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BOOK TRAILS

Too personal to address

TEACHING English as a Foreign Language can be an intense and emotional experience. Many teachers express a wish to write about their experiences but few ever do. Jim Lukach is one of the exceptions.
Billed by the blurb as a "collection of essays" this book is written by an older, more reflective narrator recalling the three years spent as an assistant in a school in Senica, Western Slovakia in the early 1990s.

Lost Inside the Happy Noise


Written by:Jim Lukach
Published by: iUniverse, Inc.
Available:Internet bookstores (Barnes & Noble; iUniverse; Amazon)
Price: $11.95 (€10.50 from Amazon.de)



TEACHING English as a Foreign Language can be an intense and emotional experience. Many teachers express a wish to write about their experiences but few ever do. Jim Lukach is one of the exceptions.

Billed by the blurb as a "collection of essays" this book is written by an older, more reflective narrator recalling the three years spent as an assistant in a school in Senica, Western Slovakia in the early 1990s.

The "essays" are not really essays in the traditional sense of the word. They are recollections, or rather impressions, of a time spent when young: drinking, falling in love, teaching and travelling.

The author uses a vivid prose style reminiscent of Keorouac by way of Hemingway with a huge nod to Ginsberg, the creator of "Howl", a word that seems apt to describe the tone of this work.

This is not a travel book: We learn little about Slovakia, or Senica or the people of Slovakia or Senica.

We do learn of Lukach's intense emotional reaction to Slovakia, and also that, in his thirties, he is getting divorced, in therapy and disillusioned with the corporate world that he now inhabits.

That is not enough to sustain the reader's interest and I found myself intensely irritated by Lukach's self-indulgence.

But Lukach can write and some of his recollections, particularly of his young Slovak students, are genuinely emotional. We learn of Lena - "I never met a Lena that I didn't like" - a quiet girl of 11 who takes her teacher to share a day with her parents in their garden. The hot day unfolds slowly, eating vegetables and slanina under the lipa tree, playing football and just hanging out until Lena's father produces the inevitable slivovica. "It was the last time that I was truly happy," Lukach tells us.

And there's the rub: for Lukach the book may be therapeutic; for the reader, his memories of when he was young and carefree in Slovakia are not enough to sustain interest. There is no real narrative thread, even within the individual essays.

Many authors are of course very self-indulgent, not least Kerouac and Ginsberg. But they illuminated the world they saw for the reader and had purpose in their writing.

Another American author, Paul Theroux, famed for his travel books, meets people, tells their stories, draws vivid characters and piques our interest in places we will probably never visit.

Lukach does none of these and as such his book is simply a journal: One which his ex-students, his family and friends will I am sure find interesting but in which the general reader, even one with experience of Slovakia, will find little to entertain.

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