One-Minute Book Reviews

April 8, 2008

Remembering When Talking About Your Children Was Taboo at Dinner Parties – Phyllis Theroux’s ‘Peripheral Visions’

Filed under: Essays and Reviews — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 4:47 pm
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I came across this startling line while rereading Phyllis Theroux’s, Peripheral Visions (Morrow, 1982), one of best essay collections of the 1980s:

“There’s no quicker route to poor opinion than to be at a dinner party and say brightly at table, ‘Guess what our Jeremy said today?’ Children are taboo at dinner parties … “

Theroux wrote those words while living in Washington, D.C., where the table talk is sometimes as carefully choreographed as the second act of Swan Lake. But her comment suggests how tolerant of parental boasting our culture has become since her book appeared. When was the last time you went to a dinner party and didn’t hear a parent say, in effect, “Guess what our Jeremy said today?”

Credit: Photo from the site for Theroux’s Nightwriters seminars and retreats for writers The next seminar will take place in Sonoma County May 4–9, 2008. I have ‘t attended one of these programs. But Theroux is a fine, highly respected writer who seems to keep the size of her seminars small enough that you’ll get personal attention. And the price isn’t much higher than for a comparable number of nights in a good hotel. I’d check out her site if you’re looking for a writers’ retreat with a difference.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

December 30, 2007

Cheers to Paul Dickson’s ‘Toasts,’ a Book of Ideas for New Year’s Eve and Beyond

“To champagne – a beverage that makes you see double and feel single.”

From Paul Dickson’s Toasts

Blame it on stage fright, cultural illiteracy, or the popularity of nonalcoholic drinks like green tea and Grape Vitaminwater. But the ability to make an artful toast is going the way of fine penmanship. If you’d like to keep it alive, you’ll find inspiration in Paul Dickson’s Toasts: Over 1,500 of the Best Toasts, Sentiments, Blessings, and Graces (Crown, $19), illustrated by Rollin McGrail. Many similar books focus on one occasion or group, such as wedding or Irish toasts. Dickson casts a wider net, offering ideas for events that range from retirement parties to everyday meals. He notes that toasts can be “sentimental, cynical, lyric, comic, defiant, long, short, or even a single word.” And he gives examples of all, including some that fit New Year’s Eve. Looking for an alternative to “Cheers” and “L’chayim”? What about, “To champagne – a beverage that makes you see double and feel single”? If you’ll be celebrating with a spouse who makes that one risky, you could try: “May all your troubles during the coming year be as short as your New Year’s resolutions.” You can find ideas for toasts for occasions other than the end of 2007 by going to the page for Toasts on and using the “Search Inside This Book” tool.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.


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