One-Minute Book Reviews

September 27, 2011

What Is the Difference Between ‘Text’ and ‘Subtext’? Quote of the Day From ‘Story’

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“Text means the sensory surface of a work of art. In film it’s the images onscreen and the soundtrack of dialogue, music, and sound effects. What we see. What we hear. What people say. What people do. Subtext is the life under that surface – thoughts and feelings both known and unknown, hidden by behavior.”

From Robert McKee’s Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting (It Books/Harper Collins, 1997).

March 15, 2010

Grand Prize Winner in the 2010 Delete Key Awards for Bad Writing in Books — Dan Brown’s ‘The Lost Symbol’

Filed under: Delete Key Awards,News,Uncategorized — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 2:33 pm
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Yes, the hero teaches courses in the nonexistent field of “symbology” at Harvard University. But too many lines in The Lost Symbol (Doubleday)  flunk English, logic, history, or other subjects. Dan Brown wins the Grand Prize in the 2010 Delete Key awards for these lines:

“The only wrinkle was the bloody black-clad heap in the foyer with a screwdriver protruding from his neck.”

Yes, a screwdriver sticking out of your neck is always something of a wrinkle.

“It was no coincidence that Christians were taught that Jesus was crucified at age thirty-three …”
Just as it’s no coincidence that people were taught that Baskin-Robbins has 31 flavors.

“Thankfully, this particular crypt contained no bodies. … The entourage hurried through, without even a glance at the four-pointed marble compass in the center of the floor where the Eternal Flame had once burned.”
As opposed to one of those three-pointed compasses you usually see.

“His hips and abdomen were the archways of mystical power. Hanging beneath the archway [sic], his massive sex organ bore the tattooed symbols of his destiny. In another life, this heavy shaft of flesh had been his source of carnal pleasure. But no longer.”
That “archways of mystical power” helps to make this passage read like a cross between The Secret and recruitment brochure for McDonald’s.

“According to Nola’s spec sheet, the UH-60 had a chassis-mounted, laser-sighted, six-gigahertz magnetron with a fifty-dB-gain horn that yielded a ten-gigawatt pulse.”
Did Tom Clancy send in a play from the sidelines here?

Tom Chivers of the Telegraph collected 20 of the worst lines from Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and other books.

Read the shortlisted passages from all the finalists here.

© 2010 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

December 24, 2009

Entertainment Weekly’s 5 Worst Books of 2009

Most magazines dropped their “worst of the year” lists long ago, if they had them at all. But Entertainment Weekly has kept the tradition alive. Its 5 Worst Books of 2009 are: How to Be Famous, by Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt, reality-series stars whom EW faults for a lack of more than one kind of talent; Stories From Candyland, Candy Spelling’s “revenge-fueled” memoir; Christopher Andersen’s Barack and Michelle: Portrait of an American Marriage, “packed with anonymous sources”; Mitch Albom’s Have a Little Faith, likely to give you “literary diabetes”; and Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol, “one of the year’s worst written.”

August 7, 2009

In the Footsteps of Druids — Quote of the Day From ‘The Doomsday Key’

Filed under: Quotes of the Day,Uncategorized — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 2:06 pm
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“So in other words, we’re looking for a bunch of pissed-off Druids.”
– Georgina Rowe, an agent with the elite Sigma Force, in The Doomsday Key (Morrow, 431 pp., $27.99), James Rollins’s new technothriller about a global conspiracy that involves murders in Mali, at the Vatican at Princeton University.

May 20, 2009

You Think the Perks in Your Job Are Bad? When Actors Got Free Cigarettes – Quote of the Day From Nancy Balbirer’s ‘Take Your Shirt Off and Cry’

Filed under: News,Quotes of the Day,Uncategorized — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:30 pm
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You think the lukewarm coffee at your office is bad? Consider a perk that Nancy Balbirer received as a young actor, as described in her new Take Your Shirt Off and Cry: A Memoir of Near-Fame Experiences (Bloomsbury, 256 pp., $16, paperback), a review of which will appear soon:

“Shortly after I turned twenty-eight, I was cast in an off-Broadway production of the Molière play The Ridiculous Précieuses, at the Kauffman Theatre. The production was bankrolled by our leading lady, who happened to be an heiress of one of our country’s great, philanthropic robber baron families. She had Philip Morris as a backer, so in addition to our Equity minimum salaries, the cast were offered as many packs of cigarettes as we could smoke a day. Undeterred by the homicidal innuendo, we all graciously accepted the producers’ largesse.”

April 1, 2009

Why Don’t Men Read Novels? (Quote of the Day / Gore Vidal)

Filed under: Quotes of the Day,Uncategorized — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 2:23 pm
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Many studies have shown that women read more fiction than men do, which may help to explain why they also join more reading groups. Why is this so? The novelist and essayist Gore Vidal offers an answer in his essay “Writers and the World” in his Homage to Daniel Shays: Collected Essays 1952-1972 (Random House, 1972):

“It has been observed that American men do not read novels because they feel guilty when they read books which do not have facts in them. Made-up stories are for women and children; facts are for men. There is something in this. It is certainly true that this century’s romantic estrangement of writer from the World has reduced the number of facts in the American novel. And facts are the stuff of art as well as of life.”

(c) 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

March 13, 2009

This Week’s Gusher Award for Hyperbole Book Reviewing Goes to …

This week’s Gusher Award for Achievement in Hyperbole in Book Reviewing Goes to …

A review of Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowds’s Our Life in Gardens (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 322 pp., $30) in the New York Times Book Review:

“Once you wander into this book, you won’t be able to sit still for long anyway, what with having to scurry around looking for paper and pen to take notes on just a few more plants you must have, and leaping up to consult the pictures in your American Horticultural Society A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants.”

Sounds like you’d better get that prescription for Xanax or Valium filled before you read this one, doesn’t it?

Gusher Awards recognize over-the-top praise in book reviews. They appear on Fridays except in weeks when no praise was too overheated to qualify.

Other Gusher Awards appeared on Dec. 11, Oct. 31, Sept. 5 and July 25.

One-Minute Book Reviews will announce the winners of the Delete Key Awards for the year’s worst writing in books on Monday, March 16, beginning at 10 a.m. Eastern Time.

© 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

March 9, 2009

Daylight Savings Time Problems on WordPress?

Filed under: News,Uncategorized — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:35 am
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I’m about to try to post a review of Kathryn Stockett’s bestseller The Help that was written earlier but I can’t proofread because of a malfunction on WordPress that does not appear to be limited to my site. The problem occurred on Sunday and may relate to the switch to Daylight Savings Time in the United States. But I haven’t been able to get information from the WordPress support (either by e-mail or from the Support Forums) on how to correct this, so I may make changes in the forthcoming post later in the day. Thanks so much for your patience.

Jan

March 7, 2009

‘The Poky Little Puppy’ — ‘The All-Time Bestselling Children’s Hardcover Book in English’ Is Still Scampering Along in Its Original Golden Books Format

The latest in a series of occasional posts on classic picture books for young children

The Poky Little Puppy: A Little Golden Book Classic. By Janette Sebring Lowrey. Illustrated by Gustaf Tenggren. Random House/Golden Books, 24 pp., $2.99. Ages 5 and under.

By Janice Harayda

The Poky Little Puppy is the all-time bestselling children’s hardcover book in English, the trade journal Publishers Weekly reported in 2001. Whether that report is accurate is debatable — others have made a similar claim for The Tale of Peter Rabbit — but the longevity of the book is remarkable by any measure.

First published in 1942, The Poky Little Puppy was one of the original 12 Little Golden Books that sold for 25 cents. And like other Golden Books that remain in print, this one retains the distinctive design elements of the series: the nearly square format; the patterned golden spine; and the space on the inside front cover for children to write their names after the words: “This Little Golden Book belongs to …” The book also has paper so lightweight that an Amazon reader complained of its flimsiness but that, in fact, has important benefits: It makes the book easy for children to carry and helps to keep the cost to a remarkably low $2.99 in hardcover.

A puppy goes bed "without a single bite of shortcake" in a classic picture book.

If they remember nothing else about The Poky Little Puppy, countless baby boomers recall it as the story of a dawdling puppy who had to go to bed without strawberry shortcake. But this book is also about the joy of exploring the natural world and its bounty: “a fuzzy caterpillar,” “a quick green lizard,” and other creatures.

Five puppies dig a hole under a fence around their yard and set out to enjoy “the wide, wide world.” But a poky little brown-and-white puppy dawdles while his siblings race ahead. And for two days, this works to his advantage: His swifter siblings get home first and are punished for digging the hole under the fence by their mother, who sends them to bed without dessert, so he gets to eat their rice pudding and chocolate custard. On the third day, the poky little puppy pays for his dallying: His quicker siblings get home first again and after finding their mother upset about another hole they have dug under the fence, fill it in. She rewards them with strawberry shortcake, and they leave none for him.

The Poky Little Puppy might have trouble finding a publisher today. Some of its themes conflict with the orthodoxies of child-rearing of 21st century, when psychologists instruct adults not to label children “poky” or “shy” or to withhold food as punishment (or even to use the word “punishment” instead of “discipline”). But this book has endured in part because it is not bibliotherapy but a good story. The talking animals tell children right away that this is a fantasy, not a slice of life.

No doubt many parents have used The Poky Little Puppy to teach the consequences of dallying or ignoring boundaries. But the book works as a straight adventure story. Gustave Tenggren’s gentle pictures soften the blow of the loss of the shortcake. And the puppy radiates such sweetness that no one could think him intentionally wayward – which is just what many children want their parents to think when they miss the school bus.

Best line: The first line: “Five little puppies dug a hole under the fence and went for a walk in the wide, wide world.” And the next-to-last: “So the poky little puppy had to go to bed without a single bite of shortcake, and he felt very sorry for himself.” And it’s great that a child can claim the book emotionally by writing his or her name in the space provided on the inside cover. Many recent picture books are so pretty they discourage children from writing their names in them, and that’s part of the problem with them.

Worst line: None. But see the caution below.

Caveat lector: Avoid gussied-up editions of this book — such as the one Random House describes as “upscale” – that cost more than $2.99. Part of the appeal of the Golden Books has always lay in their small, predictable format.

Read 20 early Golden Books free online at the Antique Book Library.

Published: 1942 (first edition) and many subsequent reprints.

Other classic picture books reviewed on One-Minute Book Reviews include Horton Hatches the Egg, Millions of Cats, Madeline, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, Where the Wild Things Are, The Backward Day, The Story of Ferdinand and Flat Stanley.

One-Minute Book Reviews will announce the winners of the Delete Key Awards for the year’s worst writing in books for children or adults on Monday, March 16, 2009. A list of the finalists appeared on Feb. 27 and passages from books on the list on Feb. 26.

© 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com and www.twitter.com/janiceharayda

February 16, 2009

Purple Thong Rain — Southern-Accented Mardi Gras and Other Posts on www.twitter.com/janiceharayda

Filed under: News,Uncategorized — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 6:13 pm
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What I did last weekend, or how I celebrated Mardi Gras in Fairhope, Alabama, where I’m a writer-in-residence:

  1. Went to the Mystic Mutts of Revelry Saturday-afternoon dog parade, where the canine marshal-equivalent wore a collar made of empty cans of Bud.
  2. Caught a lacy purple thong tied to red beads that a masked man tossed to me from a float in an evening parade. The thong is imprinted with yellow comedy and tragedy masks and the words “The Original Mardi Gras” (because Alabamians think their celebrations preceded those in Louisiana).
  3. Ate two Mini Moon Pies (banana-flavored and squashed by hitting the sidewalk) tossed by another masked man.

You, serious reader, are of course not interested in anything as base and low-culture as purple thongs and came to this site only for my reviews of War and Peace and Middlemarch. That’s why I’m posting further details instead on my Twitter feed www.twitter.com/janiceharayda. When you click on the Mystic Mutts link above, you will see cute dogs and hear “Second Line,” the Mardi Gras theme song, if you’re patient.

© 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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