Mitch Albom: the influence of his life on his works

1. Introduction
2. Mitch Albom’s biography
3. Mitch Albom’s main works
4. Conclusion
5. Bibliography

The process of writing is very complicated and it is always interesting to know what make people write, what inspire them and what influence their writing. Obviously, a good writer is very dependable on his/her inspiration but this notion seems to be quite abstract and often it is possible to trace the impact of much more trivial things influencing a writer’s work. As a rule a writer’s life is the main source for inspiration and probably the most influential factor which defines literary his/her works. In fact, in many cases it is possible to say that literary work of a writer is the reflection of his/her life and events that occurred in it which produced a significant impact on the writer’s personality, his views and beliefs as it happened to Mitch Albom, an outstanding contemporary writer, whose life experience is reflected in such works of his as “The Five People You Meet in Heaven”, “Tuesdays with Morrie”, “Fab Five”.

Mitch Albom’s biography
Mitch Albom is a contemporary American writer, who is also well known as a gifted sport reporter. He was born in New Jersey in 1958 but he was raised in Philadelphia where he spend most of his youth. In 1979 he graduated from Brandeis University where he earned his Bachelor of Arts degree and where he got acquainted with his professor Morrie Sachwartz, the main character of “Tuesdays with Morrie”, one of the main works of the writer. Later he graduated from Columbia University and earned the Master degrees in Journalism and Business Administration.
However, “before entering the world of journalism, he was an amateur boxer and nightclub singer and pianist” (Blackburn 2001:139). For over 10 years he has been one of the most respected sportswriters and commentators. As a sport journalist he wrote articles for such newspapers as the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Detroit Free Press where he worked since 1985 “until his reunion with Morrie in 1995” (Blackburn 2001:191). Albom also has his own nationally syndicated radio show, Monday Sports Albom. The author has won many awards, among which may be named awards from AP, UPI, Headliners Club, and the National Sportswriters and Broadcasters Association (Blackburn). His works has appeared in numerous national and international publications.
As for his literary career, it should be said that he is the author of eight books, including “Live Albom I” (1987), “Live Albom II” (1990), “Live Albom III” (1992), “Live Albom IV” (1995), “Bo”, the autobiography of Bo Schembechler co-written with Schembechler, “Fab Five”. But the work that has made him really popular is “Tuesdays with Morrie” that “propelled Albom to literary superstardom” (Stewart 2000:215) as well as his latest work “The Five People You Meet in Heaven”, which is to a significant extent autobiographical. At the same time, it should be pointed out practically all of his works are based on his own life experience and depicts the life of the author and his thoughts as well as of those people he new well and respected a lot.

Mitch Albom’s main works
Speaking about works written by Mitch Albom, it is necessary to say that though they are not very numerous they are still quite interesting and noteworthy because they are closely related to the real life and author’s personal experience and feelings. In fact they make a reader feel as if the author involves him/her in his own life and reveals his feelings and thoughts that disturb his as well as he raises problems he is particularly concerned about.
Probably, it would be better to start with a work that has brought him nationwide fame, “Tusedays with Morrie”, which is as tragic and complicated as the real life only can be. In this work the author recalls how the political controversies of 1970s affected his and Morries years at Brandeis University. Following the national withdrawal from the Vietnam War in 1973, and former president Nixon resignation from office in 1974, the Brandeis campus, as many other college campuses nationwide, was “a hot bed for political debate and protest” (Bokenkamp 1999:304). Continuing the thread of racial tension in “Tuesdays with Morrie” is a story Morrie tells about an incident in which he had acted as a “negotiator between the university president and a group of black students who felt that they were being oppressed by the school administration” (Bokenkamp 1999:311).
In fact the book is based on the conversations of the author with his of Lou Gehrig’s disease. The novel is an emotional portrait of a life lived and a guide to how the life should be lived. Within the book Mitch Albom realizes that he lived his life in vain and he looks for meaning of life in conversations with his professor, Morrie Schwartz, which being extremely close to death he teaches the author what is the meaning of life. Morrie teaches him “to reject the corrupt mores endorsed by popular culture in favor of personal, ethical system of values” (Baye 2002:284). In such a way Morrie rebels against popular cultural norms and appeals to higher moral values.
To a certain extent similar to Morrie, is Albom’s brother, Peter, who suffers from cancer and, being separated from the rest of the family does not want to re-establish normal relations with Mitch and other members of the family. But Mitch has learned the Morrie’s principle: “love or perish” and “despite his fierce independence and refusal of help, Peter also needs the love of friends and family to survive his cancer” (Bokenkamp 1999:335). In such a way the author indicates what an influence his acquaintance with Morrie Schwartz has produced on his entire life, his views and moral values. At this respect the book seems to be a kind of confession which tends to teach other people what their life should be on the basis of his own life experience.

The latest novel “The Five People You Meet in Heaven” is also based on Albom’s life experience and is significantly influenced by the circumstances of his life and its political and social trends. The book centres on an 83-year-old wounded war veteran who is killed in a tragic accident. He soon discovers that heaven “isn’t merely a destination but a place where five people help the deceased understand the significance and value of their life on earth” (Baye 2002:399). The main character of the book, Eddie also looks for the meaning of life for he feels trapped in a meaningless life of fixing rides at a seaside amusement park. Quite symbolically he sacrifice his life for the sake of a girl’s life which he attempts to save from a falling cart. On the heaven he meets five people that have changed his life forever and who explain his life for him. One by one, Eddie’s five people “illuminate the unseen connections of his earthly life” (Baye 2002:317). Gradually he learns about the interrelationship of all lives, about sacrifice, the everlasting value of love, the poisonness of lingering anger and, finally, how his daily routine had in fact fulfilled his life’s intended purpose of keeping Ruby Pier’s rides safe, and a source of joy, for generations of children.
Obviously the main point of the story is to assist those like Eddie in the book and Albom’s real-life uncle, also named Eddie (to whom the book is dedicated), who feel their life unimportant, to realize that their lives really have an importance. It can be said that “the value of his fable-like story is the insights it imparts about life and the meaning of sacrifice” (Baye 2002:356) especially, concerning the people who came through a war as Eddie, both fictional and real uncle, did.
As four “Fab Five”, it should be said that to a certain extent the book is less moralistic as the two discussed above, nonetheless it is not less influenced by the author life experience. The book was written earlier than the two analysed above and basically it is about Michigan University basketball team known as fab five. The fab five were “a group of players that were completely dominant players who played in 1992-93 season” (Stewart 2000:381). Actually it is quite natural that Albom, having a great experience as a sportswriter and journalist turns to this team story.

Thus, taking into consideration all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that Mitch Albom, as any other writer, used his life experience in his literary works. Moreover, his books were based on his own life experience and some of them, such as “Tuesdays with Morrie”, are to a certain extent autobiographical. On analysing some of his works, it is possible to say that all of them reflect the author’s life, its political and social reality and views and beliefs of the writer shaped under the influence of the whole society and some special people in particular, like Morrie. This is why, it is obvious that willingly or not, or probably consciously or unconsciously, writers’ literary work is shaped by their life experience.

1. Baye, H. (2002). Mitch Albom’s works. New York: Touchstone.
2. Blackburn, R. (2001). Mitch Albom: Biography. LA: Routledge.
3. Bokenkamp, S.R. (1999). Contemporary American Writers. Berkley: University of California Press.
4. Stewart, L. (2000). Mitch Albom. New York: McGraw Hill.

Our services