One-Minute Book Reviews

October 20, 2009

Late Night With Jan Harayda – Why John Mortimer, Creator of Rumpole, Liked Representing Murderers Better Than People Who Were Divorcing

Emily Mortimer has a charming essay on her doting father John, the novelist who created Rumpole of the Bailey, in the October issue of Tatler. She says in part:

“I was brought up by a man who knew a lot of murderers and who considered many of them to be decent people. It is an education I am proud of. He always said that, in his days as a defense barrister, murderers were his favorite clients. This was partly because, unlike divorcing couples who were always ringing him up in the middle of the night and accusing each other of taking the toaster, murder suspects found it more difficult to get to a telephone. Also, he said, they had often got rid of the one person on earth who was really making their life hell, and a kind of peace had descended over them.”

June 15, 2009

An 86-Year-Old Former Lawyer Looks Back – Frank Turner Hollon’s ‘The Pains of April’

Filed under: Novels — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:02 pm
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Not long ago I visited a part of Alabama where a lot of people were reading Frank Turner Hollon’s novella, The Pains of April (MacAdam/Cage, 114 pp., $7.50, paperback), a book popular with local reading groups. The narrator is an 86-year-old widower, former lawyer, and Gulf Coast rest-home resident, who reminisces about his life amid activities such as playing cards, watching television, and sneaking out with friends to get a tattoo. And he makes an interesting observation about small-town life: “When a very good carpenter comes into a community, he makes the entire profession better. He raises the bar for good carpenters and puts the bad carpenters out of business. When a very good lawyer comes into a community, there can be a different result. He has the power to destroy the system itself. He has the ability to turn justice around. He can prove the innocent man guilty and set the guilty man free. He can make sense out of nonsense and have a jury laughing at the truth.”

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December 26, 2007

A Pittsburgh Lawyer Tries to Play Through His ‘Midlife Crisis’ in Philip Beard’s Golf Novel, ‘Lost in the Garden’ (Books I Didn’t Finish)

Maybe the golfer in bunny ears on the cover should have been the tip-off

Title: Lost in the Garden: A Novel (Plume, 240 pp, $14, paperback), by Philip Beard.

What it is: A comic novel about a 45-year-old lawyer who, after his wife kicks him out of their home in suburban Pittsburgh, tries to cope with what he calls his “midlife crisis” by playing golf.

How much I read: The prologue, the first chapter and some later passages, about 30 pages.

Why I stopped reading: Beard starts pushing his luck with his first line: “If you choose books the way I do, you still have a chance to save yourself a few bucks.” He adds: “This is not a book that is meant to be bought; it’s only a book that needed to be written.” This sort of self-consciously ironic pose makes a critic say very quickly, “Okay, if it’s not meant to be bought, I won’t tell people to buy it.” Especially when the cliché “midlife crisis” also appears in the first few pages. A Publishers Weekly reviewer who finished the book said, “After a promising start, Beard doesn’t provide enough plot to keep the reader from losing patience with Beard’s self-absorbed mid-lifer and his games (sporting and otherwise).” That may be true, but comic novels don’t need a lot of plot if they’re funny enough to make you want to keep reading, regardless.

Best line in what I read: A quote from the novelist Peter De Vries: “Confession is good for the soul only in the sense that a tweed coat is good for dandruff – it is a palliative rather than a remedy.”

Worst line in what I read: Beard writes of the members of a golf club: “The women (who only just attained full membership status in 1998, following a battle that rivaled the one for women’s suffrage in both acrimony and expense) …” The labored humor of the line is typical of what I read.

Consider reading instead: Nick Hornby’s How to Be Good, a much funnier treatment of the crisis that occurs in the life of a father of two when his wife says he wants a divorce (“Nick Hornby Looks at a Marriage in Trouble in His Comic Novel How to Be Good“) www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/09/11/.

Published: May 2007 (Plume paperback), May 2006 (Viking hardcover) http://us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9780452288423,00.html

Caveat lector: On the book cover shown here, the man is wearing yellow bunny ears. These may not show up on your computer screen.

Furthermore: Beard also wrote the novel Dear Zoe, which he self-published, then sold to Viking. He has a great story on his site about the experience www.philipbeard.net/backstory.html. He is a writer and lawyer in Pittsburgh.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

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