One-Minute Book Reviews

April 14, 2008

Chekhov’s Short Stories – Coming Soon to One-Minute Book Reviews

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“I have recently re-read much of Chekhov and it’s a humbling experience. I don’t even claim Chekhov as an influence because he influenced all of us. Like Shakespeare his writing shed the most perfect light — there’s no striving in it, no personality. Well, of course, wouldn’t I love to do that!”

Alice Munro

Writers tend to revere Anton Chekhov for his short stories. But others may know him better for his frequently revived plays, including Uncle Vanya, The Seagull, The Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard. What do Chekhov’s stories offer to people who don’t hope to become the next Alice Munro, the Canadian titan of the form? One-Minute Book Reviews will consider the question soon.

(c) 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

April 6, 2008

Pulitzer Prizes To Be Announced Monday, April 7, at 3 p.m. — Here’s a Link to the Pulitzer Site

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[Update at 3:30 p.m. Monday: Junot Diaz has won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscao Wao, a novel that last month won the National Book Critics Circle Prize for fiction. Here’s a link to the AP story that lists all the winners for books and journalism, which has more on the winners right now than the Pulitzer site:

ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5j7vuQ5ogo7UJ6MEjWWaYBGpyOTCgD8VT75DG0.

This more extensive story has a complete list of all the winners (with descriptions of the work) and finalists, including all the books that were finalists www.huliq.com/56234/columbia-university-announcees-2008-pulitzer-prize-winners.

The winners of this year’s Pulitzer Prizes will be announced on Monday, April 7, at 3 p.m. Eastern Time. The awards honor books in five categories — fiction, poetry, history, biography, and general nonfiction – though the judges may decline to give an award in any of them. You should be able to find the winners after they are announced at the Pulitzer site, www.pulitzer.org. In the meantims, the site also has questions and answers about the prizes.

April 3, 2008

Tomorrow — Another Gusher Award for Achievement in Hyperbole in Book Reviewing

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Every Friday One-Minute Book Reviews hands out a new Gusher Award for Achievement in Hyperbole in Book Reviewing in addition to any other posts that appear that day. The awards honor over-the-top praise for fiction, nonfiction and poetry, generally in major magazines and newspapers (including influential specialized publications, such as Library Journal and School Library Journal). To nominate an overheated review for a Gusher, please leave a comment or use the e-mail address on the “Contact” page on this site.

February 24, 2008

Did Your Sunday Paper Call a Book an ‘Instant Classic’ Today?

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If so, you can nominate the review for a One-Minute Book Reviews Gusher Award for Achievement in Hyperbole. A classic has proved its worth over time. So “instant classic” is self-contradictory hyperbole. (A critic could solve the problem by writing that a book “deserves to become a classic.”) To submit a review for consideration for a Gusher Award, leave a comment or use the e-mail addresses on the “Contact” page and mention the nomination in your subject heading.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

February 19, 2008

Two Books by Annie Ernaux, One of France’s Greatest Living Writers, Coming Tomorrow on One-Minute Book Reviews

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Annie Ernaux is one of the greatest living writers in France, where she has been acclaimed for decades for her spare autobiographical novels. She has won the Prix Renaudot, the French equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and could be a dark horse candidate for a Nobel Prize. So why isn’t she better known in the U.S.?

Tomorrow One-Minute Book Reviews will consider two of her books that might especially interest American readers, including book clubs.

(c) 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

February 18, 2008

Writing Levels of the U.S. Presidents — Can You Write at a Higher Level Than George W. Bush? — Here’s How to Find Out (Encore Presentation)

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Who wrote at a higher level, Ronald Reagan or Abraham Lincoln? Check the results of a survey that calculated their grade levels using the readability statistics on Microsoft Word in this special encore presentation of last year’s Presidents’ Day post

Need a reason to feel good about the direction our country is taking on Presidents’ Day? Try this: George W. Bush can write at a higher level than Thomas Jefferson.

Not long ago, I found that novelist Mitch Albom writes at a third-grade level when I typed part of For One More Day into my computer, then ran the Microsoft Word spell-checker www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2006/11/16/. When you do this, you see the Flesch-Kincaid grade level at the bottom of the column of numbers that appears on your screen. (If you don’t see the grade level, search Microsoft Word Help for “Readability Statistics,” then select “Display Readability Statistics,” which will tell you how to make them appear.)

So I wondered: Could any of our presidents write at a higher level than a No. 1 best-selling novelist? I used Microsoft Word to calculate the reading levels of the presidents’ books, if these were easily available, and their best-known speeches if not. Here are the results:

John F. Kennedy, Profiles in Courage Grade 12
Jimmy Carter, Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid Grade 12
Franklin D. Roosevelt, “Four Freedoms” Speech Grade 11.2
Ronald Reagan, An American Life Grade 11.1
Dwight Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe Grade 11.1
Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address Grade 10.9
George W. Bush, A Charge to Keep Grade 10.8
Bill Clinton, My Life Grade 8.2
Gerald Ford, A Time to Heal Grade 8.1
Lyndon B. Johnson “Why Are We in Vietnam?” Speech Grade 7.3
Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Abigail Adams,
July 1, 1787 Grade 5.3

I entered 305 words from each book, beginning on page 24, because the first chapter of a book often doesn’t represent the whole. A typical book chapter has about 20 pages, so I started on page 24. And because a paragraph or two may not represent the whole, either, I entered 305 words, or more than a page, which usually has about 250–300 words. When I used a speech, I entered the whole speech.

This survey showed that George Bush wrote in A Charge to Keep – what, you’ve forgotten it? — at a higher level than Thomas Jefferson did in a letter to Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams. Bush also wrote at higher level than Bill Clinton did in My Life and LBJ did in his “Why Are We in Vietnam?” speech at Johns Hopkins University. But Jefferson comes out ahead if you give him credit for writing the Declaration if Independence single-handledly. It’s written at the level of Grade 12.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

February 15, 2008

Was Norman Mailer’s Biography of Marilyn Monroe ‘A Labor of Lust’?

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Norman Mailer wrote a full-page letter to the New York Times Book Review to protest the editor’s decision to assign his novel Harlot’s Ghost to the critic John Simon, Gail Pool recalls in Faint Praise: The Plight of Book Reviewing in America (University of Missouri Press, 170 pp., $19.95, paperback). The novelist said that Simon wasn’t a fair choice partly because he had derided Mailer’s Marilyn: A Biography as “a labor of lust … a new genre called transcendental masturbation or metaphysical wet dreaming … a grisly roller-coaster ride along a biceps gone berserk.”

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

 

February 13, 2008

Another Gusher Award for Achievement in Hyperbole Coming Friday

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Tired of reviews that read more like valentines to authors than independent evaluations of books? Every Friday One-Minute Book Reviews recognizes over-the-top praise for books with another Gusher Award for Achievement in Hyperbole.

To read the winner of last Friday’s prize, click here www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2008/02/08/and-the-first-gusher-award-for-achievement-in-hyperbole-goes-to/. .

(c) 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

February 6, 2008

How to Get Started as a Book Reviewer — Tips From the National Book Critics Circle

If you think that trying get book-review assignments is like trying to get work decorating staterooms on the Titanic, the NBCC suggests how to avoid the icebergs

Later today I’m going to announce a new series of negative achievement awards for hyperbole in book reviewing that will begin Friday on this site, so I’ve been looking around the Web for posts that tell how to avoid over-the-top praise in reviews (and, indirectly, how critics can keep their name off the list of winners). The Tips for Successful Book Reviewing page www.bookcritics.org/?go=tips on the National Book Critics Circle site wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, partly because it’s more about how to get started as a book reviewer than about how to write good reviews.

But it has great advice for anyone who’s wondering if you can still get review assignments now that so many books sections have shrunk or vanished, or if this effort wouldn’t be like trying to get work decorating the staterooms on the Titanic. Rebecca Skloot www.home.earthlink.net/~rskloot/of the NBCC compiled the page with help from Elaine Vitone and delivers on the subtitle of her article, “Strategies for Breaking in and Staying in: Getting started as a critic, building your reviewing portfolio, going national, and keeping editors happy.” Here’s her most important point:

“Read good criticism. There are several authors who regularly gather their reviews and essays into collections that show how good criticism must be to stand the test of time. The NBCC has awarded several of these books prizes in our criticism category: Cynthia Ozick’s Quarrel & Quandary, William H. Gass’ Finding a Form, John Updike’s Hugging the Shore, Martin Amis’ The War Against Cliche, William Logan’s The Undiscovered Country, and Mario Vargas Llosa’s Making Waves are essentials in any critic’s library. Going back even further, the essays of T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, Borges, and Orwell remind us how criticism can be the intellectual record of our times. Notice, too, how the very best criticism is driven by metaphors and ideas and examples, not adjectives.”

Skloot is right about those adjectives, and if you aren’t sure how many adjectives are too many, watch this blog for examples after the new awards series is announced.

One-Minute Book Reviews is for people who like to read but dislike hype and review inflation. Janice Harayda is a former member of the NBCC board of directors.

(c) 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

December 14, 2007

Funny Gifts for Readers — Jane Austen Action Figures, Librarian Tattoos, Shakespearean Insults and More

Shakespeare is among the writers who inspire gifts that librarians and others think you’ll want to give, at least if you’re a “boiling hutch of beastliness”

By Janice Harayda

All week I’ve been posting serious gift ideas for readers along with the usual reviews. Today I’m here to entertain you. These gifts didn’t make the cut:

Jane Austen Action Figure I couldn’t find a reliable site that stocks the Jane Austen bobblehead dolls that librarians and others have seen. But the Library of Congress shop www.loc.gov/shop/ sells this plastic Jane Austen Action Figure (which comes with a quill pen and writing desk) for $8.50. Austen can’t do battle against Emily Dickinson and the Knights of the Nineteenth Century only because the Belle of Amherst doesn’t have her own action figure (though there’s a plush toy you can find on the Web if you’re determined). Be sure to read all the reader reviews on Amazon www.amazon.com, which also has the doll shown here, if this one tempts you. One critic faults the Jane Austen Action Figure for flimsy construction, including an insecure base and an arm that breaks off easily. Well, what did you expect? Austen died at the age of 41, and this one may have a correspondingly short life span.

Librarian Tattoos In January a Los Angeles librarian won the Newbery Award for a young-adult novel that has the word “scrotum” on the first page. Now the city has given us another pacesetter in a product described as wash-off “librarian tattoos.” “Librarian stereotypes are as old and outdated as microfiche,” says the online catalog for the Library Store at Los Angeles Public Library says. “Nowadays you’re just as likely to see your local librarian driving a Harley as a Honda Accord.” That must explain why the library is selling a 3-1/2″ x 4-1/2″ hardcover book of nontoxic wash-off tattoos for $8, several of which you can see at right. “Put one in a prominent place to prove once and for all that ‘smart’ and ‘cool’ are not mutually exclusive!” the library says in its catalog www.lfla.org/cgi-bin/store/.

Shakespeare’s Insults Magnet Set Are you the kind of person who loves to insult friends with barbs like “thou smell of mountain goat”? Or possibly you “bolting-hutch of beastliness”? If so, these multicolored magnets are for you. A set of 33 insults costs $15.95 at Shakespeare’s Den www.shakespearesden.com, a literary gift site that has items related — and I use the term loosely — to many authors. Among them: George Orwell magnetic finger puppets that you can put on your refrigerator or use for purposes such as — well, let’s stop here.

Source: http://www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com

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

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