One-Minute Book Reviews

May 27, 2008

‘Goodnight Bush’ — A Parody in the Style of a Certain Children’s Book

Filed under: Humor — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 3:49 pm
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You could argue that you can’t satirize the man who said “I know how hard it is to put food on your family” because his actions have outstripped reality. But that hasn’t stopped Gan Golan and Erich Origen from sending up the president in their just-published parody of a certain children’s book, Goodnight Bush (Little, Brown, 48 pp., $14.99). Until I can put my hands on a copy of this one, you can learn more from the reader-reviews on www.amazon.com and from GalleyCat www.mediabistro.com/GalleyCat/, which has an article on it today.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

May 7, 2008

Books the Candidates Need #1 – Hillary Clinton – ‘How to Make Your Man Behave in 21 Days or Less Using the Secrets of Professional Dog Trainers’

Filed under: How to,Humor — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:53 am
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This is the first in a series of three posts this week that will suggest books for the U.S. presidential candidates on Wednesday (Hillary Clinton), Thursday (John McCain) and Friday (Barak Obama).

Hillary Clinton will have to do more than wrest the nomination from Barak Obama if she stays in the presidential race: She’ll have to keep Bill from sabotaging her chances by going off message again. That’s why she needs How Make Your Man Behave in 21 Days or Less Using the Secrets of Professional Dog Trainers (Workman, $9.95), by Karen Salmansohn with art by Alison Seiffer. This guide tells women how to recognize men such as The Hound, who can’t help chasing anything that moves, and offers tips on coping with them. “From day one, you must seize the leadership role,” Salmansohn says. “Never be extra-nice to a dog who’s misbehaving in hopes of winning him over … he’ll get the hint who’s boss.” If he runs away, don’t panic but stay calm and act like you’re having lots of fun without him: “Soon he’ll be totting eagerly back.” A tip that may prove useful at $1000-a-head fundraisers: “Dogs like to eat out of your plate.”

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

May 6, 2008

Sex and Shuffleboard – A 28-Year-Old Former Joke Writer for David Letterman Moves Into a Retirement Village in Florida Where He’s the Youngest Resident by Decades

Filed under: Humor,Memoirs — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:20 am
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At Century Village, Thanksgiving resembles Parents Weekend at a college “but instead, it’s the kids visiting the parents”

Early Bird: A Memoir of Premature Retirement. By Rodney Rothman. Simon & Schuster, 256 pp., $13, paperback.

By Janice Harayda

An old joke says that “Florida is God’s waiting room.” Rodney Rothman showed up for his appointment early when, at the age of 28, a television show he was working on in Los Angeles was cancelled.

Rothman moved into the Century Village retirement complex in Boca Raton www.centuryvillage.com/BocaRaton.htm, hoping to parlay the experience into a book. He seems to have hoped to write a geriatric version of one of David Sedaris’s fish-out-of-water stories — maybe the one about working as an elf at Macy’s Santaland. Rothman isn’t as inventive as Sedaris, who often seems to be writing under the influence of a species of mushroom that only he has discovered. But Early Bird is still a snappy and entertaining account of life in place where Thanksgiving resembled Parents Weekend at a college “but instead, it’s the kids visiting the parents.”

The question is how much of the book you can believe. Rothman bills Early Bird as a memoir but has said that he is “not a journalist” and that some of the writing is hyperbolic. He also caught flak when, in 2000, he wrote an article for The New Yorker about sneaking in to work for an Internet company that hadn’t hired him. The magazine printed an apology after learning that he had made up an incident in the story.

Some of the claims in Early Bird would be hard to believe in any case. Rothman says that as part of his research for the book, he lied to his friends, falsely telling them he had slept with a 75-year-old woman whom he calls Vivian to see how they’d react. This is hardly reassuring. If he’d lie to his friends, why wouldn’t he lie to us?

But much of Early Bird is either believable or has been confirmed by people who appear in it, and Rothman writes engagingly about subjects from shuffleboard tp the psychology of being a young in a retirement village. And there is real bite to his observations, however amusing, on how Americans condescend to old people — for example, by calling them “adorable.”

“I don’t think Tuesdays with Morrie would have been so uplifting if that guy had to spend more than Tuesdays with Morrie,” he writes. “By Thursday he would have been cursing Morrie out.”

Morrie would have been cursing him out, too, if the guy kept calling him “adorable.”

Best line: “The rhythm of the senior softball game is unlike that of any softball game I’ve ever witnessed. The defining factor is that most of the men have much stronger arms and shoulders than legs. For all of them, the knees have started to go. ‘It’s what you get for carrying this kinda weight around for so long,’ Buddy, the WWF referee, says to me, slapping his ample belly for emphasis. Because of this, senior softball is very much a hitter’s game – as long as the hitters can get the ball in play and keep it low, odds are the fielders won’t be able to reach it in time.

“The opposite side of the ‘strong arms/weak legs’ issue is this – the hitters, once they put a ball in play, run very slowly. And the fielders, once they reach the ball, have the arm strength to fire the ball wherever it needs to go. So when people do get out, it’s in ways I’ve never seen before – like someone hitting a line drive deep into the hole in left center, and then getting thrown out a first.”

Worst line: All of the material on the aging seductress he calls “Vivian,” with whom he may or may not have had sex and about whom he may or may not have lied to his friends.

Published: 2005 (hardcover) and 2006 (paperback) www.rodneyrothman.com

One-Minute Book Reviews is for people who like to read but dislike hype and review inflation.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

April 17, 2008

‘Dave Barry Turns 50′ — A Great 50th Birthday Gift (and There’s a ‘Dave Barry Turns 40,’ Too)

Filed under: Humor,Paperbacks — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:31 am
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Over at Amazon.com, the reviewers are duking it out over whether Dave Barry Turns 50 is or isn’t the funniest book by the retired Pulitzer Prize–winning humor columnist. My friends, it doesn’t matter. Barry may have written funnier books, including Dave Barry’s Greatest Hits. But Dave Barry Turns 50 is still a great 50th birthday gift for a reader (and one I’ve given more than once), possibly in its large-print edition. This collection of witty observations on reaching the mid-century mark is – of course — the sequel to Dave Barry Turns 40. You can find Dave Barry Turns 50 in the humor section at some bookstores but may have to order it from an online bookseller.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

January 8, 2008

‘The Real Republican Dictionary’ — Humor for the Presidential Primary Season

Filed under: Humor — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 6:24 pm
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“Patriot Act: Protecting the nation against the twin evils of terrorists and library patrons.”
– A definition from The Real Republican Dictionary

A quick primary-season reminder: Robert Lasner satirizes what he calls “Republican English” in The Real Republican Dictionary (Ig Publishing, 103 pp., $9.95, paperback) www.igpub.com, a small-format humor book that defines words from “abortion” to “zealot” from a hypothetical GOP perspective. (“Founding Fathers: Ronald Reagan, Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich.”) To read the review posted on this site in June, click here www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/06/20/.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

November 11, 2007

My First Bestseller? ‘A Year in Cleveland’ Is #17 in the Humor Category on Amazon Shorts

Filed under: Humor — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 2:46 am
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Bizarre but true! Cleveland loses the pennant race but wins on Amazon

Were you on vacation in August when I wrote about a program on Amazon that for 49 cents lets you download short works of fiction and nonfiction by authors with books for sale on that site? Just in case, I’m pasting in below the original post about Amazon Shorts. And here’s an update for any writers who are thinking of joining the program:

As I’d mentioned, I didn’t know that Amazon Shorts existed until a friend suggested that I consider it for some of my own work. I sent in “A Year in Cleveland,” a parody of Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence, and it just sat there for a while. But in the past few weeks it’s started to move and, as of Nov. 11, ranks #17 in the Humor category on Amazon Shorts. You can see all the categories and short works by clicking on “Digital Downloads” on the Amazon home page www.amazon.com. How can Cleveland be a loser in the pennant race and a winner on Amazon? I have no idea — unless all the copies are being bought by sadistic Red Sox fans who want a few more laughs at Cleveland’s expense — but this is the closest I’ve had to a bestseller.

Here’s my original August 5 post about Amazon Shorts:

Fed up with the alpine cost of books? Amazon.com sells previously unpublished short stories, essays and other works for 49¢ through its Amazon Shorts program. The online bookseller requires that all sellers have at least one book for sale on Amazon. And some of the authors who have posted their work may surprise you, including actor John Lithgow, journalist Melissa Fay Greene and mystery novelist James Lee Burke.

But you could easily miss hearing about the program, because it isn’t listed on the home page for www.amazon.com. You have to use the search bar to look “Amazon Shorts” or go to the pull-down menu that says, “See All 41 Product Categories.” [Note: The preceding has changed since I posted this. There's now a "Digital Downloads" category on the Amazon home page.] I knew nothing of the program until a writer friend persuaded me to post my “A Year in Cleveland,” a parody of A Year in Provence, there. So you may want to check this section of the Amazon site if you enjoy short fiction, nonfiction and poetry. You can read the shorts by downloading them, having them e-mailed to you, or following an HTML link.

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

August 20, 2007

E.O. Parrott’s ‘How to Become Ridiculously Well-Read in One Evening’: Great Books in a Half-Cracked Nutshell

Filed under: Classics,Essays and Reviews,Humor — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 10:09 am
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Classic works of lit / Reduced quite a bit / In poems and prose / As fun overflows.

How to Become Ridiculously Well-Read in One Evening: A Collection of Literary Encapsulations. Compiled and Edited by E.O. Parrott. Penguin, 188 pp., varied prices.

By Janice Harayda

Week after week, one of the most popular posts this site has been a review of E. O. Parrott’s How to Be Well-Versed in Poetry www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2006/11/20/, which illustrates the different types of poetry though amusing and self-descriptive verse. No less delightful is Parrott’s How to Become Ridiculously Well-Read in One Evening, a collection of 150 brief and witty summaries of classic novels, plays and poems.

In this tongue-in-cheek volume, Tim Hopkins gives you Othello in 10 tabloid headline parodies, including GIRL WITH EVERYTHING ASKS FOR MOOR. And Basil Ransome-Davies shows how an overeager publicist might have promoted The Bostonians: “He’s done it again! Our guess is that’s what you’ll be saying to yourself when you read Henry James’s latest exposé of upper-crust Boston …”

But most of the 31 contributors turn the classics into verse. V. Ernest Cox sums up The Old Man and the Sea in a limerick that begins:

There was an old man of the sea,
Who for eight-four days went fish-free,
But he rowed out next day,
And almost straightaway
Struck gold – piscatorially …

Paul Griffin describes A Christmas Carol in a clerihew that has as its first quatrain:

Ebenezer Scrooge
Was nobody’s stooge;
It drove him into one of his rages
When somebody asked for more wages …

And Peter Norman gives you The Great Gatsby in iambic tetrameter:

Nick Carraway and Gatsby (Jay)
Are next-door neighbors; every day
The enigmatic Gatsby gazes
Towards a distant green light (Daisy’s).

Apart from their entertainment value, these light-hearted verses could work well as teaching aids. Anybody want to guess what novel inspired W.S. Brownlie’s: “A captain with an idée fixe / Chased a whale for weeks and weeks”?

Best line: Some of the literary encapsulations take the form of song parodies, such as Cox’s: “The animals stage a coup d’état, / Hurrah! Hurrah! /And from the farm all humans bar, / Hurrah! Hurrah!” [Note: Show the world you're a genius by being the first to name the book and song – known by more than one title – that inspired this. Jan]

Worst line: The copyright line, which suggests that this book is overdue for a reprint.

Caveat lector: The third and fourth lines of the Hemingway limerick should be intended four spaces, but I couldn’t make it happen.

Published: 1985

Furthermore: Please feel free to entertain visitors to this site by leaving your own encapsulations — of new or old books — as Comments.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

August 5, 2007

Authors for 49¢ on Amazon: John Lithgow, James Lee Burke, Melissa Fay Greene and Others

Filed under: Books,Essays and Reviews,Fiction,Humor,Mysteries and Thrillers,News,Nonfiction,Poetry,Reading — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:34 pm

Fed up with the alpine cost of books? Amazon.com sells previously unpublished short stories, essays and other works for 49¢ through its Amazon Shorts program. The online bookseller requires that all sellers have at least one book for sale on Amazon. And some of the authors who have posted their work may surprise you, including actor John Lithgow, journalist Melissa Fay Greene and mystery novelist James Lee Burke.

But you could easily miss hearing about the program, because it isn’t listed on the home page for www.amazon.com. You have to use the search bar to look “Amazon Shorts” or go to the pull-down menu that says, “See All 41 Product Categories.” I knew nothing of the program until a writer friend persuaded me to post my “A Year in Cleveland,” a parody of A Year in Provence, there. So you may want to check this section of the Amazon site if you enjoy short fiction, nonfiction and poetry. You can read the shorts by downloading them, having them e-mailed to you, or following an HTML link.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

June 20, 2007

You’re a Real Republican If …

Filed under: Humor,Paperbacks — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:11 am
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“Patriot Act: Protecting the nation against the twin evils of terrorists and library patrons.”
– A definition from The Real Republican Dictionary

The Real Republican Dictionary. By Robert Lasner. Ig Publishing, 103 pp., $9.95, paperback.

By Janice Harayda

A friend who lives in the original blue state recently dated a man she saw as a perfect for her except for one epic flaw: He was a Republican. To cheer her up, I bought her The Real Republican Dictionary, a book that satirizes what Robert Lasner calls “Republican English” on topics from “abortion” to “zealot.” Before I could send it, they broke up. That gave me a chance to take a second look at the book and discover that it isn’t just for people who believe they’ve been tragically mismatched with an incipient Libertarian by an online dating service. Although Lasner hasn’t come out with a guide to “Democratic English,” you may be able to tell whether you’re a “real” Democrat by inverting his explanations of GOP positions.

You’re a real Republican if you agree with these definitions from The Real Republican Dictionary:

Patriot Act: Protecting the nation against the twin evils of terrorists and library patrons.”
Founding Fathers: Ronald Reagan, Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich.”
War: To be used only as a first resort.”
Oil: ‘The good Lord didn’t see fit to put oil and gas only where there are freely elected democratic regimes friendly to the United States … But we go where the business is.’ Dick Cheney, Cato Institute, June 1998.
Culture: NASCAR.”

Published: September 2005 www.igpub.com

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

June 17, 2007

What Rhymes With Beltway? Hart Seely Sends Up Politicians and Others in His Collection of Satirical Poems, ‘Mrs. Goose Goes to Washington’

Filed under: Humor,Poetry — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 10:17 pm
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We don’t know much about him.
We don’t know what he’s done.
We don’t know what he stands for,
Or why he wants to run.
We don’t know if he’s able,
Or even if he’s sane,
But, hey! let’s vote Obama,
He looks good off the plane.
– From Hart Seely’s “Hey! Let’s Vote Obama!”

Mrs. Goose Goes to Washington: Nursery Rhymes for the Political Barnyard. By Hart Seely. Free Press, 128 pp., $12.95.

By Janice Harayda

Songwriter Tom Lehrer once said that the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Henry Kissinger made political satire obsolete. But Hart Seely proves otherwise in this lively collection of parodies of rhymes by Mother Goose, Dr. Seuss, Robert Louis Stevenson and others.

Seely lacks the finesse of Calvin Trillin, whose satirical verses include his brilliant farewell to the first President Bush in Deadline Poet: “You did your best in your own way, / The way of Greenwich Country Day …” Trillin’s targets are typically self-evident in context, but some of Seely’s poems will need footnotes in five years. Even now, how many people remember the so-called Macaca sandal that involved former Senator George Allen (“The Cock Doth Crow”)? Or know who former Christian Coalition director Ralph Reed is or why “his pals were indicted” (“Little Ralph Reed”)? Trillin also uses iambic meter, the closest to natural speech. But Seely has to work with the less subtle meters of the nursery rhymes and other poems he parodies, such as dactylic and anapestic. This constraint can lead to forced or obvious rhymes when he takes on heavier topics, such as Barbara Bush’s influence on her family (“Mother Bush Had a House”) or Rudolph Guiliani’s attempts to cash in politically on the goodwill he earned after 9/11 (“Rememberin’ Rudy”).

Mrs. Goose Goes to Washington works best when it sends up lighter-weight trends that befit its nursery-rhyme format, including the tendency of Americans to favor candidates they don’t know well, such as Barak Obama (“Hey! Let’s Vote Obama!”). In a section on the media Seely deftly lampoons Bill O’Reilly, Judith Miller, Tim Russert and others. He also tweaks the focus on Katie Couric’s appearance instead of news after her move to CBS (“Rock-a-Bye, Katie”):

Rock-a-bye, Katie,
In the big chair,
Though the news breaks,
The headline’s your hair.

Over the centuries, many of the rhymes in this book have acquired tunes. And even the weaker poems would lend themselves well to a cabaret show. If entertainer Mark Russell tires of writing his own material, he might find all the help he needs in Seely.

Best line: Some of the sharpest lines in this book have nothing to do with politics, such as these from a poem called “Blah, Blah Blackberry”: “Spam from PayPal. / Spam from a scam. / Spam from a site / That eliminates spam.”

Worst line: Poetry collections usually open with a strong poem, so it’s odd that the first one in this book is weak on every level. “Mother Bush Had a House” tweaks Barbara Bush with lines that could have come from bright eighth-grader: “She had a son, George, / A fine-looking male, / He was not very bright, / But still made it to Yale.” Among the problems: The point of the lines is unoriginal. The adverbs “very” and “still” are there are only for the sake of the meter. And all the lines end with a noun or adjective, when verb end-rhymes tend to be stronger.

Recommendation? Don’t forget this book in December when you need a stocking-stuffer for your most political friend. Mrs. Goose Goes to Washington could also be a great choice for book clubs that want to do more poetry, because it spares neither Republicans nor Democrats. [I may post a Totally Unauthorized Reading Group Guide to this book later this summer.]

Caveat lector: This review was based on the advance readers’ edition. Some material in the finished book may differ.

Published: June 2007 www.simonsays.com

Furthermore: Seely is a reporter for the Syracuse Post-Standard whose work has appeared in The New Yorker and on National Public Radio.

Janice Harayda is an award-wrinning critic who has been the book columnist for Glamour, the book editor of the Plain Dealer in Cleveland and a vice-president of the National Book Critics Circle. She wrote the comic novels The Accidental Bride (St. Martin’s, 1999) and Manhattan on the Rocks (Sourcebooks, 2004).

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

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