One-Minute Book Reviews

December 11, 2006

Introducing Backscratching in Our Time and Frequent Blurber Miles … Only on One-Minute Book Reviews

Filed under: Uncategorized — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:38 pm

An Easy Way to Keep Track of Your Favorite Authors’ Favorite Authors

Did your friends send you sympathy cards when Spy magazine died and took with it “Logrolling in Our Time,” its much-loved running tally of reciprocity in blurbing? You can take off your black armband now.

One-Minute Book Reviews has launched Backscratching in Our Time, a feature that offers a running list of authors who love each other’s books. Or say they do. Each time a book gets a blurb from a writer its author has praised, a line about the literary backscratching will appear at the end of the review. You can see an example at the end of the review just below this post. Jon Katz praised John Grogan’s Marley and Me last year, and Grogan returns the favor by praising Katz’s A Good Dog this year.

The reciprocal blurbs will also appear in the separate Backscratching in Our Time category (tag), so you can read only the blurbs. Authors who appear regularly in Backscratching in Our Time will have an opportunity qualify for an honor even Spy didn’t dare to offer – the elite Frequent Blurber Miles, available only on One Minute-Book Reviews.

You can nominate candidates for Backscratching in Our Time and Frequent Blurber Miles leaving a comment on this site or sending the quote to the address on the “Contact” page. Please include the source of your quote with your suggestion.

© 2006 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

Marley and Me Gift Edition: One-Size-Fits-All Appeal

Filed under: Coffee Table Books,Memoirs — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:33 pm

If you like books about lovable but unruly pets, you might enjoy my post 5 Good (But Slightly Hair-Raising) Books About Bad Pets on Medium.

An encore for a memoir about a dog that was kicked out of obedience school

Marley and Me: Life and Love With the World’s Worst Dog. By John Grogan. Morrow, 291 pp., $21.95 (regular edition), $29.95 (gift edition).

By Janice Harayda

Perhaps no question is harder for critics to answer at cocktail parties than, “Can you recommend a good book?” Not because we have no ideas – most of us have hundreds – but because suggesting a book for someone you don’t know is like picking out a couch for a living room you haven’t seen. Recommending books for friends is easy. Recommending them for strangers is a killer, because few books appeal to everybody.

Even so, some books are more likely than others to please anybody from teenagers to great-grandparents. One is Marley and Me, John Grogan’s bestselling 2005 memoir of a lovable but incorrigible Labrador retriever. As a holiday gift, this book has almost everything going for it – it’s upbeat, unusually well-written, and tells a great story about subject of wide interest. And it’s just come out in a gift edition with a ribbon bookmark, many color photos of Marley and his owners, and a copy of his obedience school report card.

Critics loved Marley and Me, and you can find their words on easily on the Internet. So I’ll just mention a couple of things I like about the book. One is that it’s so funny, bookstores could sell it in the “humor” section. Letter carriers reacted to Marley “as if Cujo had just jumped out of the Stephen King novel.” Grogan tried giving him tranquilizers, but “He looked as though he belonged at a Grateful Dead concert.” And forget obedience school. Marley got kicked out.

Marley and Me is also about more than one man’s attempts to coexist with an endearing outlaw, the Butch Cassidy of dogs. Grogan weaves in subplots about his love for his wife and his ambivalence about South Florida, where he lived when he acquired Marley. which help to make his book as poignant as it is funny. And he avoids the impulse to canonize a pet that has turned so many books about animals to treacle. He allows that Marley might have known the secret to a good life: “Never slow down, never look back, live each day with adolescent verve and spunk and curiosity and playfulness.” But that’s as close as he gets to sentimentality. And wouldn’t you agree that if you get no closer to it this season, you’re ahead of the game?

Best Line: “As for brains, let me just say he chased his tail till the day he died, apparently convinced that he was on the verge of a major canine breakthrough.”

Worst line: None.

Editor: Mauro DiPreta

Published: October 2005 (first edition). October 2006 (gift edition).

Backscratching in our time

Jon Katz on John Grogan:

“Expect to laugh, cry and shake your head as you read this book … Marley is a great and memorable dog, and in the hands of a writer as observant, unsentimental and piercing as Grogan, this is a human-canine journey dog lovers will want to take.”


John Grogan on Jon Katz:

“Jon Katz understands dogs as few others do, intuitively and unburdened by sentimentality. His keen insights cut to the heart of the human-pet relationship – it’s immense joys and painful sorrows.”

From the dust jacket of A Good Dog (Villard, 2006)

© 2006 Janice Harayda. All rights recovered.

Backscratching in Our Time … A New Category Starting Tomorrow on One-Minute Book Reviews

Filed under: Uncategorized — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 7:27 pm

Did friends send you flowers when Spy magazine died and with it the beloved “Logrolling in Our Time”? You can take off your black armband now.

Tomorrow One-Minute Book Reviews will introduce Backscratching in Our Time, a new category (tag) that offers a running list of well-known authors who blurb each other’s books. The authors who appear most often in Backscratching in Our Time will qualify for a special honor that even Spy didn’t dare offer – the elite Frequent Blurber Miles, only available only on One Minute-Book Reviews.

Please bookmark this site or subscribe to the RSS feed to avoid missing the names of any authors who appear in Backscratching in Our Times or who may eventually qualify for those coveted Frequent Blurber Miles.

© 2006 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

Coming This Week on One-Minute Book Reviews

Filed under: Uncategorized — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 7:05 pm

The following books are tentatively scheduled to be reviewed by Janice Harayda during the week of Dec. 10 on One-Minute Book Reviews:

Monday: The Coldest Winter: A Stringer in Liberated Europe. By Paula Fox. [Reviewed below.] (Memoirs, Picador)
Tuesday: Marley and Me: Life and Love With the World’s Worst Dog: Gift Edition. By John Grogan. (Memoirs, Morrow)
Wednesday: The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World With Kindness. By Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval. (How to, Doubleday)
Thursday: To Be Announced.
Friday: Hidden Child. By Isaac Millman. (FSG, Children’s, Memoirs)
Saturday Children’s Corner: Children’s Books About Pirates

To avoid missing these or other reviews, please bookmark this site or subscribe to the RSS feed.

One-Minute Book Reviews covers books by all kinds of authors — “from presidents and kings to the scum of the earth,” as Lily Tomlin’s Ernestine might say. It seeks especially to provide parity for several groups often slighted by other media, including women, poets, and authors of books fron small presses or other countries. At least 50 percent of all reviews deal with books by women. Reviews typically alternate on a female author/male author basis.

“Fairness to women does not mean pretending that every female author is the next Jane Austen. Fairness to women is treating pretty good female authors the way you would treat pretty good male authors.”

— Janice Harayda

© 2006 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

Paula Fox: A One-Woman Antidote to James Frey

Filed under: Memoirs — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:06 pm

The Coldest Winter: A Stringer in Liberated Europe. By Paula Fox. Picador, 133 pp., $13, paperback.

By Janice Harayda

Paula Fox is a one-woman antidote to James Frey and others who recently have tarnished the field of memoir-writing. She has written two elegant books about her early life, Borrowed Finery and The Coldest Winter, and both are gems. Each shows perfect control of its form and is entirely believable. This alone would set her apart from recent memoirists whose sprawling, overstuffed books are full of incidents their authors could not possibly recall in the detail they claim.

But Fox has also led – not had – a remarkable life. In Borrowed Finery she recalled a childhood in which she lived on physical and emotional handouts after her parents abandoned her in infancy. The Coldest Winter picks up the story when, beginning in 1946, she wrote for small British news service and observed the ravages of war in Paris, Warsaw, Madrid and elsewhere. One day she was walking along a sidewalk next to Hyde Park in London and saw a group of men propping up a drunken Winston Churchill: “Not only was he weeping but mascara was puddling under his eyes before it ran down his plump cheeks.” A journalist told her later that “Churchill’s eyelashes were so light, he always wore mascara for filmed interviews.”

This incident is typical of The Coldest Winter. Wherever she goes, Fox knows that people make the story, or the one she wants to tell. This enables her to cast in a fresh light even those, like Churchill, who have found gifted biographers. Many of the people Fox meets are Hitler’s victims – adults with tattoos on their wrists or stunted children living on the former estate of a Prussian aristocrat that the Polish government “had converted into a kind of recovery residence” for orphans whose parents had been murdered by the Nazis. Think of the hour of television we might have seen if Oprah had devoted a show to the fate of those children instead of Frey’s excuses for A Million Little Pieces.

Best line: The journalists and others who traveled to Poland to cover an election included an Irishman “who had distinguished himself by remarking that the wreck of the old Warsaw railroad station was the most aesthetically satisfying bomb site in Europe.”

Worst line: None.

Recommended … without reservation.

Published: November 2006

FYI: Fox’s other books include the The Slave Dancer (Laurel Leaf Reprint, 1997), a historical novel for ages 9-12, which won the Newbery Medal in 1974.

© 2006 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

One-Minute Book Reviews is an independent literary blog created by Janice Harayda, an award-winning journalist who has been the book columnist for Glamour, the book editor and critic of The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, and a vice-president of the National Book Critics Circle. Janice Harayda does not accept books, catalogs, advance readers’ editions, press releases, or other promotional materials from editors, publishers, literary agents, or authors of new or forthcoming books.

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