One-Minute Book Reviews

May 4, 2007

Does ‘The Secret Work’? Day 3 of 30-Day Test

Filed under: Book Reviews,Books,Reading,Uncategorized — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 9:55 am

Day 3
Have just recovered from a flirtation with madness. Went to the UPS store to get my mail and see if the Universe had sent more of the $1,000,000+ requested on Day 1 of 30-Day test of advice in The Secret. (Had to agree with comment on this site by P that $825 check yesterday was hardly encouraging, especially since it covered freelance work I did before starting the test.) Got to the store too late and was locked out.

It didn’t seem fair to blame the Universe for not coming up with the $999,175 it still owes me when, if I’d arrived earlier, it might have paid in full. So I decided to pick up $10 worth of scratch-off lottery tickets on the way home from the UPS store. I don’t usually buy these and realized, when I found a shop that sold them, that I had no idea which to get. There are 24 instant games, all displayed on rolls like shiny toilet paper, with incomprehensible names like “The Duke.” (Why did the New Jersey put John Wayne lottery ticket? Why not Bon Jovi or – for those of us with literary inclinations – Edmund Wilson?) I asked a clerk which game he would suggest. He said that a lot of people seemed to be winning modest amounts — $50 to $100 – on one called Big Money Spectacular. I handed over $10 for five $2 tickets and won $25 instantly.

I wondered if Big Money game was “hot,” so I pocketed a $15 profit and reinvested my original $10. I won $17, $50, $22 before I got a set of cards that had no winner. From five games I won $25 + $17 + $50 + $22 + $0, or $114, minus the initial investment of $50, for a $64 profit. I played once more to make sure my streak had ended, lost $6, then quit with a $58 profit. This doesn’t count the dry cleaner’s bill for getting the blizzard of silvery specks from all the scratch-offs off my clothes. So now the tally is:

Requested from Universe on May 1: $1,000,000
Received so far: $825 (hard labor) + $58 (lottery) = $883
Universe owes me (according to The Secret): $999,175 (at a minimum)

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

May 3, 2007

Does ‘The Secret’ Work? Day 2 of 30-Day Test

Filed under: Book Reviews,Books,How to,News,Reading,Uncategorized — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 9:19 am

“You do not have to ask over and over again. Just ask once. It is exactly like placing an order from a catalogue.”
— Rhonda Byrne in The Secret, the No. 1 nonfiction bestseller

Day 2
Just realized I may have made a mistake yesterday in asking the Universe for seven-figure advance for my next book. Forgot to say that I would also accept a) seven-figure movie deal or b) seven-figure paperback deal for one of earlier novels or other writing project. But The Secret says you’re supposed to ask only once for what you want. Should I revise my original request? Or should I assume the Universe knows I would accept a check from DreamWorks or a paperback house? Could not find an answer to this anywhere in The Secret.

But I did get an $825 check for a freelance project that I completed before I read the book. Hooray! Maybe it’s a sign from the Universe that DreamWorks will kick in the other $999,975 during the 30-day test?

Requested from Universe on May 1: $1,000,000
Received so far: $825
Universe owes me: $999,175 (at a minimum)

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

May 2, 2007

Does ‘The Secret’ Work? Day 1 of 30-Day Test

Filed under: Book Reviews,Books,How to,Reading,Uncategorized — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 10:28 am

“We have received thousand of accounts of The Secret being used to bring about large sums of money and checks in the mail.”
— Rhonda Byrne in The Secret, the No. 1 nonfiction bestseller

Day 1
Oh, joy! I’ve just received a seven-figure advance for my next book. I am so happy and grateful that the check arrived. Now I can afford to live in one of those fantastic condos going up down the street instead of a modified garret in building also inhabited by black-and-white psycho ferret owned by downstairs tenant. Can also keep posting on One-Minute Book Reviews because advance has more than replaced all income lost since starting blog. The Delete Key Awards live!

Actually, I don’t have the advance yet. Or even a contract. Or even a finished book. [Note to literary agent: Only kidding, Carol! I don't owe you a minimum of $150,000.] But The Secret says you create your own reality through your thoughts, a process it calls “the law of attraction.” This includes acting as though you already have what you want. The Secret suggests that you start by writing, “I am so happy and grateful now that … ,” then fill in the blank. This sends “a powerful signal to the Universe” that you’ve received what you want “because you are feeling gratitude for it now.” You’re supposed to turn yourself into a kind of human radio transmitter beaming messages to the Universe.

I wrote this post last night and haven’t heard from the Universe yet. Maybe it was busy, or had to be taken to the emergency room? Would like to ask Universe to stop psycho ferret from going postal again, or at least giving tenants rabies, but this is a “negative thought” not allowed by The Secret.

[Note: Today's usual post appears directly below this one. Jan]

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

May 1, 2007

Will ‘The Secret’ Make Me Rich? A 30-Day Test Starting Tomorrow

Filed under: Book Reviews,Books,How to,News,Reading — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 2:30 pm

“When you think of the things that you want, and you focus on them with all of your intention, then the law of attraction will give you exactly what you want, every time.”
— Lisa Nichols, one of the 24 “teachers” quoted in The Secret, the No. 1 nonfiction bestseller

Will The Secret make me rich? Jerry Adler eviscerated Rhonda Byrne’s bestseller brilliantly in Newsweek (March 3, 2007), partly by quoting experts in history and psychology. But, you may wonder, what do experts know? Didn’t “experts” tell us that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and that the Red Sox would never lose the Curse of the Bambino? Shouldn’t somebody actually test the ideas in The Secret instead of just accepting Newsweek’s word that they are scientifically “preposterous”? And what blog is bold enough to do that test except for One-Minute Book Reviews, home of innovations such as the Delete Key Awards for the year’s worst writing, the Totally Unauthorized Reading Group Guides and the Books I Didn’t Finish category for books don’t deliver on the promise of their great reviews?

Starting tomorrow, I’ll test one of the ideas in The Secret every day until May 31 and write a post the next day about what happened. I’ll also continue to post book reviews, which will appear in the post directly below the one on The Secret www.thesecret.tv.

Remember: Some of the experts in the book said you can see amazing results in just a few days, so you may be reading remarkable things in this space by the end of the week.

To avoid missing these posts, please bookmark this site or subscribe to the RSS feed. To read the Newsweek article on The Secret, Google “Adler + Newsweek + The Secret.”

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

Help for People Who Can’t See the Rhyme or Reason of Poetry

Filed under: Book Reviews,Books,Poetry,Reading — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:08 am

Books that make rhyme and meter / In our minds, so much neater

By Janice Harayda

Take a look at the list of top posts on this site on an average day, and you may say see something remarkable: The most popular post is often a review of a little-known book called How to Be Well-Versed in Poetry, a witty guide to understanding the different types of poetry. This post appeared than five months ago (Nov. 20, 2006), and since then it has repeatedly trumped reviews of newer and flashier books, including many bestsellers. And there’s some poetic justice in this: No book makes learning about poetry more fun than this delightful collection, edited by the British critic E.O. Parrott, which illustrates many kinds of rhyme and meter with self-descriptive light-verse examples such as, “A form with very tight parameters, / Heroic couplets use pentameters.”

But Parrott’s book, published by Viking in 1990, can be hard to find. So you may also want to consider John Hollander’s more widely available Rhyme’s Reason: A Guide to English Verse (Yale University Press, $11.95). Like Parrott’s book, Hollander’s uses light verse to describe poetic forms: “A quatrain has four lines / As one can plainly see: / One of its strict designs / Comes rhymed abab.”

One difference between the books is that Parrott includes work by a constellation of poets while Hollander wrote all of his examples. Perhaps for this reason, How to Be Well-Versed in Poetry is wittier than Rhyme’s Reason and covers more poetric forms. But Hollander, a Yale professor, comments on some rhetorical issues that Parrott doesn’t. So many people will want both books. As Hollander says in another context, “Repetition is a powerful and diversified element of formal structures.”

You may also want to read … The Poetry Dictionary: Second Edition: 1) Defines key terms that should be in the vocabulary of every poet. 2) Includes over 250 illustrative poems from Homer to the present day. (Writer’s Digest, $14.99), edited by John Drury with a foreword by Dana Gioia. This reference book in the form of a dictionary has more information than casual poetry readers may need, including definitions of obscure types of poems such as the Fibonacci (which uses the mathematical Fibonacci sequence to determine the number of lines in each stanza). But The Poetry Dictionary may be useful to poets, critics and others. The landmark textbook Understanding Poetry by Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren, first published in 1938, taught generations of college students how read poetry by focusing on the text, not the poet’s politics or other issues that have become fashionable. Understanding Poetry has gone through many editions and remains widely available in libraries. Another warhorse is John Ciardi’s How Does a Poem Mean?, first published in 1959 and widely used in high schools and colleges in its day. This textbook, also available in many libraries, may be most noteworthy today for its six-page analysis of Robert Frost‘s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” which suggests the interpretation that has become standard — that the poem involves a death wish. A memorable third-season episode of The Sopranos in which Meadow explains the poem to A.J. may derive directly or indirectly from this influential book.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 29, 2007

Mysteries and Thrillers Set in Paris, London, Hawaii and Other Places You May Be Dying to Visit

Filed under: Book Reviews,Books,Fiction,Mysteries and Thrillers,Novels,Reading — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:20 pm

When a plot is your passport

Can’t afford that big trip you’d hoped to take this summer? Reading an atmospheric mystery or thriller can help to keep the fantasy aglow until next year. And Bill Peschel has reviewed lots that are set in places I’d love to revisit or revisit. Some of the novels he’s covered and their backdrops include:

Hawaii: Dan Gordon’s Just Play Dead (St. Martin’s, 1999)
Paris in the 1920s: Water Satterthwait’s Masquerade (St. Martin’s, 1999)
London: Simon Shaw’s A Company of Knaves (Minotaur, 1998)
Rural England: Ann Granger’s A Word After Dying (Avon, 1999)
Edinburgh: Ian Rankin’s Dead Souls (Orion, 2005)
The Everglades: Carl Hiaasen’s Nature Girl (Knopf, 2006)

You can read more about these novels at Planet Peschel www.planetpeschel.com, where you’ll also find reviews of many other books in those genres.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

April 24, 2007

How to Support the National Book Critics Circle Campaign to Save Book Reviews

Filed under: Book Reviews,Books,News,Newspapers,Reading — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 4:33 pm

Unhappy about cutbacks in book reviews in your Sunday newspaper?

If so, you may want to get involved in the National Book Critics Circle campaign to stop the trend. You can find out how to help at the NBCC blog, Critical Mass, www.bookcriticscircle.blogspot.com. The site is also posting comments by well-known writers and editors on why it’s important to preserve book sections. I’ve posted my thoughts on this after Rick Moody’s comments.

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

April 19, 2007

Geoff Dyer’s ‘Yoga for People Who Can’t Be Bothered to Do It’

Filed under: Book Reviews,Books,Memoirs,Reading,Travel — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 10:18 am

A book that like, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, describes some of the human dramas you don’t read about in tourist brochures

Yoga for People Who Can’t Be Bothered to Do It. By Geoff Dyer. Vintage, 257 pp., $13, paperback.

By Janice Harayda

Great travel writers have always known that the landscape of the human mind is more fascinating than any sunset. A stellar example is Geoffrey Dyer, an award-winning journalist and novelist who lives in London but takes the world at large as his home.

Yoga for People Who Can’t Be Bothered to Do It is nominally a collection of 11 fictionalized accounts of trips to places that include Libya, Cambodia, Amsterdam, Miami, and Detroit. But Dyer is his own best subject, and he knows it. So he views his life as unsparingly as ruined temples or Art Deco lobbies. An observation he makes in an essay on New Orleans before the Fall sets the tone for this witty and perceptive book: “Living as I have, in many different cities, in different countries, I’ve got used to making new friends at an age when many people are living off the diminishing stockpile amassed at university, when they were 19 or 20.” It is, he adds, “one of the things about things about the way I’ve lived that has made me happiest,” and it’s one of things that may make readers happiest, too.

Best line: Dyer’s chapter on New Orleans describes a 1991 visit that, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, reads like an elegy for an eccentric grande dame with undertones of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Sample line: “At first it was fun, Mardi Gras. I liked the sport of trying to catch stuff – plastic beakers, beads, and other trinkets, rubbish really – thrown from the crazy floats inching through the crowded streets. It was like a cross between basketball and being in a mob of refugees trying scrambling for food rations thrown by soldiers.”

Worst line: The title. It reflects an exchange Dyer says he had with a woman at a New Age-y resort on the Thai island of Ko Pha-Nagan, famous for “full moon parties” that resemble drug-and-alcohol–fueled bacchanals on a beach. “I have an idea for a self-help book,” Dyer says he told his companion. “Yoga for People Who Can’t Be Bothered to Do It.” “But you can’t be bothered to write it, right?” his she replied. Some people would argue that the title is the best line in that it perfectly exemplifies part of Dyer’s appeal: He’s a superb stylist who’s always bringing up things that have nothing and everything to do with the places he visits. But you can’t help but think that from a marketing point of view this title was a disaster, a joke so oblique that it has kept many people who might love this collection from finding their way to it while attracting also people who want a book about yoga, which it is not.

Recommended if … you like Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and other semi-fictionalized books that define places through the people who inhabit them.

Caveat lector: Dyer doesn’t say how much of the material in this book is invented. He seems not to have made up any facts about places he visits but may include imaginary conversations. The people he meets have a way of always coming up with the punch lines for his jokes at the exact moment they’re needed.

Published: January 2003 (Pantheon hardcover), January 2004 (Vintage paperback).

Furthermore: Dyer is the author of three novels and several books that his publisher aptly calls “genre-defying.” They include D.H. Lawrence, Out of Sheer Rage: Wrestling With D.H. Lawrence (North Point, $13, paperback), which was finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

April 18, 2007

‘Ambiguous Loss’: When Someone You Love Is ‘Physically Present but Psychologically Absent’ Because of Alzheimer’s Disease or Other Factors

Filed under: Book Reviews,Books,Nonfiction,Reading — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 9:58 am

Missing someone who is there, but not there

Ambiguous Loss: Learning to Live With Unresolved Grief. By Pauline Boss. Harvard University Press, 155 pp., $22.

By Janice Harayda

Ambiguous Loss is something rare — a book by a therapist who can write. For decades, Pauline Boss has studied what she calls “ambiguous loss” – a kind of loss that occurs when someone is “physically present but psychologically absent” (because of Alzheimer’s Disease or other factors) or when someone is “physically absent but psychologically present” (because of geographic distance or another obstacle that may never be overcome). Boss has found that such losses are uniquely painful, partly because they deprive people of mourning rituals and can go on until the mourner is “physically and emotionally exhausted from the relentless uncertainty.”

Ambiguous Loss describes how people deal with the unresolved grief. But it isn’t a self-help manual so much as a collection of gracefully written stories of men and women who have learned to live with confusion and uncertainty. Case studies in therapists’ books are typically banal, sanitized and, frequently, unbelievable. The accounts in Ambiguous Loss are complex, persuasive and enhanced by apt references to sources from Homer to Steven Spielberg.

Boss may be overreaching when she suggests that the people who are experiencing ambiguous loss may include those married to severe alcoholics, workaholics, and certain others. But her overall argument is strong. And her supporting evidence is never more poignant than when she writes of her own relatives, who left families in Switzerland and moved Wisconsin in the early 1900s, then were prevented by war and financial hardship from returning to Europe. Her grandmother yearned to see her son in America, who couldn’t visit her until she was on her deathbed, and for decades sent letters that began with “My dears” and ended with: “May God protect you always. Mother.” When mail became sporadic during World War II, she wrote wistfully to her kin of the grandsons she had never met: “Even if it is not possible to write, I am with you at all times anyway in my thoughts. I am sure you have two big sons by now. I wish I could see them in person.”

Best Line: “Sometimes the prevalence of ambiguity in contemporary life can be amusing, reaching even into people’s spiritual life. In [a cemetery] in Tokyo, a mechanical Buddhist priest with robotic eyes chants sutras each morning for the recently dead. The question is: Is a priest absent or present?”

Worst line: “Self-blame is dysfunctional because it prevents us from moving on with our lives.” Self-blame can be appropriate if, for example, if you’re Don Imus and slander the entire Rutgers women’s basketball team. At times Boss also uses the word “closure,” which has been so overused that it’s lost most of its meaning, and similar terms, though her book wears its jargon lightly compared with most by therapists.

Recommended if … you want information on the social and emotional context of ambiguous, not a shower of bullet-pointed tips on how to cope.

Furthermore: Boss is a professor of social science at the University of Minnesota, a family therapist and past president of the National Council on Family Relations.

Editor: Elizabeth Knoll

Published: October 2000

Links: www.ambiguousloss.com

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All Rights Reserved.

April 17, 2007

Is Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Road’ Better Than His Earlier Novels?

Filed under: Book Awards,Books,Fiction,News,Novels,Pulitzer Prizes,Reading — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:54 am

Was yesterday’s Pulitzer Prize for fiction another case of “right author, wrong book”?

By Janice Harayda

Book awards often go to the wrong book by the right author. This tends to happen — with the Pulitzers and other prizes — when judges try to make up for past injustices by rewarding an inferior book by a writer whose best work was snubbed.

The Pulitzer judges honored Sinclair Lewis for Arrowsmith after spurning the much better Babbitt and Main Street. They rewarded Ernest Hemingway for The Old Man and the Sea instead of A Farewell to Arms. And even Edith Wharton — as Pulitzer-worthy an author who ever lived — got the fiction prize for The Age of Innocence instead of Ethan Frome or The House of Mirth, both published before the Pulitzers began in 1917.

I haven’t read Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, which won the Pulitzer for fiction yesterday, so I don’t know how it compares to his earlier novels. How about you? Any comments on whether The Road is better than All the Pretty Horses?

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

Janice Harayda is an award-winning critic and former vice-president for awards of the National Book Critics Circle.

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