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.

March 7, 2008

National Book Critics Circle Award Reality Check: ‘Brother, I’m Dying’

Filed under: African American,Book Awards,Memoirs — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 6:53 pm
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Do literary prizes always go to deserving authors? One-Minute Book Reviews considers the question in “Reality Check,” a series of occasional posts on books shortlisted for high-profile awards. A recent installment considered Edwidge Danticat’s memoir of an uncle who died while in custody of U.S. immigration officials, Brother, I’m Dying www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2008/01/02/. then a finalist for a 2007 National Book Award. The book has since won the National Book Critics Circle award for autobiography www.bookcriticscircle.blogspot.com. A “Reality Check” post on the NBCC poetry winner, Mary Jo Bang’s Elegy, will appear next week.

(c) Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

This Week’s Gusher Award for Achievement in Hyperbole Goes to …

Filed under: Gusher Awards — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:31 pm
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And This Week’s Gusher Award for Achievement in Hyperbole Goes to …

A “startlingly tender memoir.”
— The March issue of O, the Oprah Magazine on Love and Consequences by Margaret Seltzer writing as Margaret B. Jones

And, as we learned this week, startlingly fake. This quote might have qualified even if Seltzer hadn’t admitted that she made up the book. Why should it “startling” that a book about gang life has tender scenes? Didn’t we see lots of those on The Sopranos?

www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/arts/2008/03/05/2008-03-05_oprahs_mag_gushed_over_memoir_of_fake_ga-1.html

Thanks to Larry McShane of the New York Daily News for an article on this one that has a quote from Amy Gross, editor-in-chief of O, acknowledging that the book “should have been classified as fiction.”

One-Minute Book Reviews is for people who like to read but dislike hype and review inflation. A new Gusher Award for Achievement in Hyperbole in Book Reviewing appears every Friday along with any other posts that appear that day.

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

Junot Díaz Wins NBCC Fiction Award – Danticat Gets Autobiography Prize – Other Winners Are Ross, Bang, Jeal and Washington

Filed under: Book Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:38 am
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Junot Díaz has won the National Book Critics Circle award for fiction for his first novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Riverhead). Other books that won prizes in the March 6 ceremony in Manhattan are: General nonfiction, Harriet Washington’s Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans From Colonial Times to the Present (Doubleday); Biography, Tim Jeal’s Stanley: The Impossible Life of Africa’s Greatest Explorer (Yale University Press); Autobiography, Edwidge Danticat’s Brother, I’m Dying (Knopf); Poetry, Mary Jo Bang’s Elegy (Graywolf); and Criticism, Alex Ross’s The Rest Is Noise (Farrar, Straus & Giroux).The NBCC awards are one of the top three literary honors in the U.S. along with the National Book Awards and the Pulitzer Prizes. They are given annually by the 800-member association of American book critics.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

March 5, 2008

What Responsibility Do Editors Have for Keeping Fake Memoirs Off the Market?

Filed under: News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:58 pm
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Does the publishing industry need New Yorker-style fact checking or just more common sense?

What responsibility do editors have for keeping potentially fake memoirs off the market? An article in today’s New York Times has a telling comment on this from Nan Talese, who edited James Frey‘s memoir A Milllion Little Pieces, a lot of which the author admits he exaggerated or made up www.nytimes.com/2008/03/05/books/05fake.html. Talese makes the observation in the Times‘s second-day report on the furor over Love and Consequences, a fabricated memoir by Margaret Seltzer writing under the name of Margaret B. Jones:

“I think what editors are going to have to do is point to the things that happened recently and say to their authors, ‘If there is anything in your book that can be discovered to be untrue, you better let us know right now, and we’ll deal with it before we publish it.'”

To which Ron Hogan at Galley Cat responds: “Like how about not publishing it? Or at least not calling it a memoir?” www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/authors/but_margaret_jones_promised_it_was_true_79038.asp. Hogan knows it’s a facile response (though it’s no less sensible for it). But he doesn’t agree with Talese that it would be insulting to authors to introduce New Yorker-style fact checking to book publishing.

“If you’re insulted that somebody’s holding your nonfiction writing up to a simple standard of truth,” he writes, “you’re probably not ready to share that writing with anybody, let alone an editor.”

Hogan is right. But there’s a middle ground between the laissez-faire attitude that currently prevails in book publishing and the exhaustive New Yorker–style fact-checking that some would like to see the industry use. That middle ground lies in the system used at responsible newspapers: Most newspapers don’t have fact-checkers on staff, but their editors question writers much more aggressively than many book editors do. You could say: They just use more common sense.

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

March 4, 2008

Why Critics, Journalists and You, the Reader, Need to Read Defensively

Filed under: Current Events,Life,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 3:47 pm
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Fabricated tale of gang life reaffirms the need to question “memoirs” that don’t make sense

For more than a year, this site has been raising questions about Ishmael Beah’s purported memoir of two years as a child solider, A Long Way Gone, that have received unsatisfactory responses from the author and his publisher. Why do critics, journalists and you, the reader, need to keep challenging aspects of personal accounts that don’t make sense?

One answer is implicit in a story in today’s New York Times about a young writer’s confession that she made up Love and Consequences, a widely praised book billed as a “memoir” of her life as a drug-runner for the Bloods: Publishers are doing too little to verify the authenticity of their books www.nytimes.com/2008/03/04/books/04fake.html. Book publishers have never done – nor can they be expected to do – the exhaustive fact-checking that occurs at The New Yorker. But the Times‘s story shows that they sometimes don’t take the much more basic steps that would be reasonable.

Love and Consequences was reportedly exposed as a fraud by a call to the publisher, Riverhead Books, from a sister of the author, Margaret Seltzer, who used the pen name of Margaret B. Jones. Riverhead is a unit of the Penguin Group USA, one of the world’s largest publishers. It seems that all an editor would have to do to uncover problems with this book would have been to require the writer to provide the telephone numbers of a few immediate-family members, then call those people.

[The Penguin Group has recalled all copies of Love and Consequences, and One-Minute Book Reviews will comment on the recall in a post later today.]

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

February 13, 2008

Has Wikipedia Been Hijacked by Ishmael Beah’s PR Machine? The Online Encyclopedia Abandons Neutrality and Regurgitates the Young Author’s View by Editorializing That ‘It Is Important Not to Lose to Lose Sight’ of His Human-Rights Work

[UPDATE at 9:25 a.m. on March 2, 2008: At this writing, Wikipedia appears to have been sucker-punched again. A post about the continuing lack of neutrality in Beah's entry will appear soon on One-Minute Book Reviews.]

[UPDATE at 12:01 p.m. on Feb. 14, 2008: Since I wrote this post, the biased line that I discuss below has been removed from Beah's Wikipedia entry. If you see that someone has reinstated that line or inserted others that lack neutrality, I'd be so grateful if you let me know. Thanks. Jan]

Would Wikipedia warn that “it is important not to lose sight” of Roger Clemens’s contributions the Boys and Girls Clubs as we consider whether he used steroids?

By Janice Harayda

Has the free online encyclopedia Wikipedia become the latest victim of the deepening controversy about the credibility of Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone?

Wikipedia editorializes in its entry for Beah that “it is important not to lose sight” of the young author’s work to raise awareness about child soldiers en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ishmael_Beah. This is not a neutral comment. It is exactly what Beah and his handlers want you to think and have been saying since the newspaper the Australian began raising questions last month about A Long Way Gone, billed by its publisher as a memoir of Beah’s experiences as a child solider in Sierra Leone.

Why, exactly, is it “important not to lose sight” of Beah’s human-rights work? And to whom? Does Beah’s work matter if it is based wholly or partly on claims nobody can substantiate? Will his efforts comfort the hundreds of thousands of readers who bought A Long Way Gone in the belief that its story was, in Beah’s words, is “all true,” and who now may now have serious doubts about its veracity? Shouldn’t we consider the harm that any book may do along with the good?

Beah’s listing on Wikipedia is questionable for reasons other than its editorializing. One-Minute Book Reviews will deal with these reasons soon if the encyclopedia allows them to remain in place. In the meantime, you may wonder: Would Wikipedia instruct us – as we consider whether Roger Clemens used steroids — that “it is important not to lose sight” of the pitcher’s contributions to the Boys and Girls Clubs?

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

February 3, 2008

Watch Ishmael Beah on Comedy Central (This Is Not a Joke)

Somehow I missed this until now, but last year the people at Sarah Crichton Books apparently decided that they had found a great place for Ishmael Beach to plug his memoir of how the army in Sierra Leone turned him into a ruthless drug-addicted killer. And that place was … Comedy Central!

I’m not making this up. Beah was on the Daily Show With Jon Stewart on Feb. 14, 2007. His publisher posted a clip of his appearance the Web site for his A Long Way Gone and hasn’t taken it down, so somebody must still think it’s pretty funny. Here’s a link to the Stewart interview www.thedailyshow.com/video/index.jhtml?videoId=82274&title=ishmael-beah. (If the link doesn’t work, you can find the clip by going to www.alongwaygone.com and clicking on the “News” page.) Click here for the latest developments in the investigation of the book by the newspaper the Australian www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,23145293-5001986,00.html.

(c) 2008 Janice Harayda. 2008 All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

February 2, 2008

Newly Found Records Show That Ishmael Beah Was in School for Part of the Time When He Says He Was a Soldier, Australian Newspaper Reports

The Australian says that records recently found in a remote Sierra Leone schoolhouse show that Ishmael Beah was in school for part of the time when he says he was a soldier. Peter Wilson, a reporter for the newspaper, writes in an article dated Feb. 2, 2008:

“The school results for March 1993 showed the popular author attended the Centennial Secondary School throughout the January-March term, a time when he claimed in his heartrending book A Long Way Gone that he was already roaming the countryside as a child refugee.

“Beah, his New York publisher Sarah Crichton Books and his Australian co-publisher HarperCollins have furiously denied reports by The Weekend Australian in recent weeks that have undermined the credibility of his highly profitable book …

“Beah, now 27, did spend some time as a child soldier during his country’s civil war, but it appears likely to have been a few months around the age of 15 rather than two years from the age of 13 that he vividly describes in his book.”

Read the rest of story here www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,23147571-601,00.html.

In response to earlier questions about his memoir, Beah said: “I am right about my story. This is not something one gets wrong. … Sad to say, my story is all true” www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6524214.html%5E. The Australian disputed this in a statement posted by Publishers Weekly www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6525128.html. This week Beah stood by his story again in an interview with Hillel Italie of the Associated Press.

(c) 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

http://www.janiceharayda.com

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