One-Minute Book Reviews

March 11, 2008

Sex Scenes We Don’t Want to See in Eliot Spitzer’s Memoirs — From ‘The Confession’ by the Former New Jersey ‘Luv Guv’ James McGreevey

Filed under: News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 6:47 pm
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What we don’t want to read if the the former governor of New York gets a book deal out of the accusation that he met with prostitutes

“What is it with those Democrats in the East?” a liberal friend in Seattle asked on the phone today. “First Jim McGreevey. Now Eliot Spitzer. Before that, Bill Clinton. The Democrats can’t keep their flies zipped.” And publishers can’t seem to keep their checkbooks closed when it happens.

So here are some sex scenes we don’t want to see in the book we may get from Eliot Spitzer, accused by law-enforcement officials of having met with a high-priced call girl in a Washington hotel.

All of the following lines come from The Confession, a memoir by the former New Jersey governor James E. McGreevey, who stepped down in 2004 after outing himself as a “gay American”:

“I stretched out on the couch and placed my legs out over his knees … I then leaned forward and hugged him, and kissed his neck. His response was immediate and loving, just what I’d fantasized about since we first locked eyes.”

“I pulled him to the bed and we made love like I’d always dreamed … boastful, passionate, whispering … “

“We undressed and he kissed me. It was the first time in my life that a kiss meant what it was supposed to mean – it sent me through the roof.”

“Our first few times burned so fiercely in my mind I could hardly recall them even as we were still lying together. “

“‘I love you … You make me so happy…. I’ve never, you know …’”

“He greeted me in his briefs. ‘Did anybody see you?’ he asked, closing the door quickly.”

You can read more about The Confession (Regan, 2006) www.harpercollins.com, by McGreevey and David France, in “Who Writes Better Sex Scenes, Danielle Steel or Jim McGreevey?” www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/01/08/).

Coming Friday on One-Minute Book Reviews: The winners of the Delete Key Awards for the year’s worst writing in books. The Confession was a finalist in 2007 but lost to the grand prize winner Danielle Steel and runners-up Mitch Albom and Claire Messud.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

‘There’s No Such Thing As a Private Conversation’ in New Jersey Politics — Quote of the Day From James McGreevey’s ‘The Confession’

Filed under: News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 5:02 pm
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From one governor to another …

“One of the cardinal rules of New Jersey politics is, there’s no such thing as a private conversation. Governor [Brendan] Byrne once told me this, as though imparting a philosophical truth from the ages. ‘Somewhere along the line,’ he said, ‘you are going to be taped by someone wearing a wire.’ This is who so many political meetings start with a big bear hug – a New Jersey pat down among friends.”

From The Confession (Regan, 2006) by James E. McGreevey, the former New Jersey governor who resigned his post after outing himself as a “gay American,” in a memoir written with David France www.harpercollins.com.

(c) 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

Jay McInerney Satirizes New Yorker-Style Fact-Checking in ‘Bright Lights, Big City,’ A Defining Novel of the 1980s

Filed under: Novels — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:35 am
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The book that put spring in the step of the phrase “Bolivian marching powder”

A lot of people have suggested that book publishers need to adopt the system used in the fact-checking department at The New Yorker, where Jay McInerney worked briefly. How does it work? McInerney sends up fact-checking — among many other things — with sardonic verve in Bright Lights, Big City (Vintage, 1984), his satirical tale of a young Manhattanite who by day works for an elite magazine and by night seeks relief from the pretension in drug-fueled revels. (This book put spring in the step of the phrase “Bolivian marching powder.”) Along with Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities, Bright Lights, Big City helped set the tone of fiction in the 1980s and may be McInerney’s best book. Among its virtues: It shows the rare, successful use of second-person narration in a novel. That device works partly because it suggests its anti-hero’s estrangement from himself: He’s alienated enough from his life that he sees himself not as an “I” but as a “you.”

(c) 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

Wikipedia Claims Laura Simms is Ishmael Beah’s ‘Foster’ Mother, Not His ‘Adoptive’ Mother, As He Says – Was He Adopted or Wasn’t He?

Filed under: News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:58 am
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The latest mystery in the Ishmael Beah controversy is: Was he adopted or wasn’t he? The author of A Long Way Gone said in a recent statement released by Publishers Weekly that professional storyteller Laura Simms is his “adoptive” mother www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6524214.html. But the online encyclopedia Wikipedia has been saying for months Simms is his “foster” mother en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ishmael_Beah. Anybody can edit an entry on Wikipedia, including Beah and his publicists, and they could have changed this if it was wrong. So why don’t the statements match?

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

March 10, 2008

Has Ian McEwan Suffered Enough? Or Should He Still Get a 2008 Delete Key Award for This Writing From ‘On Chesil Beach’?

Filed under: Delete Key Awards — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 8:35 pm
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First On Chesil Beach got longlisted for a Bad Sex in Fiction Award from the Literary Review www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/11/23/. Then it lost the Man Booker Prize to Anne Enright’s The Gathering. And last month Atonement came up empty at the Oscars.

Has Ian McEwan suffered enough? Or should he still get a Delete Key Award on Friday? The following passages qualified him for the shorlist, announced on Feb. 29 www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2008/02/29/:

“Like most young men of his time, or any time, without an easy manner, or means to sexual expression, he indulged constantly in what one enlightened authority was now calling ‘self-pleasuring’ … How extraordinary it was, that a self-made spoonful, leaping clear of his body, should instantly free his mind to confront afresh Nelson’s decisiveness at Aboukir Bay.”

“Because the instrument was a cello rather than her violin, the interrogator was not herself but a detached observer, mildly incredulous, but insistent too, for after a brief silence and lingering, unconvincing reply from the other instruments, the cello put the question again, in different terms, on a different chord, and then again, and again, and each time received a doubtful answer.”

If you’d like to try to influence the outcome of the Delete Key Awards, you have until 9 p.m. Wednesday to leave a comment. Mercy or no mercy?

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

National Book Critics Circle Award Reality Check: Mary Jo Bang’s ‘Elegy,’ Poems About Her Son’s Death, an ‘Addiction Catastrophe’

The latest in an occasional series on book-award winners and whether they deserved their honors

Title: Elegy: Poems. By Mary Jo Bang. Graywolf, 92 pp., $20.

What it is: Sixty-four poems about the year after the death of Bang’s 37-year-old son, an event described as an “addiction catastrophe.” Elegy consists mostly of short- or medium-lined free verse and includes the three elements of classical elegy: praise, lament and (in this case, faint) consolation.

Winner of … this year’s National Book Critics Circle award for poetry www.bookcriticscircle.blogspot.com

Was this one of those awards that make you wonder if the judges were all on Class B controlled substances? No. But some of the judges did seem to be enjoying the wine at the reception after the awards ceremony on Thursday night.

Worthy of a major prize? Yes, chiefly for the poem “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus.” At times Elegy reads less like poetry than therapy, strewn with banal words or phrases: “describable,” “a wince-making barrenness,” “Paxil’s myoclonal kick.” Some of its ideas might have come from a card rack at Shop-Rite or a women’s-magazine article on coping with loss. (“I love you like I love / All beautiful things.” “Grief was complicated.”) But poetry collections can justify their awards with a single poem. And Elegy does it with the exceptional “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus,” an homage in multi-part harmony to Bang’s son, to the Bruegel masterpiece with the same title and to poems about the painting by William Carlos Williams and W. H. Auden. In this 22-line poem Bang recalls the last time she saw her son, standing on a subway platform after they had admired mosaics at the Met, and reflects that their day should be embedded in amber. Then, in the chilling final lines, she suggests a brutal truth about the isolating effect of death: “ … And how can it be / that this means nothing to anyone but me now.” Bang knows what Auden meant when he wrote in “Musee des Beaux Arts” that “everything turns away / Quite leisurely from the disaster.” And in “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus,” she deals with this ageless idea in a way that is fresh and memorable.

Best line: The lines quoted above, beginning: “And how can it be.”

Worst line: The jarring pun in the line: “And my I sees.”

Published: October 2007 www.graywolfpress.org

Consider reading instead: Anne Porter’s Living Things, which has both new poems and all of those collected in her An Altogether Different Language, a National Book Award finalist www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/03/28/. Living Things includes the wonderful poem “For My Son Johnny,” Porter’s elegy for her son, who had what she believes was autism or schizophrenia. Bang tells you so little about her son Michael that Elegy is almost a misnomer and Grief might have been a better title. You don’t feel you know Michael from the book — you how his mother experienced his death. This isn’t a “flaw.” Poets have a right to choose their subjects. But Porter’s son Johnny is so alive on the page in “For My Son Johnny” that you learn more about him from one poem than you do about Bang’s son from her entire book. Poetry groups might want to compare how two admired contemporary poets have portrayed the loss of a mature child.

Furthermore: Bang has written four other collections of poetry. She is a professor of English and director of the Creative Writing Program at Washington University. “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus” appeared in The New Yorker. Other poems in the collection have appeared publications that include Poetry and The Paris Review.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

Ishmael Beah’s Parents May Be Alive and ‘No One Knows Where They Are,’ Wikipedia Says — Entry Contradicts Author’s Statements in the New York Times and Elsewhere — Has the Site Been Gulled?

Filed under: News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 2:52 am
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[Update, 11:10 p.m., March 10: Wikipedia has deleted the sentence saying that Beah's parents may be alive that is discussed in the post below. But it's war over there at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ishmael_Beah, so don't expect this to last. And the entry still contains material that directly contradicts statements made by Beah or others. I'll try to comment briefly on the mess the next day or so. Jan]

More bizarre changes in the entry for the author of A Long Way Gone, who claims he was a child soldier in Sierra Leone for more than two years

What is going on with the entry for Ishmael Beah on Wikipedia? The online encyclopedia is now saying that Beah’s parents may not be dead. Instead his parents “left” — whether they left their village or country is unclear — after war broke out in Sierra Leone: “No one knows where they are now.”

This statement contradicts an excerpt from A Long Way Gone in the New York Times Magazine in which Beah said his parents and brother were dead:

“After I discovered that my parents and two brothers had been killed, I felt even more lost and worthless in a world that had become pregnant with fear and suspicion as neighbor turned against neighbor and child against parent.”

The latest change on Wikipedia also contradicts other statements Beah has made and entries about him that have appeared on the encyclopedia for more than six months. It further implies that he had one brother when he says in his book that he had two.

Some of these changes are a baffling. Slate says Beah’s friends and foes have made competing changes in his Wikipedia listing www.slate.com/id/2185928/. But you can’t always tell which camp has made them.

You might assume that the latest change, suggesting that Beah’s parents might be alive, had come from a detractor who wanted to discredit the author’s repeated claims that his family is dead. But it could also have come from a friend who knew that Beah’s parents or a brother might be about to come forward – an ally who wanted to help Beah backpedal and who had leaked material, the way political campaigns do, as a trial balloon. The idea that Beah’s parents might be alive appeared on Wikipedia three days ago and, because anybody can edit its entries, his PR team has apparently allowed it to remain in place.

In either case, why does Wikipedia keep allowing the site to be used like this?

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

March 9, 2008

Which Has Worse Writing – ‘The Secret’ or ‘A New Earth’? You Be the Delete Key Awards Judge

Filed under: Delete Key Awards — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 7:37 pm
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Which has worse writing: Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret (Atria) and Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose (Plume)?

Both are among the finalists for 2008 Delete Key Awards, the winners of which will be announced on Friday. And One-Minute Book Reviews welcomes comments that could help with this difficult choice. Here are some of the passages from The Secret and A New Earth that qualified them for the shortlist:

From The Secret:

“The most common thought that people hold [about fat], and I held it too, is that food was responsible for my weight gain. That is a belief that does not serve you, and in my mind now it is complete balderdash! Food is not responsible for putting on weight. It is your thought that food is responsible for putting on weight that actually has food put on weight.”

From A New Earth:

“We are in the midst of a momentous event in the evolution of human consciousness. But they won’t be talking about it in the news tonight. On our planet, and perhaps simultaneously in many parts of our galaxy and beyond, consciousness is awakening from the dream of form. This does not mean all forms (the world) are going to dissolve, although quite a few almost certainly will. It means consciousness can now begin to create form without losing itself in it. It can remain conscious of itself, even while it creates and experiences form.”

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

The Delete Key Award Winners — Friday On One-Minute Book Reviews

Filed under: Delete Key Awards — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 3:33 pm
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Vote now on the question: Which authors aren’t using their delete keys enough?

One-Minute Book Reviews will announce the winners of the 2008 Delete Key Awards for the year’s worst writing in books on Friday, March 14, beginning at 10 a.m. Eastern Time. This is a date change. The winners are traditionally named on the Ides of March, the date of Julius Caesar’s assassination, because the winners assassinate the English language with their bad prose. But March 15 falls on a Saturday this year, and you might be out at Circuit City buying a new wireless router then.

The finalists were named on Feb. 29 www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2008/02/29/. If you click on the link to that date, you’ll see a post that lists the titles of all the books on the shortlist. Below it, you’ll find 10 separate posts with samples from their writing.

Jan Harayda is the sole judge of the Delete Key Awards. But she realizes that many visitors to her blog are smarter than she is, which has become clear repeatedly in their brilliant comments on aspects of books she hadn’t noticed.

So in making her decision she will consider incisive and well-reasoned arguments on such questions as: Which is more deserving of an award — Rhonda Byrne’s advice in The Secret that if you want to lose weight, you should avoid looking at fat people, or Eckhart Tolle’s comment in A New Earth that consciousness may be “awakening from the dream of form” in “many parts of our galaxy and beyond”?

You can vote by leaving a comment on any post about the Delete Key Awards, including this one. The deadline for comments is 9 p.m. Eastern Time on March 12.

Please bookmark this site or subscribe to the RSS feed to avoid missing these posts. Thanks for visiting One-Minute Book Reviews.

(c) 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

Another Book Awards Reality Check — Coming Tomorrow

Filed under: Book Awards — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:57 pm
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Have you ever read a book that won a major award and thought, “Were those judges all on Class B controlled substances?” One-Minute Book Reviews deals with questions like these in its occasional “Reality Check” series that explores whether recent winners of literary prizes deserved their honors.

Tomorrow this series will focus on Mary Jo Bang’s Elegy www.graywolfpress.org, which won the National Book Critics Circle award for poetry on Thursday www.bookcriticscircle.blogspot.com. You can find other posts in the series by using the search box on this site to search for “Reality Check.”

(c) 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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