This is not, by even the most generous of standards, a great book. If I remember right - and I'm remembering the early/mid 1980s, not a time I've gotThis is not, by even the most generous of standards, a great book. If I remember right - and I'm remembering the early/mid 1980s, not a time I've got crystalline memories of to begin with, so cut me some slack - this book was written and published hot on the heels of the Goldman book that trashed Elvis in ways that even people who hated the guy couldn't possibly have believed. So, in a way, Priscilla's book was a fast response to that and reads like it, for the most part.
To her credit, she made an effort to make it more than just a response, more than just a hastily thrown together bunch of happy tales meant to draw attention away from Goldman's. She doesn't paint herself, Elvis, or their life together, as perfect... which would be almost, but not quite, as unbelievable as that other book I'm going to stop referring to because... gah, it's such trash.
On the other hand... I've never been a Priscilla fan. She did have this victim-ish air in her writing and interviews back then, and that makes it into the book, too, making it read a little... whiny, at times. It bothered me back when I first read this book; it bothers me a lot less now... probably because I'm not a teenager now! I've got a little more empathy and a lot less inexplicable jealousy.
Aaaaand... while it's not a great book, it's not horrible, either. Elvis has always been on my "read every word" list, so I would've read it anyway... but to my surprise, I still got wrapped up in it, even the second time... in fact, as evidence... I read it while walking - a lot. ...and now I have one bloody sock. haha! Don't ask, just trust me... I was caught up. Light and fluffy, really - just what I needed!...more
A long time ago, I had a neighbor... who lived with his mom. He was probably about 25... ancient to me! His mom did NOT approve of "being all doped ouA long time ago, I had a neighbor... who lived with his mom. He was probably about 25... ancient to me! His mom did NOT approve of "being all doped out" and other cute Mom-variations on the theme. So he had this genius idea to ask me to hold onto his stash. Then... when he wanted it... he would somehow have forgotten it was his, even when I reminded him, and he'd insist on buying it from me. Every.Single.Time. At the time... hey, I was a teenager and money's money. Now? I mean, I know we've gone beyond the "kills brain cells" thing, but I have to wonder just how much he'd smoked, if he kept buying the same pot twice... Anyway, that's the guy I had in my head when I first picked up this book. Turned out... maybe I shoulda been thinking of his mom.
I blame Harlan Ellison for the fact that I own this book. Harlan's such a wonderful asshole... I learned the word "vituperative" because of him. If it wasn't for his foreword, I might never have picked it up. Then I'd have missed... well, ok, I would've survived without reading this book. I'd probably feel a lot cleaner if I'd never read Krassner's contribution of The Disneyland Memorial Orgy, for example.
And I'd feel a lot less robbed of my rebellious teen years if a huge chunk of the stories weren't told about "when I was in my 30s" or didn't include phrases like "my wife/husband and I..." It felt a bit like the That 70s Show episode when the parents got high. Sure, it was funny... but it was funny because it wasn't what you expected. Expect it with this book. Of course, you may be an adult now, and some guy in his 30s sounds like a young'un, but still.
That grievance aside... it's an all right book. Mostly funny (or funny-ish) tales, plenty that missed the mark... This is a good bathroom reader, actually, but I have a new library standard... I am certain to die in some Darwin Award winning fashion, but my bookshelf can at least make me look smart! ...this one just doesn't make the cut. ...more
I ordered this book a week before it hit the shelves...then I waited a month to read it. Why? Because I had this idea that I should read it in one shoI ordered this book a week before it hit the shelves...then I waited a month to read it. Why? Because I had this idea that I should read it in one shot, on a particular date, on an endless train ride back and forth across Chicago. Why? No real clue. But that's what I did. I believe my review at the time would've been nearly as sensible and rational as that story...good thing I've waited nine years to get around to it.
Bob Dylan might be the most consistent person on the planet. If you read Chronicles and don't see that...I'm not surprised. The man sometimes lets his tale meander like a manic hobo - but that's where he's consistent! Print interviews, live interviews...this book...Dylan's always the same. He'll start out waxing poetic about almost anything and then, somewhere along the way...like a raccoon...he'll apparently spot some shiny object out of the corner of his eye...and he'll take you off on some vaguely related tangent that might go on for pages and might or might not come back to where he began. He'll tell you a story...blow some smoke...be so surprisingly average-guy that you feel bad for suspecting he's blown a bit of smoke... "Bob would never do that!" Please. One word - troubadour.
If you think you know Bob Dylan, you don't. If you think you're going to get to know him in this book...well, you're probably not. That's who he is, that's how he likes it. He's gonna sing you a song, do a little dance, shed a veil every now and then...let you think you know something...but you don't, really. This is the guy who writes songs and then won't tell you what they mean...because they mean what YOU think they mean, not what HE thinks they mean. He gets that the story is always for the listener, not the teller. If you don't, at least, start out knowing that, reading anything Bob Dylan has ever written or said could - quite literally - drive you insane. Fun ride, though!
The stories Dylan chooses to tell are interesting for a few reasons, not the least of which is the sometimes ridiculous detail. When he describes a room that he last saw in the 1960s, you have to wonder if he really recalls it in such depth. Then he gets into the books in that room...half of the titles leading him off on tangents...and you are certain of one thing. Bob Dylan is exactly what he set out to be...a troubadour (see?). He may or may not be full of shit sometimes, but he's got this storytelling thing down cold.
Given that Dylan namedrops constantly, it's probably a bit odd that the story that stuck with me all these years is about Sun Pie, a store owner whose greatest claim to fame is most likely his immortalization in this book. Sun Pie is either a little bit of a lunatic or a man of great insight...or both. "Sun Pie was one of the most unique characters, the kind of guy who would be the center of a procession in a parade, or maybe he'd be the nucleus of a mob." I knew a guy like that, once! I think that's one reason that I've always loved Dylan...
I know Chronicles 2 is in the works. That's the real reason I re-read Volume One today. And as a fan of the short-attention span raccoon hobo troubadour style in this book, I worry that someone might sic on editor on the next one and they'll ruin the fun of just letting the storyteller...tell. Let's hope not!
Now...an addendum. I couldn't decide whether or not to include this...or where to include it...or how I felt about it...but the whole plagiarism brouhaha, it jangles. Two reasons. One, the man is the most blatant and upfront thief in the history of thieves (or traditional folklorist, if you prefer). Seriously. He's never hidden that he borrows, in ways big and small, from tons of sources. Finding those things in his songs, for example...it's a bit of a game, a fascinating treasure hunt...and it probably leads some folks to pick up poetry they might never have otherwise heard of. Two, some of the "plagiarized" quotes I've read are two or three words. Or just the barest essence of an idea. The thread, it's mighty thin in those cases. Oh, and three? Just an afterthought - Look...did you really think this dude's memory of 1962 was as crystal clear as he wrote it? The guy practically described the DUST in that apartment, you monkey, surely you weren't buying EVERY word to begin with, were you? In my opinion...hey, if he's ripped off your shit, go on and sue him... Ultimately, it doesn't change what I think of the book.w...more
I've always reviewed books for semi-business-like reasons, but the ones I really love, own? Never. THAT felt a bit like... these are my friends, let'sI've always reviewed books for semi-business-like reasons, but the ones I really love, own? Never. THAT felt a bit like... these are my friends, let's talk about strangers! Suddenly, I'd like to review my way through my own shelves before I die... and since I'm accident prone and living alone for the first time in eons... it seems like death by tripping down the stairs on the ragged hem of a pair of jeans... seems like that could be right around the corner, some days. Yep... Bob Dylan and Jack Kerouac, back to back, they just bring out my sunny side, don't they? I'm gonna need something like Is Elvis Alive?, some Joey Ramone... maybe Krassner's Pot Stories next or I might kill myself before my jeans get around to it.
I first read a teeny tiny bit of this book (not this edition, of course...) when I found it in (and stole it from) my mom's dresser when I was in 8th grade. Then my dad spotted it and flipped his shit for reasons then unknown.
As a picture of Kerouac, and even moreso of the times, I love this book. Learn a thing or two, see something from a new angle... add a new shadow or light to the picture you already have... Books that do that make me happy, and this one does a nice job of that but... and I hate to say this because I'm usually not the type to write an entire review based on something NOT in the book... but when I read that the first edition was rejected by the family, apparently for the claim that Jack's sister committed suicide, I was... more turned off this book than I like to admit.
Either the suicide story was true, and a carefully protected family secret... or Charters got it so damned wrong because her personal connection to Kerouac - the thing, outside of Jack himself, that made this book of special interest - was perhaps a wee bit flimsier than advertised. In either of those cases, that made everything else... potentially suspect, one way or another. Also entirely possible - the whole "rejected first edition" story was bullshit... No matter which was the truth, I started looking at Charters' book with wary suspicion. Sometimes the Internet is like one big fat douchebag tattletale. Boo.
The book is more than readable. It's really quite well done - other than a couple weird lapses in writing style - and I don't expect infallible from anyone... but if it comes down to a fight for space, I do believe that Nicosia's Memory Baby will shove Charters off the shelf in a heartbeat. Lucky for her, I'm just getting started and may forget my annoyance by the time I start winnowing for space....more
ISBN 0873987888 - Printed in U.S.A. Hardcover, 233 pages. Follow up to Sword Scrapbook. Published by Sword of the Lord Publishers in 1975. Compiled byISBN 0873987888 - Printed in U.S.A. Hardcover, 233 pages. Follow up to Sword Scrapbook. Published by Sword of the Lord Publishers in 1975. Compiled by Viola Walden, editorial assistant John R. Rice, introduction by John R. Rice.
I am not a Christian, and am not religious in any real way. However, part of the reason for that is that I grew up with a different impression of Christianity than is the current reality. Christianity, then, was presented as loving and non-judgmental, a group of people whose goal in spreading their religion was based on ideas such as we are our brother's keepers, caring for the poor and needy, and accepting that people could be good without being of your religious persuasion. Nowadays, Christianity is mean-spirited, bigoted and selfish, while insisting that you are "one of us" or you are condemned. So, when I found this book, and noticed the copyright date of 1975, I was nearly giddy. I haven't read good, kind-spirited Christianity in ages! After I opened it, I realized that my memories of nice Christianity might be faulty, or maybe skewed because I was a kid. Wow, was I surprised to find that Christianity, even back when I was a kid, was as mean, uninformed, anti-women, anti-equality, and close-minded as it is now. I'm not sure what to make of that, but I'll get back to it.
The pages of this book are pink and blue, in alternating sections of about eight pages. The content is laid out very much like a scrapbook, with little bits sandwiched in between larger articles, and at various angles. The content comes from a variety of sources, including famous quotes, church bulletins and other places, many unnamed. I've picked out a few things to comment on, as a means of giving a sampling of what is inside.
The first thing to catch my attention was the apparent openness of the compilers. Included articles come from Baptist, Evangelical, Presbyterian and other Christian groups, and some (open-minded and kind) commentary on Jews and Muslims even appears. This is the Christianity I thought I remembered! In particular, a story (page 145) about how the Moslem country of Afghanistan grows grapes, but doesn't condone the making or drinking of wine, and instead flourishes making grape juice and exporting the fruit, seems wonderfully non-critical, and in fact supportive, of non-Christian people. This is common throughout the book - except atheists, who are belittled (page 159), not so much for not building things, as for not calling the things they build "Atheist Hospital" or some such nonsense, as Christians do; clearly atheists know, as Christians have forgotten, that the bible calls for good works to be done in secret.
Page 145 calls for people to not drink and drive, page 77 calls for them to quit smoking. These and other anti-bad-behavior pieces are scattered through the book and are a nice, relatively inoffensive, way for religion to try to influence your life in a positive way. But it also gets weird. On page 76, there's an article that argues that nagging is a sin. This bizarre idea drew my attention to this and the next page. On these pages, this is what you will find: an article arguing that liberal abortion laws have cost "more American lives in one year than the toll of all the wars in American history." This ridiculous, unsupported claim is followed by data from Germany and England, as if they had something to do with it. There is a joke about how women can't keep secrets, and a really disturbing article about the anti-women's liberation group, Men Our Masters (MOM), in which a Mrs. Christina North puts forth the moronic argument that feminism is making men gay. You will also find an article (with no supporting evidence) about how sex education has destroyed morality and led to 20% of all Swedish births being out of wedlock (again, an assertion that isn't backed by facts and doesn't have anything to do with America) and, finally, you will find a short paragraph by Ron Krey of Enid, Oklahoma - "If the women of America want equal rights, it should be in EVERYTHING. Therefore, I propose the United States withdraw half of its men in Vietnam and replace them with the "fairer" sex. Annie, get your gun!" Let's put aside the idiotic wartime logistics. This baboon does not understand that women actually WERE fighting for the right to fight in battle and he seems inordinately pleased with himself for having made such a witty point. These are the views of cave-dwelling chest thumping sexists.
The book has a political slant, and not the one that jives with caring for one another and doing good deeds. This is decidedly right wing, and rails often about people getting assistance. Other than the contradiction with real Christian values, this seems weird in light of articles like Grace Is A Gift (page 166). Here, it is explained that a wage is in return for work, a prize results from winning a competition, an award is in recognition of achievement, and "when a man can earn no wage, can win no prize, and deserves no reward - yet receives such a gift," that is grace. Or it's welfare! So, grace is evil? If welfare is bad (The Case Against Work, page 177, among many other pieces) and grace is welfare... then grace is bad. These people are just spiteful, sometimes, if their own ideology conflicts with their judgmental hatred of others. The political slant throughout the book is the same bigoted, ignorant, racist and sexist stuff we hear today. The ridiculous and divisive notion that only THEY are patriotic suffuses entire blocks of articles.
And last, there are famous quotes here and there and some stories that involve famous people. A quick internet search of some of them will show that several are not true. The most ridiculously blatant one is the story (page 106) of how Abraham Lincoln - lucky for him! - decided to accept Jesus as his savior just days before his assassination. According to the story, a letter from Lincoln to the New York Presbyterian Church in Washington was found "recently" (circa 1975) and, in it, Lincoln said he was prepared to confess his faith on the following Sunday. The trouble is, the man who eulogized Lincoln was from that church and, had it been true, he would've mentioned it in the eulogy. The church would have some information about it on their website. The Lincoln organizations would have the letter, or a copy, or a comment on it. It simply didn't happen. Much like the crazy Mormons who baptize dead people, obviously without their permission, the Christians are determined to lay claim to every president who ever lived, especially those who claimed no such faith in their lifetime.
There are worse things in the world than religion. Rape, murder and war spring to mind, for example. And, certainly, my memory of a kinder, more loving Christianity can't only be a childish misconception, because even Christianish: What If We're Not Really Following Jesus at All? indicates that someone on the inside remembers it, too. But this book, it offends me, deeply. While pretending to be representative of a gentle, forgiving religion, it is ugly and hateful, and in arguing that he who gives charity is exalted and he who receives it is pond scum, it presents a double standard that should shame the entire Christian world.
I continue my quest for good Christian books with real morals. Even with that said, I have to admit that the current crop of Christians will likely find their faith accurately represented here. They will enjoy the little bits of ignorance masquerading as wisdom.
There's a chunk of my brain that tells me that I can't write a completely fair review of this book. A lot of my life had been affected by other peopleThere's a chunk of my brain that tells me that I can't write a completely fair review of this book. A lot of my life had been affected by other people's addictions and the people who enable them, so just reading Gooden's story periodically sent me to the bathroom to throw up... just to give you an idea of my perspective.
However. It really was the rather brutal honesty that sent me to the bathroom in the first place and that, from an objective standpoint, reads incredibly well. You're just reading along, Gooden's caught up in another downward spiral... surely THIS is the last time, you're thinking. For god's sake, he has to hit bottom EVENTUALLY, doesn't he? And he doesn't... repeatedly. The life story of every addict on the planet, written in something of a bang-your-head-against-the-wall way, and like every sober person who wants the addict to recover... you just can't help but marvel at how much he throws away, how much talent he wastes, and low he goes, over and over, before he gets it.
The fact that Doc found his answer with Dr. Drew makes me laugh, a little, but whatever works for you...
The fine line between divulging too much and just getting it all out there yourself, rather than leaving it all in the hands of the tabloids, is a line that Doc dances all over. Repeatedly. His family's dirty laundry getting aired feels far more unclean to read than his tales of partying. His father's inability to be a faithful husband didn't really need to come up... but maybe it explains something about Gooden's own demons. Or maybe it's an excellent excuse, blaming your childhood for your bad adult behavior. Either way, I kept feeling like someone ought to put the blinds down... but after I finish peeking.
The one thing that definitively keeps this book from being a pity party or a shrink-approved blame game is the fact that Gooden owns it all. He might sound, every now and then, like he's painting a picture of a glorious good time – but it's always, eventually, followed by the real-life crash-and-burn.
A couple gaps in the timeline give the reader the feeling that some things, like seven clean years, happened in weeks or months. The addition of a few more dates would have cleaned that up nicely. Other than that, I'd like to say I enjoyed reading the book – but there's the bathroom issue, so "enjoyed" would probably be the wrong word. It's an interesting read, obviously far more about addiction than about baseball.
I wouldn't read it twice – it's rather heart-rending for me – and I wouldn't recommend it to the general fan of baseball books. It IS well written and certainly worth a read for the addicts, the enablers, the fan of memoirs about overcoming, and maybe fans Dr. Drew, if there are such creatures. Fans of Gooden, especially those who look back at Heat: My Life On and Off the Diamond and think the guy was still covering his own, um, tail... in that one - those fans are likely to find that this book feels a lot more honest.
ASIN B000NXI7EU - Elizabeth Appleton (nee Webster) is the wife of John, a rising star among the faculty at Spring Valley, a college in Spring Valley,ASIN B000NXI7EU - Elizabeth Appleton (nee Webster) is the wife of John, a rising star among the faculty at Spring Valley, a college in Spring Valley, Pennsylvania. Elizabeth comes from a wealthy family while John... John does not. She's just in love enough to give up a lot to be with her husband and he's more than enough in love to want to support her without her family's money. Elizabeth's sister, Jean, arrives for a visit and is caught up, by several characters, on the goings-on about the small college town. It is partly through those tellings, and where those stories naturally lead, that the reader gets taken back to the beginning of Elizabeth and John's courtship and brought all the way to the current day.
John is being considered for a promotion that would, for the most part, be the first important "win" of his life. Elizabeth, meanwhile, has conducted an on-again off-again affair that frees her to be more than someone's wife and that appeals to her intellectual side. Still, she knows that she's not going to be leaving her husband any time soon – unless, that is, he happened to have something of his own, some important "win" that would give him some esteem and self-esteem. Everything you'd expect from a romance novel set in a college town is here: politicking and back-stabbing, gossip and jealousy.
Not everyone is going to love this book. If you're a romance reader, especially of modern romances, you have a certain expectation of sex scenes that will not be met here. Here, for example, is the first sex scene between young Elizabeth and John:
'The moment had come and there was no more to say. He got up and sat beside her on the wicker sofa. He kissed her and they stretched out together. He put his knee between her legs and she caught her breath in the new excitement. Soon he had his unresisting hand wherever he wanted it to be, and she whispered to him, "I can't stop now. John, I can't stop. You have to do it, but be careful." "We have to take a chance," he said. "All right, all right we'll take a chance," she said. "Yes, let's take a chance. Oh, my darling. It is over for you?" "Yes," he said.'
Seriously, that's it. Of course, the book was written in the early 1960s, long before steamy sex scenes became widely accepted. The setting of the 1950s-1960s works the other way, too. A reader in, say, their 40s, will actually have to pause to let this sink in: These characters are your parents' age. A reader in their 20s might have a really hard time thinking that these characters are their GRANDparents' age. The book, read now, certainly makes me look back at my family tree with a different notion of who those people were before I came along.
It's well-written, risqué for the time and, most of all, heartbreaking. Author John O'Hara makes it very tough to root for one particular winner, which keeps you in suspense because no matter how things turn out, whether or not John gets his "win," you know that someone is going to lose. It makes you want to read the last few pages the way you might watch a gruesome movie scene - with your hands over your face, peering cautiously out between your fingers.
ISBN 0740760548 - I love history. I love books that correct long-standing beliefs that are not true. That should put this book right up my alley. I'mISBN 0740760548 - I love history. I love books that correct long-standing beliefs that are not true. That should put this book right up my alley. I'm inordinately sad that this book stinks.
Short paragraphs refute popular historical myths, share amusing anecdotes and trivia and are riddled with puns. There are one- and two-sentence notes, as well, generally a sort of page-filler.
History books like these are usually about things that happened in… you know, history. Technically, yes: yesterday is history, but in this context, history isn't usually last week. There are some items in this book that are, pretty much, last week. Those items are more a matter of interpretation than established fact, so there's not a lot of debunking room. On the older items, those that "refute popular myths," there's just too little substance here. Not only does the original story and the "correction" take up FAR less than a full page in a small book, but there's nothing here to back up author Leland Gregory's assertions. I've been able to fact check a few things online and in books but, seriously, isn't citing sources Gregory's job? Gregory does, however, do a fairly good job of repressing his own politics.
The "amusing anecdotes" are far more on target. Though they, too, would benefit from more text and some sourced, they're just amusing enough to make it as they are. If you're looking for a more serious title that challenges what you think you know about history, try ISBN 156584100X Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong.
ISBN 0439800668 - Printed in the U.S.A. (kudos to Scholastic for that). As a Cubs' fan, I understand that even if I live to be 149 years old, I may spISBN 0439800668 - Printed in the U.S.A. (kudos to Scholastic for that). As a Cubs' fan, I understand that even if I live to be 149 years old, I may spend the rest of my life standing on this side of the World Series wall, watching every other team get in. I know that and I don't blame a goat (unless we're going to start calling owners goats). My jealousy doesn't stop me from relishing every little bit of baseball joy there is to be had in the world - including this book.
The stories of several players, heroes in their own teams' World Series dreams, are told in page-long biographies. Season stats are in a sidebar alongside the bio and the facing page features a full color, full page photo of the player. The players come from the teams that went to the Big Show from 1995 to 2004. The players included are: Josh Beckett, Troy Glaus, Tom Glavine, Derek Jeter, Randy Johnson, Albert Pujols, Mariano Rivera, Ivan Rodriguez, and Curt Schilling. The book ends with a two-page spread about the 2004 Red Sox win and two pages filled with the numbers of all four of the '04 games (with a "The Curse of the Bambino" sidebar!), followed by World Series Stats & Facts and a list of MVP Winners.
Yes, the target audience is children, but let's face it - when it comes to baseball, no one ever grows up. Budding young ballplayers will enjoy the stories about their heroes and Dad (or, in my house, Mom) will pick it up when Junior's not around.
ISBN 0743240863 - Manufactured in the United States of America (and oh boy was that good to find in this book, of all my recent reads!). I want to lovISBN 0743240863 - Manufactured in the United States of America (and oh boy was that good to find in this book, of all my recent reads!). I want to love this book because it's about America, a country that I love, and Americans, a people that I... think highly of, in general. But LOVE just isn't happening with this book. I'm in like with it, though.
Chris Matthews lays out a very loving, inspirational and wholly positive view of America and Americans, with "Ten Grand American Notions". These include our love of, and desire to be, "The Reluctant Warrior" and the way we love to cheer for "The Underdog". Using short vignettes about famous figures, both historical and modern, and a little pop culture, by introducing some of America's best loved movies, Matthews makes his case well.
The book is a tough one for me, so I'll rattle off the flaws first. It seems obvious, given the publication date, that this book was sped to press in response to September 11, 1001. While Chris is not, by any means, the only person to rush to put out a "Yay, America!" book after the attacks, I can't help feeling a bit of distaste whenever I come across one, by anyone. In addition, the rush becomes more obvious when you take the time to read, something the editor apparently couldn't manage to do. Typos abound, some of them possibly due to the use of a spellcheck program, which allowed "In short, he was playing for keeps." to become "In shot, he was playing for keeps.", among other stupid, preventable errors. (another, which I found hilarious but I've been told may be "accurate", was regarding the Bush v Gore election, where Matthews asks "So why didn't he [Gore] eat Bush's lunch?" In my neck of the woods, that would be "why didn't he eat Bush for lunch?")
On the positive side, there's nothing here that is partisan. Matthews, generally a conservative Democrat, keeps his modern politics out of it and chooses politically diverse people to represent his "notions". Particularly well written, to my surprise, was the section regarding Bush's coming into his own as a president in the days after the attacks. Tomorrow, Chris will wake up a Democrat, but for the duration of this book, he's just an American who loves his country and loves the history of it, too. The vignettes he chose are not presented as events that shaped America, they're told to flesh out the list of very American notions he offers. This means that some people appear in several chapters, as they personify more than one American character type. George Washington, John McCain, Oprah Winfrey, Rocky Balboa... the list is varied, but they all have things in common, one above all: they're Americans.
Worth perusing for the reminder that, under everything else, we're all Americans and we all love our country. Maybe not worth a spot on the keeper shelf, though.
ISBN 0618610588 - For ages 12 and up. I love history, particularly political history, so choosing to read this one was an easy pick. Joe McCarthy, a mISBN 0618610588 - For ages 12 and up. I love history, particularly political history, so choosing to read this one was an easy pick. Joe McCarthy, a man who set some stunningly low bars for behavior in politics, has been something of the monster under the bed for a good portion of my life, so a chance to revisit his life story was one I was glad to take.
Born into a large, close knit, Irish farming family, Joe McCarthy seemed to aspire to something - almost anything - all the time. He temporarily skipped high school to pursue a career as a chicken farmer, a business he built himself and which was quite successful. When disaster struck and his business was destroyed, Joe picked himself up and carried on, a trait that would define him for most of the rest of his life. The self-made chicken farmer pursued various other jobs, all successful, until he settled on politics, almost by accident.
As Joe was growing into his role as a politician, the world was changing. When Joe was born, there was Imperial Russia. When he was a child, Soviet Russia was born and Communism was on the rise. When Joe met Communism, years later, there was already a great deal of fear in the US about Communism. Joe, who had already developed the habit of telling blatant lies about his opposition in local elections, took great advantage of that fear to get publicity and power for himself. As a senator, Joe pursued Communism wherever he saw it and he saw it everywhere, or claimed he did. As quickly as he rose, he fell. The country finally woke up to the fact that he was simply fearmongering and his fellow senators finally put a stop to his activities. For once, Joe didn't pick himself up and carry on. His health added to his problems and Joe died, an unredeemed drunk, probably of the effects of alcoholism. For a man whose career in the spotlight was stunningly short, Joe certainly made a long-lasting impression.
Author James Cross Giblin does a very good job of not extrapolating, most of the time. Rather than fall into the trap of trying to explain why McCarthy did things, Giblin simply tells the story of what he did, puts it in context and allows the reader to draw his/her own conclusions about McCarthy's motives. This, coupled with the author's fluid, clear, writing style, makes this book an excellent read for the intended audience of young adults. While the books does mention some hot-button topics (homosexuality, alcoholism), the target audience is old enough for those topics, particularly because they are handled somewhat delicately. There is very little bias, a tough task in a book about one of the most reviled men in American political history. The only negative, for me, was that McCarthy's wife Jean, who was at least as bad as her husband, wasn't much of a player in this telling. I appreciated Giblin's pointing out - more than once - that McCarthy had nothing to do with HUAC and that the author didn't waste time on the blackballing in Hollywood that that committee (not McCarthy) was part of.
Surprisingly, adults who haven't got a great depth of knowledge about McCarthy will find this to be a worthwhile book, as well. The author didn't "dumb down" the telling, other than a couple definitions, so it's a good fit those who just want to brush up on McCarthy or fill in the educational gap, for those whose history books ended with WWII. Well worth reading, although very similar to ISBN 015101082X Shooting Star: The Brief Arc of Joe McCarthy.
ISBN 0316037680 - Simply as a human being, it's easy to understand what would motivate someone to write a book like this. A parent who died when you wISBN 0316037680 - Simply as a human being, it's easy to understand what would motivate someone to write a book like this. A parent who died when you were a child is a loss you're going to feel forever; for that parent to have been taken from you by violence has to leave a hole and a lot of questions, especially for a young child who was probably shielded from the details at the time.
Ed Lazar's murder in the 1970s is only the end of hard-to-understand events. Described as a fun-loving, quiet family man and accountant, Lazar hardly seems like the kind of guy who would throw himself into illegal activities with enough fervor to bring the wrath of the legal system and the Mafia down on his head. Still, that's exactly what appears to have happened as, on the eve of his grand jury testimony, he is silenced. More than thirty years later, his son returns to the story to find out more about what happened to his father.
Seeking answers and understanding is probably the most normal of responses to the murder of a parent - putting that quest out in book form is a step beyond and it's a step most people never take. I don't come away from this book entirely sure of author Zachary Lazar's purpose in taking that step. Two reasons come to mind and I discard making money, if only because that's distasteful. That leaves me with the suspicion that the reason is to paint a different public picture of his father to replace the "criminal accountant" image of three decades ago. The problem with this is, and Lazar might not be aware of it, that few people had ever heard of Ed Lazar, so few people had a negative opinion of him. This book simply throws more light on him and - because there is so little here - leaves him looking more like a criminal participant than before I opened the book.
As a genealogist, I can understand how hard it is to build a picture of a person whose life ended before yours really began. For that reason, I can appreciate the need to bolster the story with obviously made-up conversations and events. Lazar has taken people and known facts and drawn on the known to create details that seem in character and in keeping with the facts to flesh out the story. The disclaimer for this is hidden away, in tiny print, on the copyright page: "The events in this book are based on my research of what happened to my father over thirty years ago. Where the record was incomplete, I have written what I think might have taken place." This turns out to be the reason that I don't really like this book - the majority of it has the feel of being made of whole cloth and there are few reference points (articles, testimony, etc) to anchor it in reality.
The writing style is easy to read, if periodically awkward. The author veers, now and then, from telling a tale to being a part of it. It's not hard to follow, it's just awkward because it's a bit random. Had Lazar chosen to write the story of his own journey, it would probably have been a superb read. It might have cost him more in personal pain, but the payoff for the reader would have been tremendous. That might sound callous, but that's sort of the point - books are for readers. This book feels like it's for the author.
ISBN 1416587047 - I chose to read this one for several reasons. Love ghost towns! My grandmother was infatuated with Gloucester. Dogtown? Sounds likeISBN 1416587047 - I chose to read this one for several reasons. Love ghost towns! My grandmother was infatuated with Gloucester. Dogtown? Sounds like my kind of place! Enchantment? Cool!
Dogtown has many stories. In recent history, there was the murder of a local woman. Long ago, there were tales of witches. Both of those stories, along with others, are woven into this book as author Elyssa East ventures into this abandoned area, now largely reclaimed by nature, in her search for the Dogtown of artist Marsden Hartley.
I struggled to stay focused at times. The place sounds fascinating and the stories ARE interesting. The trouble is that, in order to really get a feel for Dogtown, I was forced to turn to the internet. This is the sort of book that you just KNOW will have images - some of Hartley's Dogtown paintings, photos of the area, something. And you'd be wrong, sadly. For me, having to turn to an outside source became a great distraction because the internet has more information than East, or anyone, could ever fit into one book. I spent more time online than I did reading the book; the author could have trapped me by simply including what any reasonable person will want to see.
On top of that, there really are too many stories in this book to make it easy to latch onto one of them. East's personal tale grows out of her interest in Hartley's work, whose story is also here. The histories and some stories of locals she meets along the way add to the feeling that East tried to fit too many stories into one book. I enjoyed reading it, but it ended up simply being an introduction to a topic that I learned more about elsewhere. It's well-written. It just seems, in covering everything, to lack real clarity. And pictures. Yes, I know I'm repeating myself.
ISBN 1400067871 - The first, and only, prediction I'd make on this book is that most readers will be way geekier than I. And I totally mean that in aISBN 1400067871 - The first, and only, prediction I'd make on this book is that most readers will be way geekier than I. And I totally mean that in a good, awestruck, way because - you've surely noticed by now - geeks run the world and I don't.
Given (some of) the (extraordinarily) lengthy (long-winded...) reviews on this book (which scared me away from reading the book for a while), I'm going to forego any real recap of the book. If you haven't bothered to read any of the more verbose reviews, my short recap: You know the TV show Numbers? This book and that show have two things in common - the use of game theory and I like both for the same reason, because they're over my head 80% of the time but strive not to be. Beyond that, one's a TV show with all kinds of stunningly unlikely events and the book is real, so they go their separate ways pretty early on when you compare them.
If you're like me and tend to let your eyes glaze over when math is the topic, you'll probably find yourself surprised by The Predictioneer's Game. I picked it up because my son is a math geek studying accounting and I can't help but think that there's got to be more interesting things to do with numbers. In my opinion, this book proves me right! Best of all, it's written in a way that is accessible to even the least math-adept amongst us, so it's got a broader appeal than I expected. There were a few glazy-eyed moments for me, but that's more an attention span issue than anything else and I feel comfortable recommending this one to anyone (especially my son!).