One-Minute Book Reviews

May 27, 2008

‘Goodnight Bush’ — A Parody in the Style of a Certain Children’s Book

Filed under: Humor — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 3:49 pm
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You could argue that you can’t satirize the man who said “I know how hard it is to put food on your family” because his actions have outstripped reality. But that hasn’t stopped Gan Golan and Erich Origen from sending up the president in their just-published parody of a certain children’s book, Goodnight Bush (Little, Brown, 48 pp., $14.99). Until I can put my hands on a copy of this one, you can learn more from the reader-reviews on www.amazon.com and from GalleyCat www.mediabistro.com/GalleyCat/, which has an article on it today.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

May 21, 2008

Before Ted Kennedy’s Glioma, There Was Johnny Gunther’s

Filed under: Memoirs,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:38 pm
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Malignant brain tumors such as Sen. Ted Kennedy’s are uncommon enough that they have received less attention in books than many other types of cancer. One exception to the pattern is Death Be Not Proud, John Gunther’s eloquent memoir of the death of his 17-year-old son, Johnny, from a fatal glioma diagnosed when he was in high school www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2008/01/29/. American views of cancer have undergone a sea-change since the book was first published in 1949. But this modern classic remains one of the finest accounts we have of the physical and emotional toll that a malignant brain tumor takes on patients, even those who might seem to have all the advantages.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

May 9, 2008

Books the Candidates Need #3 – Barak Obama – ‘Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English’

Filed under: Nonfiction — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:30 am
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Barak Obama rose to fame partly on the strength of his eloquence as a speaker. So I was surprised to hear a couple of Democrats fault his grammar at a party last weekend. They said that Obama kept telling reporters that Rev. Jeremiah Wright “had married Michelle and I” instead of “Michelle and me.” Could it true?

I searched the Internet for “Obama” + “Wright” + “married Michelle and I.” Sure enough, the phrase popped up all over the Web www.msnbc.msn.com/id/24402983/. If Obama doesn’t want to lose the English-teacher vote, he’d better pick up Patricia T. O’Conner’s Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English: Second Edition (Riverhead, $14, paperback) www.grammarphobia.com. This lively grammar book explains what’s wrong with phrases like “married Michelle and I”: The personal pronoun is an object in the phrase, not a subject, which requires me.

My edition of Woe Is I also has a nice analysis of the root of the error. “I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that the seeds of the I-versus-me problem are planted in early childhood,” O’Conner writes. “We’re admonished to say, ‘I want a cookie,’ not ‘Me want a cookie.’ We begin to feel subconsciously that I is somehow more genteel than me, even in cases where me is the right choice – for instance, after a preposition.”

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

May 8, 2008

Books the Candidates Need #2 — John McCain — ‘Younger Next Year: A Guide to Living Like 50 When You’re 80 and Beyond’

Filed under: How to — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:49 am
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John McCain will be 72 years on August 29, and if he served two terms as president, he would celebrate his 80th birthday in the White House. Would we want to spend eight years watching him sink into what Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge call “the typical decay associated with aging”? No? Then maybe somebody should send him Crowley and Lodge’s Younger Next Year: A Guide to Living Like 50 When You’re 80 and Beyond (Workman, $12.95, paperback), a self-help book for men who want to avoid feeling like Father Time before their time. To meet its standards, McCain would to have to exercise at least six days a week. So those Secret Service agents who jog with George Bush may need to hold on to their running shoes.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

May 7, 2008

Books the Candidates Need #1 – Hillary Clinton – ‘How to Make Your Man Behave in 21 Days or Less Using the Secrets of Professional Dog Trainers’

Filed under: How to,Humor — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:53 am
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This is the first in a series of three posts this week that will suggest books for the U.S. presidential candidates on Wednesday (Hillary Clinton), Thursday (John McCain) and Friday (Barak Obama).

Hillary Clinton will have to do more than wrest the nomination from Barak Obama if she stays in the presidential race: She’ll have to keep Bill from sabotaging her chances by going off message again. That’s why she needs How Make Your Man Behave in 21 Days or Less Using the Secrets of Professional Dog Trainers (Workman, $9.95), by Karen Salmansohn with art by Alison Seiffer. This guide tells women how to recognize men such as The Hound, who can’t help chasing anything that moves, and offers tips on coping with them. “From day one, you must seize the leadership role,” Salmansohn says. “Never be extra-nice to a dog who’s misbehaving in hopes of winning him over … he’ll get the hint who’s boss.” If he runs away, don’t panic but stay calm and act like you’re having lots of fun without him: “Soon he’ll be totting eagerly back.” A tip that may prove useful at $1000-a-head fundraisers: “Dogs like to eat out of your plate.”

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

April 23, 2008

‘Anonymous’ No More — Does Joe Klein’s ‘Primary Colors’ Still Hold Any Interest Now That We All Know Who Wrote It?

Filed under: Novels — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:37 am
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A veteran political reporter satirizes sexual harassment and more on the campaign trail

Primary Colors: A Novel of Politics. By Anonymous (Joe Klein). Random House, 384 pp., $13.95, paperback.

By Janice Harayda

Guessing who wrote Primary Colors was a white-hot political parlor game in 1996, when the novel first appeared under the byline of “Anonymous.” But this former No. 1 bestseller is interesting for more than identity of its author, eventually revealed to be the longtime Washington journalist Joe Klein.

Primary Colors sends up the first presidential campaign of Jack Stanton, a Southern governor and stand-in for Bill Clinton. And Washington insiders had little trouble figuring out who might have inspired characters like first lady Susan Stanton (Hillary Clinton), campaign aide Henry Burton (George Stephanopoulos) and strategist Richard Jemmons (James Carville).

But Klein aims to do more than satirize the players in the 1992 Democratic primaries. Primary Colors is about the cost of political leadership in America and, perhaps, anywhere. “Two-thirds of what we do is reprehensible,” Jack Stanton says, while making clear that politicians will go on doing that reprehensible two-thirds because they think it justifies the good one-third.

Like most campaigns, Primary Colors is messy. It begins as a cynical – if effective – satire, then goes off the rails when it sinks into farce and axe-grinding. And yet, there are so few credible novels about political campaigns that Primary Colors, for all its imperfections, is still one of the best we have.

In one of its most famous scenes, a middle-aged political strategist whips out his penis at campaign headquarters in an attempt to lure young press aide to his hotel room. She looks at it and says, “I’ve never seen one that … old.” The strategist turns red and runs out of the room. Campaign aides – who have been eavesdropping – cheer. And for that scene alone, Primary Colors would deserve a cheer or two of its own.

Best line: On Mario Cuomo, the former governor of New York: “His fantasy is a race where he doesn’t run and nobody else wins.”

Worst line: A comment by a 250-pound lesbian campaign aide: “YOU ARE OUTTA HERE, you slimetudinous sack of snail wuzzle.”

Published: October 1996 (first edition).

One-Minute Book Reviews is for people who like to read but dislike hype and review inflation.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

April 22, 2008

“I’ve never seen one that … old” – A Second Look at ‘Primary Colors’

Filed under: Novels,Paperbacks,Uncategorized — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:08 am
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In a famous scene in Primary Colors, a middle-aged political strategist whips out his penis at the headquarters of a presidential campaign in an attempt to lure young press aide to his hotel room. She looks at it and says, “I’ve never seen one that … old.” The strategist turns red and runs out of the room. Campaign aides – who have been eavesdropping – cheer. Tomorrow One-Minute Book Reviews will reconsider Primary Colors, the 1996 bestseller by Joe Klein, a Washington journalist who initially used the byline “Anonymous. The novel satirizes the first presidential campaign of a Democratic governor named Jack Stanton, stand-in for Bill Clinton. (c) 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

March 17, 2008

A Colorful Irish Politician Gets Another Hurrah in a Fine Biography

Filed under: Biography — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:59 pm
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Many people know the flamboyant Irish politician James Michael Curley only through Edwin O’Connor’s novel The Last Hurrah or its excellent film version, which starred Spencer Tracy in one of his greatest roles. But the four-time Boston mayor (who spent part of his last term in jail) has also inspired a fine biography, Jack Beatty’s The Rascal King: The Life and Times of James Michael Curley (1874–1958) (DaCapo, $22.50). Did people really sing “Vote often and early for Curley” as in John Ford’s film? Beatty deals with this and other provocative questions in a lively and well-paced account that holds its own against the many good books about Irish politicians who are better-known, including the Kennedys. Any mayor who is leading a parade today would be lucky if, several decades from now, a biographer as conscientious as Beatty decided to start looking into some of the myths about his or her life.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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.

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