My Mentors: Jesus and Marx

A helpful clarification.

Those who know me even a little know that I enjoy reading books and that virtually anywhere I go—especially if I anticipate having to hang out in a waiting area (appropriately masked and socially distanced, of course![1])—I will have a book with me. An actual book, mind you, not a digital version.[2] I generally prefer nonfiction to fiction, although, in checking my book-reading log (yes, I actually keep one—call me weird), I see that I’ve read five fiction titles so far in 2020.

Not infrequently, someone will notice my public book-reading–which apparently is as peculiar as  public nose-picking–and make a friendly comment. “I see you have a book there. What are you reading?”

Typically, I’ll do a quick show-and-tell. One time, a young medical assistant’s comment was, “Oh, what a pretty book. The cover’s almost entirely white.” It was Rand Paul’s The Case Against Socialism. I was about to give her a 20-second summary of its contents, but at the last second I thought better of it and instead replied, “Oh, yes! I only read pretty books.”

One “pretty book” I’m reading now is The Groucho Letters: Letters from and to Groucho Marx. It was a birthday gift from my son, who shares my peculiar sense of humor (sorry, son) and my appreciation of Marx Brothers movies, which I have enjoyed since high school.[3]

I’ve often said through the years, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, that my lifelong mentors are Jesus and Marx. That piques the curiosity of some people. Many younger folks, however, respond with a blank stare or a polite chuckle, so I’ll go on to clarify: “That’s Groucho Marx, the one with the big black mustache and eyebrows, the glasses, and the cigar—not Karl, the one with the big bushy hair and beard, who you’ve been taught about in school.” For those who are still confused, I offer this helpful distinction: “In the twentieth century, Groucho Marx was directly responsible for 100 million laughs; Karl Marx was indirectly responsible for 100 million deaths.” That’s it in a nutshell.

Now, about who Jesus is—often equally as unknown as Groucho—well, that’s another story for another post.

[1] Some of my friends seem to care about that sort of thing more than almost anything else, so please be reassured.

[2] I have nothing against digital versions—I’ve read several on my Kindle—they’re just not my cup of reading tea.

[3] I attended high school in the 1970s, when Marx Brothers movies, made between and 1929 and 1949, were enjoying a brief revival. Just clarifying in case you thought I was 98 years old. Close but no cigar.