Moreover, Sophia Macy did not take a spot from another aspiring student, since the college she wanted to attend did not allow her to audition and, in fact, didn’t require SAT scores anyway. The young woman was reportedly horrified that her mother went to such lengths to rig the results of her college application, and it’s caused a serious rift in their relationship.

About that prison sentence– I found an interesting article about what it’s like for famous and/or wealthy people like Felicity Huffman to go to a federal prison. This is a woman who lives in a beautiful home, has people who cater to her, and has complete control over her comings and goings. She will enter a system where she will be strip searched, be forced to wear a used uniform and used undergarments, and will eat awful food, endure unpleasant smells, non-stop noise, and non-stop lighting. She may encounter inmates who resent her for being rich and famous, and guards who hate their jobs and take it out on her. Conversely, she may also meet inmates who try to take advantage of her. Or, looking on the bright side, perhaps she might make a friend or two and learn a new skill. Who knows?

If I were Felicity Huffman, I think I’d try to look at this experience as a way to add to my bag of acting tricks. She will experience incarceration, which will probably be hell for her. But perhaps in a future role, she can draw on her experiences and bring realism to the part. And while it might feel like she’s in for an eternity, the two weeks will eventually pass and that part will be over. A year from now, she’ll be almost past this mess and able to put it behind her. Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli, by contrast, will probably still be fighting for their freedom.

I was a late fan of Huffman’s, having not discovered Desperate Housewives until around 2008, when Netflix used to send me DVDs in APO mail in Germany. I used to be a real television addict, but I don’t watch as much now, and it often takes me some time to get into the popular shows of today. Sometimes, I don’t discover a show until it’s been off the air! Although I had heard of Huffman’s husband, William H. Macy, because I was an ER fan from the day that show started, I was not really a Huffman fan until I got into Desperate Housewives. I haven’t watched anything else she’s been in since then.

I have empathy for Felicity Huffman’s situation. I think she thought she was doing the right thing, trying to help her daughter get ahead in life, even though her daughter no doubt already has a lot of privileges most people don’t have. But even Huffman admits that she messed up, has expressed sincere remorse, and is willing to do her time and pay the fines. I, for one, wish her luck.

Standard