One-Minute Book Reviews

March 14, 2008

And a 2008 Delete Key Awards Honorable Mention to Steve Martin and Roz Chast’s ‘The Alphabet From A to Y: With Bonus Letter Z!”

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And a 2008 Delete Key Awards honorable mention to …

To Steve Martin for:
“Henrietta the hare wore a habit in heaven, / Her hairdo hid hunchbacks: one hundred and seven.”

And to Roz Chast for a drawing that may leave thousands of children with the idea that the plural of “Inca” is “Incans”

From The Alphabet From At to Y: With Bonus Letter Z! by Steve Martin and Roz Chast (Doubleday)

At their best Steve Martin and Roz Chast are two of the funnier people in America. But the actor and cartoonist bring out the worst in each other in an alphabet book – a category typically aimed at 2-to-4-year-olds — that makes fun of, among others, people with disabilities.

Martin and Chast didn’t win the top prize partly because the Delete Key Awards recognize the year’s worst writing in books. And the couplet quoted here, if tasteless, is better written than the grand prize winner and runners-up. Martin’s jaunty anapestic lines are clear, metrically sound and (unlike Chast’s reference to those “Incans”) grammatically correct. This book would raise fewer objections if billed as a book for teenagers or adults (which it is) instead of for 2-year-olds (which it isn’t).

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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

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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.

First Runner-Up in the 2008 Delete Key Awards: Alice Sebold’s ‘The Almost Moon’

Filed under: Delete Key Awards,Newspapers — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 10:24 am
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And the first-runner up in the 2008 Delete Key Awards contest is …

“And there it was, the hole that had given birth to me.…This was not the first time I’d been face-to-face with my mother’s genitalia.”
— From Alice Sebold’s The Almost Moon (Little, Brown)

Is it overkill to recognize bad writing in novel that’s already been named one of the five worst books of 2007 by Entertainment Weekly,,20167009_3,00.html and that received a “Stinker of the Year” tag from New York magazine
Not when the book has a lot more like writing like this. (“Face-to-face” isn’t quite the right phrase for those body parts, does it?) And the novel set itself apart from the other finalists with more than what a visitor to this site called “the ‘ick’ factor.”

Last year’s first runner-up, Mitch Albom’s For One More Day, is written at a third-grade reading level (Grade 3.4) according to the readability statistics that come with the spell-checker on Microsoft Word. The Almost Moon barely rises above it with a level of Grade 4.7 and exemplifies the bizarre trend toward writing about adult subjects in prose fit for the Island Princess Barbie set. What’s next: My First Book of the Kama Sutra? Or Let’s Read and Find Out About S&M?

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

Second Runner-Up in the 2008 Delete Key Awards: Rhonda Byrne’s ‘The Secret’

Filed under: Delete Key Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 10:14 am
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And the second runner-up in the 2008 Delete Key Awards contest is

“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.”

Byrne suggests that if you want to lose weight, you should stop looking at fat people:

“If you see people who are overweight, do not observe them, but immediately switch your mind to the picture of you in your perfect body and feel it.”
Both from Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret (Atria)

Rhoda Byrne’s The Secret once looked like the favorite to win the grand prize in this year’s Delete Key Awards contest. Early in 2007, Jerry Adler had a brilliant five-page evisceration of this self-help book in Newsweek that rightly called some of its claims scientifically “preposterous.” Much of the book is just bizarre: Your thinking about food “has food put on weight”? (Does your thinking demagnetize the scale?) But with its fake red-wax seal and parchmentlike paper, The Secret tips you off right away to the possibility that it’s goop. Some of its rivals made weirder claims but were packaged to look like more than than they were.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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