One-Minute Book Reviews

March 13, 2008

Democratic ‘Luv Guv’ James McGreevey Couldn’t Win a Delete Key Award in 2007, But Can Republican Newt Gingrich Do It in 2008?

Filed under: Delete Key Awards — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:56 am
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James McGreevey, the former governor of New Jersey, made the shortlist for last year’s Delete Key Awards with a steamy gay-sex passage from his memoir, The Confession. But the Democrat known as the “Luv Guv” lost to Danielle Steel, Mitch Albom and Claire Messud. Can the former Republican Speaker of the House do better when the 2008 winners are announced on Friday?

Newt Gingrich and co-author William Forstchen made the shortlist with this passage from Pearl Harbor: A Novel of December 8th (St. Martin’s/Thomas Dunne):

“James nodded his thanks, opened the wax paper and looked at bit suspiciously at the offering, it looked to be a day or two old and suddenly he had a real longing for the faculty dining room on campus, always a good selection of Western and Asian food to choose from, darn good conversation to be found, and here he now sat with a disheveled captain who, with the added realization, due to the direction of the wind, was in serious need of a good shower.”

Read the full 2008 shortlist here www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2008/02/29/. You’ll find the shortlisted 2007 passage by former New Jersey “Luv Guv” Jim McGreevey (“He greeted me in his briefs …”) here www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/03/14/. The winners will be announced on Friday, March 14, starting at 10 a.m. Eastern Time, so you need to leave a comment today if you want to try to rig the jury.

The annual Delete Key Awards recognize authors who aren’t using their delete keys enough. They don’t honor the “worst books” but instead call attention to the worst passages in books, such as individual sentences or paragraphs.

(c) 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.


February 29, 2008

2008 Delete Key Awards Finalist #9 – Newt Gingrich and William Forstchen’s ‘Pearl Harbor: A Novel of December 8th”

Filed under: Delete Key Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:31 am
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Delete Key Awards Finalist #9 – From Pearl Harbor: A Novel of December 8th by Newt Gingrich and William Forstchen:

“James nodded his thanks, opened the wax paper and looked at bit suspiciously at the offering, it looked to be a day or two old and suddenly he had a real longing for the faculty dining room on campus, always a good selection of Western and Asian food to choose from, darn good conversation to be found, and here he now sat with a disheveled captain who, with the added realization, due to the direction of the wind, was in serious need of a good shower.”

The English language goes down the USS Arizona in this novel that envisions the attack on Pearl Harbor from the Japanese point or view. Pearl Harbor suggests that Gingrich, a former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, writes fiction about as well as Danielle Steel could draft legislation. But even Steel has a better grasp of the function of a comma than the authors of this book, both candidates for a gift-wrapped copy of Lynne Truss’s Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation.

The ten finalists for the 2008 Delete Key Awards are being numbered, beginning with No. 10, announced in random order.

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

December 7, 2007

Remembering Pearl Harbor in Books, Movies and Music

The day that Franklin D. Roosevelt called “a date which will live in infamy” also lives in libraries, bookstores and on the Web

By Janice Harayda

The English language goes down with the USS Arizona in Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen’s Pearl Harbor: A Novel of December 8th (St. Martin’s/Thomas Dunne, $25.95), a novel that offers a Japanese view of (and an alternate ending to) the attack that brought the U.S. into World War II. So if you’re interested in this one, you may want to head for the library or wait for the paperback due out on April 15.

I haven’t read the classic Pearl Harbor novel, James Jones’s From Here to Eternity, but it’s been praised by tough critics, including Joan Didion (and I enjoyed Frank Sinatra’a Academy Award-winning performance in the movie version, which also won the Oscar for “Best Picture”). Jones saw the attack on Pearl Harbor while serving as an infantryman in Hawaii and drew on his war experiences in the book.

The most memorable quote I’ve read about the attack came from Winston Churchill, who said that after the bombing, he “slept like a baby” for the first time in months because he knew that U.S. had entered the war at last. Alas, I’ve read so many biographies of Churchill that I can’t remember where it appeared. But a related quote appears Winston Churchill: Penguin Lives Series (Penguin, $19.95), a good short life of Britian’s wartime prime minister by John Keegan, the distinguished military historian. Keegan quotes Churchill as saying after Pearl Harbor, “So we had won after all!”

To listen to the Navy Hymn played at the funerals of the sailors who died at Pearl Harbor (and also at that of FDR), click here www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/e/t/eternalf.htm. Put on your headphones if you’re in a library, because you’ll hear the music as soon as you click.

Other links: To read the review of Pearl Harbor posted on this site on July 30, 2007, click here www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/07/30/. You’ll find praise for Gingrich’s novel on the publisher’s site www.thomasdunnebooks.com. You can read about James Jones at www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Jones and about From Here to Eternity at www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/From_Here_to_Eternity. You can learn about the movie version of Jones’s novel and watch the trailer at the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) at www.imdb.com/title/tt0045793/. And there’s more on Keegan’s life of Churchill at http://us.penguingroup.com/nf/Theme/ThemePage/0,,634125,00.html

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

July 30, 2007

The English Language Goes Down With the USS Arizona in Newt Gingrich’s ‘Pearl Harbor’

Characters “chuckle” all the way to disaster in an alternate version of history

Pearl Harbor: A Novel of December 8th. By Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen. Contributing Editor: Albert S. Hanser. St. Martin’s/Thomas Dunne, 366 pp., $25.95.

By Janice Harayda

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich writes fiction about as well as Danielle Steel could draft legislation. But I wouldn’t be too hard on his alternate version of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, changed by the presence of one man who decides to take part at the last minute.

It’s true that if people stereotyped men’s novels as they do women’s, critics might call this book “dick lit” without the sex. But Pearl Harbor isn’t as bad as, say, Tom Clancy’s novels. For one thing, it moves faster. And if Gingrich and co-author William Forstchen give you plenty of descriptions of weapons and strategy, you’re never drowning in an alphabet-soup of acronyms as in Clancy’s lumbering behemoths.

Pearl Harbor also provides many moments of unintended comedy. Some of these occur when the novel takes us inside the minds of world leaders. At the Atlantic Conference, Winston Churchill looks gravely at Franklin D. Roosevelt and says, “Mr. President, I feel that despite all our problems in Russia, North Africa, and the Atlantic, I also have to remind you that we could face a very nasty situation in the Pacific.”

William Manchester was never like this, and neither was his English. Lynne Truss might have written Eats, Shoots and Leaves for Gingrich and Forstchen, who pile on run-on sentences and other forms of mangled grammar. “No time to replace the wires, splice, and tape,” they write after an American plane takes a hit at Hickam Field, leaving you wondering whether they intended “splice” and “tape” as verbs or nouns.

Even so, Pearl Harbor shows that the Americans, British, and Japanese had more in common than you might imagine. One is they all “chuckled” a lot when faced with world-shattering events. Gingrich and Forstchen and tell us Churchill “chuckled” as the German bombs rattled his bunker. Admiral Yamamoto “chuckled” over naiveté of the U.S. and “chuckled derisively” when he thought of its diplomats. And Commander James Watson of the U.S. Navy, the closest the book has to a hero, “chuckled” when asked by a British correspondent how many aircraft carriers were near Pearl Harbor. “You know I can’t tell you that.”

Gingrich and Forstchen say that this novels is the first in a series that will show how World War II might have turned out if the events of Pearl Harbor had taken place. On the evidence of this book, some characters will be chuckling all the way to V-J Day.

Best line: Many details of wartime life would be more memorable if they didn’t appear in grammatical train wrecks. The authors write of No. 10 Downing Street during the Blitz: “The windows, of course were all cross-hatched with tape, inside, blackout curtains darkened the room.” It’s interesting that air-raid precautions against air-raids were so primitive even in the British prime minister’s residence. But that fact appears in the kind of run-on sentence known as a comma splice (in which two independent clauses are joined with a comma instead of a conjunction, such as an “and” before “inside”). The sentence is also missing a comma after “course.”

Worst line (tie): No. 1: “James nodded his thanks, opened the wax paper and looked at bit suspiciously at the offering, it looked to be a day or two old and suddenly he had a real longing for the faculty dining room on campus, always a good selection of Western and Asian food to choose from, darn good conversation to be found, and here he now sat with a disheveled captain who, with the added realization, due to the direction of the wind, was in serious need of a good shower.” No. 2: “To withdraw backward was impossible.” So withdrawing forward was still an option?

Editor: Pete Wolverton

Published: May 2007 www.newt.org/pacificwarseries/

Conflict alert: A different imprint of St. Martin’s published my first novel. I almost never review books by my publishers but have made an exception in this case because Gingrich is talking about running for president in 2008. And this novel has had fewer reviews than you might expect for someone who may have his eye on the White House.

For more on the alarming number of characters in Pearl Harbor who “chuckled” on the way to diaster, see the Newt Gingrich Chuckle Meter, posted earlier today on One-Minute Book Reviews www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/07/30/.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

Janice Harayda is has been the book columnist for Glamour, the book editor of the Plain Dealer, and a vice-president of the National Book Critics Circle.

Newt Gingrich Chuckle Meter

Filed under: Novels — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:06 am
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A novel about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor might sound grim. But Newt Gingrich provides lots of chuckles in Pearl Harbor: A Novel of December 8th (St. Martin’s, $25.95), written with co-author William R. Forstchen and contributing editor Albert S. Hanser.

Here are some of the places in the book where the former Speaker of the House tells us that a character “chuckled”:

“the cabbie chuckled softly” (page 8).
“[Japanese Commander Mitsuo] Fuchida chuckled’ (page 34).
Fuchida “chuckled” again (page 34).
“[U.S. Commander James] Watson chuckled’ (page 38).
“Fuchida chuckled” (page 38).
“[Royal Navy Lieutenant Commander] Cecil [Stanford] chuckled” (page 39).
“Winston [Churchill] chuckled softly” (page 57).
“Cecil chuckled” (page 58).”
“Winston chuckled” (page 58).
“Winston chuckled” (page 67).
“Fuchida chuckled” (page 124).
“Fuchida chuckled” (page 126).
“Fuchida chuckled” (page 127).
“The American chuckled” (page 152).
“[U.S. Colonel Carl] Spaatz chuckled” (page 156).
“[Japanese Naval Attaché Minoru] Genda “chuckled” (page 157).
“Watson chuckled softly” (page 170).
“[Japanese Admiral Isoroku] Yamamoto chuckled” (page 178)
“[Yamamoto] chuckled derisively” (page 179).
“Genda chuckled” (page 250).
“Winston chuckled” (page 263).
“Winston chuckled” again (page 263).
“Winston chuckled” (page 269).
Watson and Stanford “both chuckled at the same time” (page 277).
“James [Watson] chuckled” (page 283).

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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