Tracy McMillan's "Why You're Not Married... Yet" is another slick, smart entry into the realm of self-help. If you’ve ever dipped your toes into this...moreTracy McMillan's "Why You're Not Married... Yet" is another slick, smart entry into the realm of self-help. If you’ve ever dipped your toes into this genre before, you know the basics: the premise of most self-help is circular. You are the problem, the new approach (whatever it may be) is the solution, and if you don't believe or strictly follow the new approach, the failure is yours. Blame is a convenient way to keep selling the solution.
Another constant in self-help: the decalogue. It's a pity Moses didn't invent the copyright. There are almost always ten steps to follow, or beliefs to embrace. Sure enough, there are ten reasons McMillan offers as to why women don’t have a ring on it, each one earning its own chapter. If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because this idea was originally presented in brevis in the Huffington Post last Valentine’s Day, although she’s expanded on her ideas and added another four for the sake of publication.
And that brings us to the last constant in self-help: the personal testimonial. One this one, McMillan is a standout. Her own life sounds like one of her “Mad Men” scripts: her mother was a prostitute who abandoned her, her father went to prison, and she was saved by the intervention of a kindly minister’s family. She is basically Don Draper with girl parts and a 'fro. What I liked best about the book was the insight into her life; I hope to Hades that she isn’t pulling a James Frey on us.
All of this is presented under a deceptive cloak of girl power. By encouraging women to love themselves as she has done before them, the bigger message is temporarily obscured. Because McMillan writes for "Mad Men," a show that fashions itself as a critique of the pre-feminist era, it is puzzling to realize she is also a throwback, placing the blame for relationships at the feet of women. This really is what she is saying: if women were just more loving, more nurturing, and more comfortable with the essential nature of men, the world would run more smoothly.
Ultimately, McMillan is most limited by the stupid optimism of the genre. Things don’t just magically work out because you will them into being. I learned this when I was four and tried to will the JcPenny kids’ catalogue into existence. (less)
This case is fascinating. Two plausible scenarios: two young kids took a drug they couldn't handle and had a psychotic reaction, or two young kids ste...moreThis case is fascinating. Two plausible scenarios: two young kids took a drug they couldn't handle and had a psychotic reaction, or two young kids stepped into a live crime scene and contaminated it, thus sealing their tragic fate. Depending on who is sorting through the evidence, either version seems plausible. This book is pro-defense. It glosses over some evidence (the staged break-in, for one) but it is compelling.(less)
There is a heavy nostalgia factor here for Smith grads, full of local Northampton color and campus traditions like Mountain Day and Celebration of Sis...moreThere is a heavy nostalgia factor here for Smith grads, full of local Northampton color and campus traditions like Mountain Day and Celebration of Sisterhood. It's also slightly smarter (or perhaps just more political) than the chick lit/beach read genre to which it aspires. I liked some things about it, especially the character of April and, to a lesser extent, Bree. Celia and Sally were a lot less interesting to me. I also at times was taken out of the narrative by the author's commentary on issues like body image and date rape. Some of the generalizations about Smith were a bit two-dimensional as well. This definitely reads like first fiction, but it was enjoyable nonetheless.(less)
I did not expect to enjoy this as much as I did. In fact I sort of hated it on sight. But once I was drawn in I found that I enjoyed it guiltily. Even...moreI did not expect to enjoy this as much as I did. In fact I sort of hated it on sight. But once I was drawn in I found that I enjoyed it guiltily. Even though the writing is not stellar, it is such a truthful examination of why people are drawn into adultery.
There are a few peculiarities. Maybe I missed something:
1. Opens on a flight from Phoenix to Dallas. Later the protagonist says to the reader that she flew from Tuscon to Dallas. Is this a copyediting error or is the narrator lying to the audience? 2. The minister's wife (Nancy) is described as having poor social skills. For instance, she hosts book club but forgets to offer the women something to drink. I find this hard to believe. Even with the North/South divide, women who are married to ministers deal constantly with socializing and know the basics.(less)
Page-turning chronicle of the Chandra Levy case, written by two Washington Post reporters who covered the case. Creates a vivid sense of DC police mis...morePage-turning chronicle of the Chandra Levy case, written by two Washington Post reporters who covered the case. Creates a vivid sense of DC police misconduct and the inner workings of national politics, and an eerie sense about the dangers of tabloid sensationalism in mainstream media. Nine years after Levy disappeared, this story is still timely.(less)
A good roundup of the facts in this case, compiled by a Newsweek reporter. There is a pro-prosecution bent, which is only a problem if you haven't fol...moreA good roundup of the facts in this case, compiled by a Newsweek reporter. There is a pro-prosecution bent, which is only a problem if you haven't followed other coverage. I have heard enough of the pro-Knox camp that I know which pieces of evidence are in dispute and why. I only spotted one error: I don't think it's ever been proven whether or not a receipt for bleach was ever found by police. Also the author occasionally states her opinion as if it is fact, such as about the disputed character of prosecutor Magnini. Overall a good read, just make sure it's not your only source for information.(less)
This is a curiosity. It bills itself as the untold story of Brad and Angie, but it is really mostly about her, including bizarre digressions into topi...moreThis is a curiosity. It bills itself as the untold story of Brad and Angie, but it is really mostly about her, including bizarre digressions into topics of sibling incest, mental illness, and lesbianism. The author, a journalist, does some undercover work to try to determine if Angie is really just a freak pulling the wool over everyone's eyes with a carefully managed public image. No sooner does he seem poised to draw this conclusion than he bellyflops and decides that Saint Angelina is the real deal. Then, strangely enough, he claims the relationship won't last until 2011. The problem? Angie's "cobra" temper and pervasive drug use.
This book is sloppily written, with a large font and liberal spacing. Poorly copyedited as well. (less)
I have a mildly sick fascination with the Phillips family. I read both "Papa John" and "California Dreamin' " back when they came out and it didn't ta...moreI have a mildly sick fascination with the Phillips family. I read both "Papa John" and "California Dreamin' " back when they came out and it didn't take much to get me in line for Mac's book. Not sure why. I am not the age to be an original fan of either the Mamas and the Papas or "One Day at A Time" (et al). I guess I would lump this more under my fascination with dysfunctional families, particularly show biz ones. So... it would have taken more willpower than I have not to dip into Mac's harrowing tale. Maybe there is a 12 Step program for people like me who can't help themselves. (Do I need to pull out the "I got it at the library" excuse?) For the record, I believe Mac's tale of woe. There is no reason any sane person would make up these kinds of accusations, and her depiction of John Phillips' god-like entitlement makes perfect sense; he was a hedonist who thought he was above the law.
But, for this reader, who has already heard a lot about the family, this story feels like a re-tread. It's also a re-tread of numerous junkie/addict memoirs I have read. They all start to run together after a while. I usually spend time marveling at how the authors survive, given that they're often out of their minds and behind the wheel of vehicles. Then there is the amount of toxins they are ingesting. Usually I'm just relieved they have found their way out of this netherworld. If ever there were a strong anti-drug argument, it's stories like these. No one would want to live through this.(less)
I have an occasional weakness for books about near-death experiences. They're all very fanciful: accounts of people traveling through tunnels of light...moreI have an occasional weakness for books about near-death experiences. They're all very fanciful: accounts of people traveling through tunnels of light, meeting celestial beings, seeing events that will happen in the future. When I saw this one at the library, it didn't take much to get me to read it.
Dannion Brinkley was a cocky troublemaker when he was struck my lightning at age 25. He was pronounced dead. There the story gets interesting. Like Betty Eadie and several others who have published books about their encounters (there are something like 8 million claimed experiences like this on record), Brinkley believes he was transported to Heaven. There are often common elements to to these stories: those who have died see their life in flashback, aware of the pain they've caused others (Brinkley calls this the "panoramic life review") and learn lessons about the meaning of life.
Because near death experiences are often quite similar, books on the subject are often quite similar as well. In addition, Brinkley's New Age spirituality is nothing new either. It is a hodgepodge of New Testament philosophy, A Course in Miracles, fatalism and other vaguely Eastern sources. (less)
I have an unabashed love of celebrity bios. I feel almost no guilt in reading them. There are a few rules though. I have to get them from the library...moreI have an unabashed love of celebrity bios. I feel almost no guilt in reading them. There are a few rules though. I have to get them from the library (natch) and they should not be longer than 275 pages. (Anyone can whittle their life down to that amount; it's called being succinct!) And, please, don't dwell on one's "life philosophy." I have never once read something in a celebrity bio that I would call "wisdom." Problem is, no matter who you are, your life lessons all start to sound the same after a while.
Maureen McCormick is my latest read. She hits all her marks. Her story is brief and surprisingly juicy. It says something about this book that the moment the author falls on the street and sees Jesus calling to her is one of the less outrageous details.
Turns out Ms. McCormick was an abusive wife. Not just an abusive wife... a born-again Christian abusive wife. You read that right: after giving her life over to Jesus, Mo turned on her husband. She slaps him around (I kid you not) and nearly drives him away. He stays because he's committed to God. I found these sections even more riveting than her lost cocaine years. Also, it can't be a coincidence that these bios (those written by women, anyway) always involve confessions of same-sex desire. Mo thought about it, mostly in Amsterdam. Not sure how she feels about the issue now.
Less interesting is her detail about her five seasons playing Marcia on 'The Brady Bunch.' About the only detail worth nothing is that she and Barry "Greg" Williams nearly got it on. Also, little lispy Cindy knew Robert Reed was gay before Mo did.
Oh, and by the end, Mo is being secretly videotaped by her brother who is threatening to ruin her career, all the while acting as kidnapper to their father.
Yes, it goes without saying that I'm embarrassed to have read this book. I got it from the library, that is my defense. Once I started it, it quickly...moreYes, it goes without saying that I'm embarrassed to have read this book. I got it from the library, that is my defense. Once I started it, it quickly became a book to devour. For one thing, the Spears have a family saga that is riveting. Lynne Spears once killed a boy by crashing into him! Dad Jamie is an abusive alcoholic! It all reads like a "Behind the Music" extravaganza. There are some things that don't quite add up (she glosses over a seven month estrangement between her and Britney) but overall this is a go-to for celebrity memoirs. If you think you know what a stage mother is, you may find yourself very surprised by Lynne Spears.(less)
Guilty pleasure, you have met your match. Make no mistake about this, "If I Did It" is OJ Simpson's signed, sealed, and delivered confession of why he...moreGuilty pleasure, you have met your match. Make no mistake about this, "If I Did It" is OJ Simpson's signed, sealed, and delivered confession of why he murdered his ex-wife and her potential lover, Ron Goldman. As many a seasoned prosecutor will tell you, the truth is often simple and clean, and does not require endless rounds of explanation. To wit, "This is a love story, and like a lot of love stories it doesn't have a happy ending."
OJ Simpson and Nicole Brown suffered from amor fati, crazy love. They drove each other nuts for seventeen years, until OJ snapped and killed her and the man he thought was going to be her lover for the night, Mezzaluna waiter Ron Goldman. Initially, he had just gone over in a rage to confront Nicole, but was incensed when he encountered Goldman outside the house. Convinced they were about to have sex, OJ knocked Nicole out (he claims she tripped and fell), killed Goldman and then Brown. After murdering them, he stripped down at the crime scene (presumably driving home nearly naked), dumped his car, and ran up a secret side passageway to his house and jumped in the shower.
Simpson claims he had an accomplice who took the bloody clothes and knife and dumped them somewhere. I found the details about "Charlie" to be a little vague, even hallucinatory. I'm not sure I believe that Charlie exists. I think it's possible OJ took the bloody clothes with him to the airport. The rest of the story sounds right to me, and is familiar to anyone who followed the case.
What is not familiar OJ's side of the story. Oddly enough, I find some of his confessions about Nicole plausible. I don't think this was much of a "domestic abuse" case as some painted it. Instead it was two passionate people driving each other crazy for years, until things turned violent and eventually irretrievably wrong. Of course OJ belongs in prison for life for what he did, but that doesn't make him a monster. Books like this balance out all the hyperbole in true crime writing.(less)