One-Minute Book Reviews

May 18, 2009

Do Readers Want ‘A Tragedy With a Happy Ending’?

Filed under: Novels — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 2:39 am
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“What the American public wants in the theater is a tragedy with a happy ending,” William Dean Howells said. Do people want this in novels, too? I gave a talk on The Story of Edgar Sawtelle at a library not long ago, and some members of the audience who loved the novel nonetheless disliked the downbeat ending. The reaction surprised me, because the reviews and publicity have made clear that the book has parallels to Hamlet, a tragedy in which corpses litter the stage in the last scene. Have the movies primed us to expect improbably happy endings? Or do the negative reactions have more to do with current events such as the recession?

February 17, 2009

Will Another of Oprah’s Book Club Choices Win a Delete Key Award for the Year’s Worst Writing in Books?

Filed under: Delete Key Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:39 pm
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Last year the grand prize in the Delete Key Awards for the year’s worst writing in books went to two passages from Eckhart Tolle’s impenetrable New Age bestseller, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose, an Oprah’s Book Club selection. Will another of Oprah’s choices take top honors this year?

Find out if one has a chance on Feb. 26 when One-Minute Book announces the shortlist for the 2009 Delete Key Awards, which recognize authors who don’t use their delete keys enough. How bad does writing have to be to claim a prize? Read Tolle’s Delete Key Award-winning passages here.

© 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

September 22, 2008

A Few Words on ‘Hamlet’ — Were Your English Teachers Right When They Told You That the Prince of Denmark Was a Man of Inaction?

Filed under: Plays — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 3:22 pm
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A lot of people may be returning to Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy now that Oprah has selected the Hamlet-influenced The Story of Edgar Sawtelle for her book club. And I may say more about that play closer to the date of the discussion of David Wroblewski’s novel. For now, I’ll mention one of the most perceptive scholarly comments I’ve read about the play: Many of us learned in school that Hamlet is “a man of inaction,” defined by his hesitations, but you could make a strong case that the opposite is true.

After becoming suspicious that his uncle killed his father in order to marry his mother, Hamlet vows revenge and devotes himself to achieving it. When traveling players arrive at Elsinore castle, he arranges quickly for them to put on a play that will confirm his beliefs, giving us the line: “…the play’s the thing/ Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.” Hamlet certainly deliberates, as in the “To be or not to be” soliloquy in which he ponders whether it’s better to live or die when we don’t know what death will bring. But it might be more accurate to describe the Prince of Denmark as contemplative, meditative, or ruminative, words that describe his thoughts, rather than as a man of “inaction,” which describes his behavior.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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

March 14, 2008

Grand Prize Winner in the 2008 Delete Key Awards: Eckhart Tolle’s ‘A New Earth’

Filed under: Delete Key Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:08 am
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And the grand prize winner in the 2008 Delete Key Awards contest is …

“A new species is arising on the planet. It is arising now, and you are it!”

“We are in the midst of a momentous event in the evolution of human consciousness. But they won’t be talking about it in the news tonight. On our planet, and perhaps simultaneously in many parts of our galaxy and beyond, consciousness is awakening from the dream of form. This does not mean all forms (the world) are going to dissolve, although quite a few almost certainly will. It means consciousness can now begin to create form without losing itself in it. It can remain conscious of itself, even while it creates and experiences form.”
— Both from Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose (Plume)

What was Oprah thinking when she chose this New Age mumbo-jumbo as her new book club selection? Other writing on the shortlist for the 2008 Delete Key Awards might have been bad, but at least you could figure out what it meant. Does anybody know what Tolle means when he says that consciousness may be “awakening from the dream of form” not just on Earth but “in many parts of our galaxy and beyond”? For sheer incomprehensibility, these passages surpass anything on the shortlist and have earned this self-help book the grand prize in this year’s contest for authors who aren’t using their delete keys enough.

The Secret may try to support its gospel of materialistic acquisition with pages of quotes from self-help gurus, but A New Earth looks to higher authorities to pave its path to to personal fulfillment: Tolle attempts to give credibility to his claim that “consciousness” may be awakening in other parts of “our galaxy and beyond” by drawing repeatedly on the Bible and other sacred texts.

For a while, it looked as though Oprah’s Book Club had made a welcome turn toward classics. But the winning entries from this book are classics of hokum. Goodbye, Love in the Time of Cholera. Hello, Psychobabble in the Time of Ratings Wars.

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

March 9, 2008

Which Has Worse Writing – ‘The Secret’ or ‘A New Earth’? You Be the Delete Key Awards Judge

Filed under: Delete Key Awards — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 7:37 pm
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Which has worse writing: Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret (Atria) and Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose (Plume)?

Both are among the finalists for 2008 Delete Key Awards, the winners of which will be announced on Friday. And One-Minute Book Reviews welcomes comments that could help with this difficult choice. Here are some of the passages from The Secret and A New Earth that qualified them for the shortlist:

From The Secret:

“The most common thought that people hold [about fat], and I held it too, is that food was responsible for my weight gain. That is a belief that does not serve you, and in my mind now it is complete balderdash! Food is not responsible for putting on weight. It is your thought that food is responsible for putting on weight that actually has food put on weight.”

From A New Earth:

“We are in the midst of a momentous event in the evolution of human consciousness. But they won’t be talking about it in the news tonight. On our planet, and perhaps simultaneously in many parts of our galaxy and beyond, consciousness is awakening from the dream of form. This does not mean all forms (the world) are going to dissolve, although quite a few almost certainly will. It means consciousness can now begin to create form without losing itself in it. It can remain conscious of itself, even while it creates and experiences form.”

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

February 29, 2008

2008 Delete Key Awards Finalist #4 – Eckhart Tolle’s ‘A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose’

Filed under: Delete Key Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 3:12 pm
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Delete Key Awards Finalist #4 – From Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose:

“A new species is arising on the planet. It is arising now, and you are it!”

“We are in the midst of a momentous event in the evolution of human consciousness. But they won’t be talking about it in the news tonight. On our planet, and perhaps simultaneously in many parts of our galaxy and beyond, consciousness is awakening from the dream of form. This does not mean all forms (the world) are going to dissolve, although quite a few almost certainly will. It means consciousness can now begin to create form without losing itself in it. It can remain conscious of itself, even while it creates and experiences form.”

Consciousness may be “awakening” in “many parts of our galaxy”? Has anybody told the National Aeronautics and Space Administration about this? If not, NASA will find out soon enough, because A New Earth recently was named the 61st selection of Oprah’s Book Club. Goodbye, Love in the Time of Cholera. Hello, Psychobabble in the Time of Ratings Wars.

The ten Delete Key Awards finalists are numbered but announced in random order.

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

February 21, 2008

Diary: ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ From the New Oprah’s Book Club Section, Eckhart Tolle’s ‘A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose’

Filed under: Nonfiction — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:52 am
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My library just got Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose, the 61st selection of Oprah’s Book Club. I didn’t understand why there was no waiting list for the book until I started to read it. Here are three passages from it:

“A new species is arising on the planet. It is arising now, and you are it!”

“We are in the midst of a momentous event in the evolution of human consciousness. But they won’t be talking about it in the news tonight. On our planet, and perhaps simultaneously in many parts of our galaxy and beyond, consciousness is awakening from the dream of form. This does not mean all forms (the world) are going to dissolve, although quite a few almost certainly will. It means consciousness can now begin to create form without losing itself in it. It can remain conscious of itself, even while it creates and experiences form.”

“The famous and now classic pop song, ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,’ is the song of the ego.”

I have no idea what any of this means, including the part about the Stones. I thought “Satisfaction” was rock, not pop. I tried to check this on Wikipedia and stumbled on a quote from Keith Richards: “ … the words I’d written for that riff were ‘I can’t get no satisfaction.’ But it could just as well have been ‘Auntie Millie’s Caught Her Left Tit in the Mangle’.” I wonder if anybody will bring this up at a meeting of Oprah’s Book Club? Or if any of this will make any sense after I’ve finished reading A New Earth?

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

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