One-Minute Book Reviews

March 23, 2007

Complete List of Reading Group Guides Available on One-Minute Book Reviews

Filed under: Book Reviews,Books,Reading,Totally Unauthorized Reading Group Guides — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 8:48 pm

Can’t find a good reading group guide to a book your club is reading?

One-Minute Book Reviews posts its own reading group guides to the some books reviewed on the site. These lists of discussion questions have no connection to publishers’ guides and may be more comprehensive or take a different view of books. You can find the guides archived in the Totally Unauthorized Reading Group Guides on One-Minute Book Reviews. The original reviews are archived both by category and date of posting.

Here’s a compete list of guides available as of March 22, 2007. Many more will be coming in 2007. Each title is followed by followed by the date of the original review, the category in which it’s archived, and a link to the review. If a direct link to a review doesn’t work, you can find the review by going to the site and searching for the title.

Stuart: A Life Backwards. By Alexander Masters. A charming biography of an “ex-homeless, ex-junkie psychopath” that has won or been short-listed for several major literary awards. (March 22, 2007, Biography)

The Second Child: Poems. By Deborah Garrison. Rhymed and unrhymed poetry about the intersection of work and motherhood, including classic forms such as the sonnet and sestina. (March 12, Poetry) intersection-of-work-and-motherhood/

Born Twice: A Novel. By Guiseppe Pontiggia. One of the great recent novels about fatherhood, which won Italy’s highest literary award, the Strega Prize. (March 8, 2007, Novels)

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier. By Ishmael Beah. A young writer’s story of his experiences as a fighter in the government army during the civil war in Sierra Leone. (Feb. 27, 2007, Memoirs)

The Higher Power of Lucky. By Susan Patron. Ages 10 and up. The controversial winner of the 2007 Newbery Medal that has the word “scrotum” on the first page. (Feb. 19, 2007, Children’s)

The Birthday Party: A Memoir of Survival. By Stanley N. Alpert. A former federal prosecutor’s account of being kidnapped on a Manhattan street and held for thugs who showed a gang-that-couldn’t-shoot-straight ineptitude. (Jan. 30, 2007, Memoirs)

I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughs on Being a Woman. By Nora Ephron. Witty and trenchant essays by the author of Heartburn and the script for When Harry Met Sally … . (Oct. 14, 2006, Essays and Reviews)

An authorized reading group guide to Janice Harayda’s novel Manhattan on the Rocks, a comedy of New York manners, also appears on the site. It was posted on March 26 and is archived with the March 2007 posts and in the “Totally Unauthorized Reading Group Guides” category.

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

Ranking the 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived From Prometheus to Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Filed under: Essays and Reviews,General,Nonfiction — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 3:06 am

Nancy Drew and Archie Bunker meet Hamlet and Pandora in a guide to fictional power players

The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived: How Characters of Fiction, Myth, Legends, Television, and Movies Have Shaped Our Culture, Changed Our Behavior, and Set the Course of History. By Allan Lazar, Dan Karlan and Jeremy Salter. Harper, 317 pp., $13.95 paperback.

By Janice Harayda

Publishers have a phrase for books like The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived – “an impulse buy at the bookstore.” Boy, do they know me. I can’t remember what I was looking when I saw this book near the cash register at a bookstore. Whatever it was, it’s vanished from my mind last week’s episode of Wife Swap. But I keep dipping into this dish of literary tacos with mild salsa.

Allan Lazar, Dan Karlan and Jeremy Salter had the idea of selecting and ranking the 101 most influential people who never existed, giving you a few pages of sprightly text about each and defining “people” loosely enough to encompass King Kong (No. 74), Joe Camel (No. 78) and The Cat in the Hat (No. 79). This concept is nothing new. You can find similar books by searching Amazon for the “dictionary + fictional characters” or in the reference sections at many bookstores.

What is new is the packaging of the book, a trade paperback with a conversational tone instead of the usual professorial door-stopper. So The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived could be a handy book for, say, baby boomers who are having trouble explaining to their grandchildren exactly why Archie Bunker (No. 32) was so different from other sitcom characters of his day. It wasn’t just that he called his liberal son-in-law “Meathead”:

“Archie expressed what ultraconservative white people said behind closed doors on topics such as rape and poverty (the victims were to blame), homosexuality (perverts), militia groups (real Americans), welfare recipients (cheats who took hard-earned money out of his pocket) , college students (all pinko Communists), and support for the Vietnam War (real patriotism).”

Lazar, Karlan and Salter offer no narrative thread to connect the entries, so their essays tend to lack a context. Most readers under 40 might find it easier to fathom how Archie’s bigotry ever made it to prime time if they knew that he descended spiritually from Ralph Kramden (Jackie Gleason) on The Honeymooners, who was always threatening to belt his wife. (“One of these days, Alice – pow! – right in the kisser.”) You could also argue that, for that reason, Kramden and not Bunker belonged on the list. But part of the fun of this book is comparing your list with the authors’ rankings of characters like Hamlet (No. 5), Pandora (No. 47), Prometheus (No. 46), Nancy Drew (No. 62) and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (No. 44). Anybody want to argue that Perry Mason (No. 86) had less clout than Ally McBeal?

Best line: About the Marlboro Man (No. 1): “Advertising Age picked the Marlboro Man as the most powerful brand image of the twentieth century.” Why? Philip Morris had marketed Marlboros as a women’s brand that was “Mild As May”: “Marlboro’s new image boosted its sales four-fold from 1955 to 1957, and by 1972 it had become the top cigarette brand both in the nation and the world.” The original Marlboro Man and two other actors used for the role all died from lung cancer or emphysema.

Worst line: About the Loch Ness Monster (No. 56): Nessie is “the most popular tourist attraction in Scotland.” The most popular tourist attraction in Scotland has for years been Edinburgh Castle Nessie isn’t even among the top ten on some lists. The rest of this section is also weak. As proof of the nonexistence of the monster, the authors say that the most famous photo of it turned out to be a hoax. What about all the sonar and other scientific reports that have shown that the creature never existed?

Recommended if … you’re not looking for a scholarly reference book but for the views of enthusiastic amateurs who get some facts wrong and serve up essays of inconsistent quality. Some entries are well-written, while others read like rough drafts.

Editors: Carolyn Marino, Jennifer Civiletto and Wendy Lee

Published: October 2006

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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