One-Minute Book Reviews

November 26, 2008

Has Film Replaced the Novel as the Best Medium for Exploring How We Live’? (Quote of the Day / Allan Massie)

Filed under: Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:56 pm
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Critics have been predicting the death of the novel for so long that some people take for granted that the future, if not the present, belongs to movies. Is this a fair assumption?

Allan Massie, the Scottish journalist and novelist, recently considered the question in the Spectator, the British weekly. One often-heard explanation, Massie noted, is just as the theater yielded to the novel, the novel has yielded to the film: “Our culture has become visual rather than literary.” He responded:

“Some truth to this. Even though film still draws on novels and short stories, it has become a less literary medium in the last quarter-century. Cinema offers more immediate sensations and it generally requires less of its audience, which is essentially passive, than the serious novel does of the reader.”

Massie added that others say that narratives in print have gone out of fashion:

“In truth these explanations are less than convincing. Film hasn’t superseded the novel. As a medium for examining the way we live and the way we should live, film has for the most part proved wretchedly inadequate. Its ability to explore moral or ethical questions is slight, because such exploration must be verbal, and film deals in images. Film is the great simplifier, and that is part of its charm. …

“No need, therefore, to ring the funeral bell. The aspiring novelist needs only courage, intelligence, imagination, a keen eye, and the belief that writing novels remains the best way of telling aqnd showing how it is. “

Massie’s comment appeared in a Life & Letters column called “The Death of the Novel” in the July 28, 2008, issue of the Spectator www.spectator.co.uk, but doesn’t appear on its Web site.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

October 12, 2008

Late Night With Jan Harayda – Video on All Wikipedia Pages Next Year?

Filed under: Late Night With Jan Harayda,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 10:19 pm
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More notes from WordPress’s Oct. 5 New York WordCamp 2008 …

After lunch we heard an interesting talk by Shay David, co-founder of Kaltura corp.kaltura.com/, the first free open-source platform for video creation. David said that Kaltura has joined forces with Wikipedia and that, next year, we’ll see video on every Wikipedia page. Kaltura had announced the partnership with Wikipedia in January, and Craig Rubens reported then on NewTeeVee:

“Following Wikipedia’s original idea of having the world co-edit the most comprehensive encyclopedia, Kaltura will move those textually two-dimensional pages into the video-enhanced age of rich social media. In other words, the wisdom of the masses just got a webcam and everyone gets final cut
newteevee.com/2008/01/17/wikipedia-to-get-its-video-on/.”

Rubens added that you’ll be able to contribute to Wikipedia by clicking on “edit this video” or “add to this video,” and nothing in David’s WordCamp speech contradicted this earlier report. You can download Kaltura for free now corp.kaltura.com/download.

Kaltura is also working with the New York Public Library to make available the library’s database of more than 600,000 historical images corp.kaltura.com/press/the-new-york-public-library-and-kaltura-team-to-enhance-online-collaborative-rich-media.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

September 25, 2008

Late Night With Jan Harayda – Babbittry at the Cleveland Orchestra?

A music critic’s demotion brings to mind Sinclair Lewsis’s great comic novel

Not many Americans still use the word babbittry, that wonderful term for naive boosterism similar to that of the title character of Babbitt. But babbittry may help to explain the plight of my former colleague Donald Rosenberg, who was demoted last week to an arts-and-entertainment reporter from his longtime post as the senior classical music critic at the Plain Dealer. His reassignment inspired a story in today’s New York Times and a cascade of comments on blogs, including posts at The New Yorker www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/goingson/?xrail and the Baltimore Sun weblogs.baltimoresun.com/entertainment/classicalmusic/2008/09/critic_who_dared_criticize_cle.html.

Much of the evidence suggests that this was a sad case of a critic punished for being — well, critical. Or, more specifically, for writing reviews of the work of conductor Franz Welser-Möst that weren’t boosterish enough for the orchestra management. And a Sept. 25 valentine to Welser-Möst www.cleveland.com/arts/ by Rosenberg’s successor, Zachary Lewis, strengthens that impression. No less startling than the timing of Lewis’s article was a line in it suggesting that the orchestra paid the bill for the lunch at which he interviewed Welser-Möst for the story. I took many authors to lunch in my 11 years as the book editor of the Plain Dealer, and if I had allowed any of those sources to pick up the check, I would have expected not to have a job the next day. Lewis apparently permitted it and got promoted. Many newspapers consider it unethical for reporters to allow sources to pay for meals, so even those that allow the practice tend not to advertise the freeloading as Lewis did. And unless his comment about the lunch was misleading, you have to wonder if the demotion wasn’t symptomatic of something larger.

I have no inisde knowledge of why the reassignment occurred, but I admired the intelligence and professionalism Don brought to his work at the Plain Dealer, where he reviewed occasional books for me. So this is a reminder that if he’s lost his beat, you can still read his writing about the orchestra in a book: Don wrote the definitive history of the Cleveland Orchestra, The Cleveland Orchestra Story: “Second to None” (Gray, 752 pp., $40).

Late Night With Jan Harayda is a series of occasional posts that appear after 10 p.m. Eastern Time and comment on literary or related events but do include reviews, which appear in the morning or afternoon.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved
www.janiceharayda.com

http://www.janiceharayda.com

July 23, 2008

Editors Protest Plans to Kill LA Times Sunday Book Review Section — Read Their Letter About Why This Hurts the City and Others

Filed under: News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:42 pm
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The Los Angeles Times plans to kill its Sunday Book Review section and fold any surviving reviews into the paper’s Sunday Calendar section, Editor & Publisher and other publications have reported. Four former editors of the section have released a letter explaining how they believe the decision will hurt the city and others, which you can read here www.laobserved.com/archive/2008/07/book_editors_protest_cuts.php. This letter is one of many such laments for the demise of book review sections that have appeared recently, but it is unusually blunt, intelligent and authoritative.

(c) 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

June 26, 2008

Ten Books That Should Have Been on Entertainment Weekly’s List of the ‘The 100 Best Reads’ of the Past 25 Years But Weren’t

I love Entertainment Weekly‘s annual list of the year’s worst books, which is usually right on the money. But the magazine’s list of “The New Classics: The 100 Best Reads From 1983 to 2008”
www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20207076_20207387_20207349,00.html falls a bit wider of mark.

Here, off the top of my head, are 10 books that didn’t make the EW list. These titles appear in random order (and I hope to say more about some of them later):

1. Liar’s Poker (1989) Michael Lewis
2. The Polar Express (1985) by Chris Van Allsburg
3. Heartburn (1986) by Nora Ephron
4. Barbarians at the Gate (1990) by Brian Burrough
5. Collected Poems: Philip Larkin (1989) by Philip Larkin and Anthony Thwaite
6. A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide (2003) by Samantha Power
7. Richard Wilbur: Collected Poems 1943–2004 (2004) by Richard Wilbur
8. Late Wife: Poems (2005) by Claudia Emerson
9. Jane Austen’s Letters: New Edition (1997) by Jane Austen. Collected and edited by Deirdre Le Faye.
10. Hotel du Lac (1984) by Anita Brookner

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

June 17, 2008

8 Things You Find Only on One-Minute Book Reviews

Filed under: Blogging,Books — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:40 am
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Delete Key Awards – Totally Unauthorized Reading Group Guides – Backscratching in Our Time – Gusher Awards for Achievement in Hyperbole in Book Reviewing – Classic Picture Books Every Child Should Read – Books I Didn’t Finish – Book Awards Reality Checks – Jan the Hungarian Predicts

1. Delete Key Awards for the year’s worst writing in books. One-Minute Book Reviews gives these prizes annually on March 15 to authors who aren’t using their delete keys enough.
oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/category/delete-key-awards/. The blog for Powell’s books calls these awards “arguably the second-best online literary award after the TOB’s Rooster [co-sponsored by Powell’s].” www.powells.com/blog/?author=20.

2. Totally Unauthorized Reading Group Guides. These guides encourage you to consider both the strengths and weakness of books (not just the strengths, as publishers’ guides do). They also have elements you won’t find in publishers’ guides – for example, they often quote from negative reviews.
oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/category/totally-unauthorized-reading-group-guides/.

3. Backscratching in Our Time. Inspired by “Logrolling in Our Time” in the old Spy magazine, this category calls attention to authors who have praised each others’ books, often in blurbs. oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/category/backscratching-in-our-time/.

4. Gusher Awards for Achievement in Hyperbole in Book Reviewing. These awards recognize over-the-top praise in book reviews. They appear on Fridays unless no review was too out-of-control to qualify that week. oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/category/gusher-awards/.

5. Classic Picture Books Every Child Should Read. Reviews of books for children and adults appear every Saturday and sometimes include an installment in the “Classic Picture Books Every Child Should Read” series. oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2008/06/07/classic-picture-books-every-child-should-read-jeff-brown-and-tomi-ungerers-flat-stanley/

6. Books I Didn’t Finish. Book critics typically tell you why they liked or disliked book, not why they decided to not to review certain books all. This series tells you why one critic gave up on some books. books.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/category/books-i-didnt-finish/.

7. Book Awards Reality Checks. This series considers whether books that have won major awards, such as a Pulitzer Prize or National Book Award, deserved their honors. oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2008/05/27/man-asian-literary-prize-reality-check-%E2%80%93-jiang-rong%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%98wolf-totem%E2%80%99/

8. Jan the Hungarian Predicts One-Minute Book Reviews predicts the winners of major book awards in the newest series on the site, added in June 2008.

One-Minute Book Reviews was the sixth-ranked book review site in the world on the Google Directory of “Top Arts and Literature” blogs as of May 30, 2008:

www.google.com/Top/Arts/Literature/Reviews_and_Criticism/. It has ranked among the Top 10 since the fall of 2007.

If you like any of these aspects of the site, I’d be so grateful if you’d link to them or post them on sites such as Digg. I use a free WordPress template that doesn’t allow me to show widgets for Digg, Delicious, StumbleUpon and similar sites, and I’ve compiled the list partly for that reason. A thousand thanks to all the visitors who have put One-Minute Book Reviews on those sites regardless.

Janice Harayda is a novelist and award-winning journalist who has been the book columnist for Glamour, the book editor of the Plain Dealer, and vice-president for awards of the National Book Critics Circle www.bookcritics.org. Jan was named one of “25 Women Bloggers to Watch in 2008″by the site Virtual Woman’s Day virtualwomansday.blogspot.com/2008/01/women-bloggers-to-watch-in-2008.html.

One-Minute Book Reviews does not accept books, catalogs, advance reading copies, print or electronic press releases or other promotional materials from editors, publishers, agents, or authors whose books may be reviewed on this site.

(c) 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

May 19, 2008

Backscratching in Our Time: Max Hastings and Michael Howard

Filed under: Backscratching in Our Time — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 8:30 pm
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Max Hastings on Michael Howard:
“In Britain, Professor Sir Michael Howard, OM, CH, MC, and Don Berry were kind enough to read and discuss this manuscript, as they did that of my earlier book Armageddon.”

Max Hastings in the acknowledgments for Retribution: The Battle for Japan, 1944–1945 (Knopf, 2008), published in the U.K. under the title Nemesis.

Michael Howard on Max Hastings:
“This is a book not only for military history buffs but for anyone who wants to understand what happened in half the world during one of the bloodiest periods of the blood-soaked 20th century.”

Michael Howard in “The Worst of Friends,” a review of the book for the Oct. 3, 2007, Spectator www.spectator.co.uk, England’s most influential magazine of opinion. Howard’s quote appears on the cover of the American edition of Retribution.

Comment:

I normally post examples of literary backscratching without comment. But these two require a short explanation. The National Book Critics Circle found in a recent survey of its members, “Ethics in Book Reviewing,” that 68.5 percent of respondents thought a book editor should not assign a book to someone mentioned in the acknowledgments
bookcriticscircle.blogspot.com/2007/12/ethics-in-book-reviewing-survey-results.html.

The ethics of book reviewing differ in Britain, where the culture of full disclosure does not exist to the degree that it does in America. The pool of eligible reviewers is smaller in the U.K. and, without a more flexible standard, editors might have trouble finding qualified reviewers. And a potential conflict-of-interest does not always result in a weak review. Michael Howard’s review for the Spectator is more fluent, authoritative and interesting than reviews by others in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. You may wonder if Howard had reservations about Retribution that he withheld. But you still learn more about the book from his comments than from most – if not all – of the American reviews.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

April 14, 2008

Maybe New York Magazine Should Have Called This Article ‘Books That Are Essential to Men’ — ‘Fear of Flying’ Doesn’t Fly With Sam Anderson

Filed under: Magazines — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 2:10 am
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Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying doesn’t make New York’s list of essential books about the city published in the past 40 years. But D. Keith Mano’s Take Five – what, you’ve forgotten it, already? – does make it.

Some writers are said to suffer from the curse of the Nobel. Sam Anderson may suffer from the curse of the Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing, which he received last month from the National Book Critics Circle. Anderson has written wonderful reviews in his current post as the book critic for New York. But if his byline has appeared on a less edifying article than a new list of 26 essential books about New York published the past 40 years, I haven’t seen it.

Anderson said he looked for two traits in books he considered for the list in New York‘s 40th anniversary issue, dated April 14: “all-around literary merit” and what he calls “New Yorkitude” nymag.com/anniversary/40th/culture/45763/. And nobody could fault his choice of books such as Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities or Robert Caro’s The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, both modern classics.

But the birth of New York coincided with the emergence a new generation of female writers whose work indelibly stamped the literature of the city. And you would never know it from Anderson’s list, which has only six books by women.

Anderson chose Charles Mingus’s Beneath the Underdog, D. Keith Mano’s Take Five and Luc Santé’s Low Life but not Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying, Mary Cantwell’s Manhattan, When I Was Young, Nora Ephron’s Heartburn and other acclaimed books by women that reek of “New Yorkitude.”

Questions of literary merit and attitude are subjective. But anyone who wants to give Anderson’s list a reality test might reread John Updike’s review of Fear of Flying for The New Yorker, which said in part:“Fear of Flying not only stands as a notably luxuriant and glowing bloom in the sometimes thistly garden of ‘raised’ feminine consciousness but belongs to, and hilarious extends, the tradition of Catcher in the Rye and Portnoy’s Complaint — that of the New York voice on the couch, the smart kid’s lament.”

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

April 3, 2008

Tomorrow — Another Gusher Award for Achievement in Hyperbole in Book Reviewing

Filed under: Uncategorized — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 2:10 pm
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Every Friday One-Minute Book Reviews hands out a new Gusher Award for Achievement in Hyperbole in Book Reviewing in addition to any other posts that appear that day. The awards honor over-the-top praise for fiction, nonfiction and poetry, generally in major magazines and newspapers (including influential specialized publications, such as Library Journal and School Library Journal). To nominate an overheated review for a Gusher, please leave a comment or use the e-mail address on the “Contact” page on this site.

March 27, 2008

UNICEF Can’t Confirm Beah’s Claims About Camp Deaths

Filed under: News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 9:47 pm
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A Long Way Gone has taken another hit. In a recent article in the Village Voice, Graham Rayman raised fresh questions about the book that Ishmael Beah calls a memoir of his years in the army of Sierra Leone, although neither Beah nor his publisher has provided proof that he was ever a child soldier. One disputed scene in A Long Way Gone was first challenged in The Australian:

“In one instance, Beah describes in vivid detail a deadly brawl between two rival factions of child soldiers in a UNICEF-run camp in the Sierra Leone capital of Freetown in January of 1996. Six teens died, Beah recalls—but The Australian could find no one in Freetown who could remember the incident, and no official report of the fight. Reporters who covered the civil war told The Australian that it would have gotten enormous attention at the time.”

UNICEF didn’t respond to a request for a comment in time for the print deadlines for the Voice. But the United Nations agency said later that it can’t confirm Beah’s account of the fight that left six dead. In a Voice blog, Michael Clancy quoted UNICEF spokesman Geoffrey Keele as saying:

“According to our preliminary investigation, while there were fatal incidents in camps, we are unable to provide independent confirmation that the incident took place” blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/archives/2008/03/unicef_cannot_c.php

UNICEF still sees A Long Way Gone as “a credible account of the tragedy of recruitment of children into armed groups, told by one who undoubtedly experienced this abuse firsthand,” Keele said. But apparently UNICEF can’t provide proof that Beah was ever a soldier, either. And at this point, the agency is hardly unbiased: Just before The Australian first challenged the credibility of the A Long Way Gone, UNICEF named Beah its advocate for children affected by war. So any admission of doubt about the book would reflect as badly on the agency as on the author.

If UNICEF sees A Long Way Gone as “credible,” you have to wonder what it would find too far-fetched to believe, given that the book brims with passages like this one quoted in the comments on Rayman’s story:

“Beah admits to many viewings of the Rambo movies, and it echoes in lines like this: ‘First we had to get rid of the attackers in the trees, which we did by spraying bullets into the branches to make the rebels fall off them. Those who didn’t immediately die we shot before they landed on the ground.’ “

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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