One-Minute Book Reviews

September 28, 2008

Another Thing Paul Newman (1925 — 2008) Doesn’t Want on His Tombstone

Filed under: Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 5:20 pm
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This is the second of two posts on this site about Paul Newman’s comments on how he wants to be remembered.

“I envy Laurence Olivier, because he seems to have endless resources in him to develop and be a different character each time,” Paul Newman said early in his career as an actor. “I feel I perhaps don’t have the imagination to change.”

Lionel Godfrey, who quotes that unsourced comment in Paul Newman: Superstar: A Critical Biography (St. Martin’s, 1979) goes on to say of Newman and Olivier:

“Since one is par excellence a screen-actor and the other’s sphere, despite great film-performances, has always been pre-eminently the stage, it is difficult to compare the two stars. But in the 12 years or so since he modestly made that statement, Paul has more than proved his own versatility and the creative resources he can bring to new, unusual roles. He has often told interviewers, ‘I don’t want to die and have written on my tombstone: ‘He was a helluva actor until one day his eyes turned brown.’”

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

Paul Newman (1925 — 2008 ) on What He DOESN’T Want on His Gravestone (Quote of the Day via Eric Lax’s ‘Newman’)

Filed under: News,Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:53 pm
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Paul Newman risked losing fans and roles by campaigning in 1968 for the Democratic candidate for president, Sen. Eugene McCarthy, who opposed the Vietnam War. Eric Lax explains why in his Newman: Paul Newman: Biography (Turner, 1996):

“Newman was one of the earliest backers of McCarthy, and his support came at a time when most people considered those who opposed the war to be cowards or even traitors. Newman’s appearance always brought out the news media. He presented himself to audiences not as a celebrity but as a parent, concerned about the future and believing that McCarthy offered the most hope.

“‘I am indifferent to your political persuasion,’ he would begin. ‘I am not a public speaker. I am not a politician. I’m not here because I’m an actor. I’m here because I’ve got six kids. I don’t want it written on my gravestone, ‘He was not part of his times.’ The times are too critical to be dissenting in your own bathroom.’”

The quote first appeared in the New York Times on April 22, 1968.

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

September 20, 2008

Late Night With Jan Harayda – Oprah Picks a Mixed Doggie Bag for Her Club — A Sentimental ‘Hamlet’-Influenced First Novel Told Partly from the Point of View of Dogs

Oprah’s latest book-club pick is a mixed doggie bag – one part well-told yarn and one part sentimental twaddle with a dash of the paranormal and forced parallels with Hamlet. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is the tale of a mute Wisconsin farm boy who goes on the lam after he becomes convinced that his uncle murdered his father, a suspicion that sets another tragedy in motion. And this first novel by David Wroblewski has more to offer than the cosmic gibberish of Oprah’s most recent pick, Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth, the grand prize winner in the 2008 Delete Key Awards for the year’s worst writing in books www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/?s=%22A+New+Earth%22. But The Story of Edgar Sawtelle also suffers from mawkish scenes told from the point of view of dogs and from its implicit attribution of moral virtues to them. With its mix of family secrets and childhood pain — and other-worldly conversations with the dead — this novel was such a predictable choice for Oprah that the publishing news blog Galley Cat did predict it days ago www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/?c=rss.

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

September 11, 2008

Late Night With Jan Harayda – The Man Booker Prize Judges’ Blog

Filed under: Late Night With Jan Harayda — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 10:23 pm
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This is the first in an occasional series of brief posts that will appear after 10 p.m. Eastern Time, particularly during the literary-awards season. The “Late Night” posts will not include book reviews, which will continue to appear earlier in the day, but will comment on literary or related events.

The best part of announcement of the 2008 Man Booker Prize shortlist: reading the judges’ blog, a porthole onto the selection of the finalists www.themanbookerprize.com/news/blog-judges-08. Of course, the panel can’t tell us the half of what went on. But the blog is revealing in its own way and, at times, amusing. Novelist Louise Doughty writes of the meeting at which the panel chose the finalists: “It was mostly civilized, although there was the moment when one of my fellow judges told me he could envisage himself waking screaming from a nightmare in which he was married to me.” Hmmm. I wonder if any men had thoughts like that about me when I was a judge of the National Book Critics Circle awards? Could this explain why I’m not married?

Tomorrow: Another Gusher Award for Achievement in Hyperbole in Book Reviewing.

Saturday: A review of President Pennybaker, a new picture book about a boy who decides to run for president of the United States, written by Kate Feiffer and illustrated by Caldecott Honor artist Diane Goode www.dianegoode.com.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

September 7, 2008

2008 Man Booker Prize Finalists To Be Named Tuesday — Jan the Hungarian Predicts That ‘Netherland’ Will Make the Shortlist

The latest in an occasional series of posts in which Janice Harayda, a former vice-president for awards of the National Book Critics Circle, predicts the winners of or finalists for major book awards*

The six finalists for the 2008 Man Booker Prize for fiction will be named Tuesday, winnowed from among the titles longlisted in July www.themanbookerprize.com/prize/thisyear/longlist. If Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland doesn’t make it, it will be a shocker that’s the literary equivalent of the Sarah Palin selection in reverse. It’s not so much that the book is one for the ages — though it’s the best 2008 novel I’ve read — but that it’s so much better than most Booker finalists. (Who can forget that the 2007 Man Booker judges gave us one finalist, Lloyd Jones’s Mister Pip, that was written at a third-grade reading level? And that this was a frontrunner for the award that eventually went to The Gathering.) A review of and readers’ guide to Netherland appeared on this site on June 24 www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2008/06/24/. Check back around 5 p.m. Tuesday for the shortlist or a link to it.

*under a nom de guerre inspired by that of the late Las Vegas odds-maker Jimmy Snyder, better known as “Jimmy the Greek”

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

September 5, 2008

And Today’s Gusher Award for Achievement in Hyperbole in Book Reviewing Goes to …

Filed under: Gusher Awards — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:08 am
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The Gusher Awards are back after a summer hiatus of a couple of weeks. This week’s award goes to …

“The Great American Novel is something like a unicorn – rare and wonderful, and maybe no more of a notion. Yet every few years or so, we trip across some semblance of one. Oof! What’s this? Why, it’s The Story of Edgar Sawtelle (Ecco), a sprawling skein of a yarn about a farm nestled up against the forest primeval …”
June 2008, Elle

Unicorns are not “rare and wonderful” and “maybe no more of a notion” — they are mythical and there’s no “maybe” about whether they are “a notion.” Mixing the simile in the first sentence with that metaphor of “a sprawling skein of a yarn” makes it worse, and “Great American Novel” and “forest primeval” are clichés. There’s been a lot of talk this year about the decline of book reviewing in newspapers, and women’s magazines aren’t helping with prose like this.

Gusher Awards appear on Fridays on One-Minute Book Reviews unless no praise went far enough over the top that week to qualify. For a different view of David Wroblewski’s Hamlet-influenced first novel, see the review of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle written in iambic trimeter verse that appeared on this site on Aug. 28 www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2008/08/28/. A reading group guide to the novel was posted on Sept. 3 www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2008/09/03/.

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

September 3, 2008

Sarah Palin’s Résumé in 5 Lines

Sarah Palin makes “Obama’s resume look as thick as Winston Churchill’s,” Katha Pollitt wrote last week in her blog for the Nation. Apart from serving as mayor of Wasilla, what did Palin do before being elected governor of Alaska in 2006? This résumé or C. V. appears atop her two-page listing in the respected Almanac of American Politics 2008 (National Journal Group, 2007), by Michael Barone with Richard E. Cohen:

Elected Office: Wasilla City Cncl., 1992–1996; Wasilla Mayor, 1996-2002.

Professional Career: Television sports reporter, 1987–1989; Co-owner, commercial fishing operation, 1988–2007; Owner, snow machine, watercraft, and all-terrain vehicle business, 1994–1997; Chairwoman, Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, 2003–2004.”

Read Katha Pollitt’s “Sarah Palin, Wrong Woman for the Job” at www.thenation.com/blogs/anotherthing/351330 and a review of her essay collection Learning to Drive at www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/10/16/. Learn about the Almanac of American Politics 2008 at www.nationaljournal.com/almanac/.

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

July 19, 2008

Why Should We Spend Billions of Dollars to Send Astronauts to the Moon When People Are Starving Here on Earth? Randy Pausch Responds in ‘The Last Lecture’

Filed under: Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:29 pm
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Why spend money to send astronauts into outer space when we could use it to fight poverty and hunger on Earth? Americans began asking the question long before July 20, 1969, when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, Jr. walked on the moon as Michael Collins orbited with their spacecraft, and some may ask it again today.

Randy Pausch, a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University, responds in The Last Lecture www.thelastlecture.com, written with Jeffrey Zaslow:

“I understand the arguments about how the billions of dollars spent to put men on the moon could have been used to fight poverty and hunger on earth. But, look, I’m a scientist who sees inspiration as the ultimate tool for doing good.

“When you use money to fight poverty, it can be of great value, but too often, you’re working at the margins. When you’re putting people on the moon, you’re inspiring all of us to achieve the maximum of human potential, which is how our greatest problems will eventually be solved.”

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

July 3, 2008

Was George M. Cohan Really ‘Born on the Fourth of July’? Read a Biographer’s Answer and Listen to ‘I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy’ Here

I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy,

A Yankee Doodle do or die;

A real live nephew of my Uncle Sam’s,

Born on the Fourth of July.

– From George M. Cohan’s “Yankee Doodle Boy” (also known as “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy”)

George M. Cohan claimed that he, like the Yankee Doodle Boy of his famous song, was born on the Fourth of July in 1878. But it true? In a poorly sourced article on Cohan, Wikipedia says that the composer was born on July 3, 1878. Other sources disagree with the online encyclopedia.

Biographer John McCabe says this in George M. Cohan: The Man Who Owned Broadway (Doubleday, 1973):

“George Michael Cohan was almost certainly born on July 4, 1878, at 536 Wickenden Street, on Corkie Hill, in Providence, Rhode Island. Until Ward Morehouse discovered the Cohan baptismal certificate which carries a July 3 birthdate, there had never been any doubt that the real live nephew of his Uncle Sam was born on any day other than the Fourth. The baptismal certificate hardly settles the matter. As was not unusual at the time, the birth was not recorded in the civic registry in Providence. There is, however, circumstantial evidence writ large that the July 3 on the baptismal certificate is a clerical error. Cohan’s birthday was always celebrated on the Fourth of July by his parents, Jeremiah (‘Jere’ or ‘Jerry’) and Helen (‘Nellie’) Cohan, and this many years before that date began to have profitable connotations for the Yankee Doodle Dandy. The utter probity of these two remarkable people who early taught their son that a man’s word was his impregnable bond is the strongest proof that Cohan was indeed born on the Fourth.”

Among the other evidence cited by McCabe is that Cohan’s father wrote in his diary on July 3, 1882: “Got a little present for Georgie’s birthday tomorrow.” McCabe adds: “The very casualness of the entry in a book intended for his eyes alone bespeaks its integrity.”

To hear a 1905 audio recording of “Yankee Doodle Boy” sung by tenor Billy Murray, including verses rarely heard today, click on the following link (where you will hear the lines at the top of this post about 40 seconds into the song): www.firstworldwar.com/audio/Billy%20Murray%20-%20Yankee%20Doodle%20Boy.mp3. Cohan wrote “Yankee Doodle Boy” for the 1904 Broadway musical, Little Johnny Jones.

You can also hear Cohan’s “Over There” for free in three recordings on the site www.firstworldwar.com/audio/overthere.htm site, including a English-French version by Enrico Caruso. To listen to the Caruso or another “Over There,” you will have to make another click on the site to select which version you want to hear.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

June 27, 2008

Avoiding This Cliché ‘Should Be Required for All Americans’

Filed under: Gusher Awards — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 3:31 am
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And This Week’s Gusher Awards for Achievement in Hyperbole in Book Reviewing Go to …

“Sheeler’s book is a devastating account of the sacrifices military families make and should be required reading for all Americans.”
From a review of Jim Sheeler’s Final Salute in Publishers Weekly, March 31, 2008 www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6545566.html

The Long Road Home “should be required reading for all Americans so that we will all understand the consequences of our votes, no matter what they’re for or against.”
From a review of Martha Raddatz’s The Long Road Home in Publishers Weekly, March 26, 2007 www.publishersweekly.com/blog/670000267/post/490007849.html

“It should be required reading for every American; yes, it is that good.”
From a review of Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower in The Christian Science Monitor, Sept. 5, 2006 www.csmonitor.com/2006/0905/p14s03-bogn.html

(c) 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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