One-Minute Book Reviews

July 1, 2009

Late Night With Jan Harayda – Bad Book Descriptions — ‘Dick: A User’s Guide’

Filed under: Late Night With Jan Harayda — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 10:24 pm
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The Unilluminating Book Description of the Week Award goes to the first sentence of the publisher’s “product description” for the book Dick: A User’s Guide (DaCapo, 2003) as it appears on Amazon.com:

“Whether you own one or are close with someone who does, it’s pretty easy to recognize the importance of the penis.”

Let’s not all ask for specifics at once.

June 18, 2009

Nicotine Patches Encourage Teenagers to Smoke – Late Night With Jan Harayda

Tim Harford’s The Logic of Life: The Rational Economics of an Irrational World (Random House, 272 pp., $15, paperback) came out in paperback recently, and if the Food and Drug Administration gains power to regulate tobacco products as seems likely, regulators might learn from it.  William Grimes wrote in a New York Times review of the book:

“Nicotine patches and nicotine gum, intended to wean smokers from their dangerous habit, actually seem to encourage teenagers to take the first puff, for reasons that any economist might have predicted. Since there are now products to help smokers quit, it becomes less risky, as a purely rational proposition, to pick up the habit.”

Steven E. Landsburg makes a related point his entertainingly contrarian The Armchair Economist (Free Press, 1995), a book that with a catchier title might have become the Freakonomics of its day. In a chapter semi-facetiously called “How Seat Belts Kill,” Landsburg describes what happened in the 1960s when federal legislation for the first time required Americans to wear seat belts:

“The number of auto accidents increased. The reason is that the threat of being killed in an accident is a powerful incentive to drive carefully. But a driver with a seat belt and a padded dashboard faces less of a threat. Because people respond to incentives, drivers are less careful. The result is more accidents.”

Landsburg goes on:

“An interesting question remains. How big is the effect in question? How many additional accidents were caused by the safety regulations of the 1960s: The regulations tend to reduce the number of driver deaths by making it easier to survive an accident. At the same time, the regulations tend to increase the number of driver deaths by encouraging reckless behavior. Which effect is greater?”

In the mid-1970s, University of Chicago researcher Sam Peltzman studied the question and found that two effects were of about the same size and cancelled each other out, Landsburg says:

“There were more accidents and fewer diver deaths per accident, but the total number of deaths remained essentially unchanged. An interesting side effect appear to have been an increase in the number of pedestrian deaths; pedestrians, after all, gain no benefit from padded dashboards.”

“Late Night With Jan Harayda” is an occasional series of posts about books that appear after 10 a.m. Eastern time that may include commentary but do not include reviews, which typically appear earlier in the day.

www.twitter.com/janiceharayda

June 10, 2009

Why Was Mark Twain So Funny? Quote of the Day – H. L. Mencken

Filed under: Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:51 am
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“A good half of the humor of the late Mark Twain consisted of admitting frankly the possession of vices and weaknesses that all of us have and few of us care to acknowledge.”

H. L. Mencken in “The Ulster Polonius” in Prejudices: First Series (Knopf, 1919).

June 8, 2009

When Is a House Is Too Big? Quote of the Day – ‘House Lust’

Filed under: Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:56 am
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Some new homes are so big that “visitors might require MapQuest to navigate their way from room to room,” Daniel McGinn writes in House Lust: America’s Obsession With Our Homes (Doubleday/Currency, 2008), his pre-crash exploration of the fixation on shelter among the well-heeled and those who would like to be.

April 12, 2009

Remembering FDR’s Death on April 12, 1945 (Quote of the Day / Harry Truman on the Death of FDR via Max Hastings)

Filed under: Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 10:55 am
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Just as baby boomers remember where they were on when they heard that John F. Kennedy had been shot, their parents know where they were on April 12, 1945, when they learned that Franklin D. Roosevelt had died. How did Harry Truman react to his predecessor’s death? Max Hastings answers in his  Retribution: The Battle for Japan, 1944–45 (Knopf, $35):

“Harry Truman has come to be regarded as one of America’s outstanding national leaders of the twentieth century. In the spring of 1945, however, this decent, simple, impulsive man was all but overwhelmed by the burden of office thrust upon him by Roosevelt’s death on 12 April. ‘I felt like the moon, the stars and all the planets had fallen on me,’ he told reporters on the afternoon that he was sworn in. ‘Boys, if you ever pray, pray for me now.’ One journalist said: ‘Good luck, Mr. President.’ Truman said: ‘I wish you didn’t have to call me that.’”

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
http://www.janiceharayda.com

April 6, 2009

A Biographer Recalls America’s Entry Into World War I on April 6, 1917, and the Birth of the Song ‘Over There’

Filed under: Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 4:49 pm
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Given the recent study that found that 10 percent of Americans think Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife, it’s likely that few could identify April 6 as the day the U.S. entered World War I. George M. Cohan wrote the most famous song about that war, and biographer John McCabe remembers its origins in George M. Cohan: The Man Who Owned Broadway (Doubleday, 1973):

“On April 6, 1917, Woodrow Wilson signed the declaration of war against Germany, and show business true to its traditions prepared at once for entertainment service. On that day, Cohan was in his Manhattan apartment. Contrary to a press agent’s story … of Cohan’s writing ‘Over There’ on the back of an envelope on his way into the city that morning from Great Neck, the song was actually written in New York City. April 6 was a Friday and Cohan, like most Americans, took the news of our entry to the war in a mood of spirited determination that all would eventually be well. He pondered Wilson’s announcement during his Saturday duties at the office, and that evening shut himself up in his study.

“Cohan’s daughter, Mary, to this day retains the vividest memory of the following morning. ‘Early that Sunday,’ she says, ‘Dad called us all together – we kids, and my mother. He said that he had finished a new song and he wanted to sing it for us. So we all sat down and waited expectantly because we always loved to hear him sing. He put a big tin pan from the kitchen on his head, used a broom for a gun on this shoulder, and he started to mark time like a soldier … “

As his daughter recalled it to McCabe, Cohan then sang the song that included the famous lines: “Over there, over there, / Send the word, send the word over there, / That the Yanks are coming, the Yanks are coming, / The drums rum-tumming everywhere.”

McCabe goes on:

“’Over There’ became not only the most popular song of World War I but the manifestation of a perdurable American theme as well. As Cohan often said, he had simply dramatized a bugle call, but in its incisive notes and words he had also delineated something elemental in the American character – the euphoric confidence that the coming of the Yanks was the march of the good guys to effect infamy’s overthrow.”

You can listen to three versions of Cohan’s “Over There” for free on the site www.firstworldwar.com/audio/overthere.htm, including a bilingual English-French recording by Enrico Caruso. To listen to Caruso or another artist singing “Over There,” you will have to make another click on the site to select which version you want to hear.

© 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

December 10, 2008

What’s the Difference Between Wit and Humor? (Quote of the Day / Ambrose Bierce via Drew Gilpin Faust)

Filed under: Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:56 pm
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Critics often distinguish between “wit” and “humor” in analyzing comic novels and other literary forms intended to amuse. What’s the difference? Drew Gilpin Faust writes of the American journalist and short-story writer Ambrose Bierce in her recent This Republic of Suffering, a 2008 National Book Award finalist www.nationalbook.org/nba2008.html:

“Ambrose Bierce styled himself a wit, not a humorist, emphasizing the sardonic and cutting intent of his newspaper columns and stories. ‘Humor is tolerant, tender … its ridicule caresses. Wit stabs, begs pardon — and turns the weapon in the wound.’”

Gilpin Faust cites Roy Morris Jr.’s Ambrose Bierce: Alone in Bad Company (Oxford University Press, 1995) as the source for Bierce’s quote.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

August 17, 2008

Quotes of the Day from Rick Warren’s ‘The Purpose Driven Life’ — ‘The Bestselling Nonfiction Hardback Book in History’

I didn’t see the evangelical pastor Rick Warren interview the presumptive presidential nominees yesterday at his California megachurch, but I was curious about the man who persuaded Barak Obama and John McCain to spend an hour apiece answering his questions. Somebody had stolen my library’s only copy of Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life, which the trade journal Publishers Weekly called “the bestselling nonfiction hardback book in history.” But I found the paperback edition in the Christianity section of a local bookstore. Here are some quotes from The Purpose Driven Life.

“Without God, life has no purpose, and without purpose, life has no meaning.”

“God has a purpose for your life on earth, but it doesn’t end here. His plan involves far more than the few decades you will spend on this planet.”

“Temptation is a sign that Satan hates you, not a sign of weakness or worldliness.”

“I once heard the suggestion that you develop your life purpose statement based on what you would like other people to say about you at your funeral. Imagine your perfect eulogy, then build your statement on that. Frankly, that’s a bad plan. At the end of your life it isn’t going to matter at all what other people say about you. The only thing that will matter is what God says about you.”

“Now that you understand the purpose of life, it is your responsibility to carry the message to others.”

“Even many remote villages get email, so you can now carry on “e-vangelistic” conversations with people on the other side of the world, without even leaving home!”

Comments have been turned off for this post. Thank you for not leaving comments about this post here or elsewhere on One-Minute Book Reviews. Many sites welcome comments on The Purpose Driven Life www.purposedrivenlife.com. You can find some of them by searching for terms such as “purpose driven life” and “discussion groups.” You can find a transcript of what Obama and McCain told Rick Warren at rickwarrennews.com/transcript/ and more about their interviews with him here thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/08/16/tonights-obama-mccain-faith-forum/.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

August 8, 2008

A New Definition of Science Fiction (Quote of the Day / Bookseller Stephen E. Andrews)

Filed under: Fantasy,Quotes of the Day,Science Fiction — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:32 am
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Few questions will start an argument among science-fiction fans faster than, “What is the definition of science fiction?” More than 30 years ago, Michael Crichton wrote in The Critic As Artist (Liveright, 1972): “As a category, the borders of science fiction have always been poorly defined, and they are getting worse. The old distinction between science fiction and fantasy – that science fiction went from the known to the probable, and fantasy dealt with the impossible – is now wholly ignored.”

But if the old distinction doesn’t work, what does? Here’s a proposed new definition of science fiction from Stephen E. Andrews, a bookseller and co-editor of 100 Must-Read Science Fiction Novels: Bloomsbury Good Reading Guides Series (A&C Black, 2007) www.acblack.com:

“SF is the literature that suggests the significant, scientifically explicable changes that may potentially occur in the sphere of human knowledge and experience, exploring how they might affect our minds, bodies and culture.”

For more on this topic see “What Is The Difference Between Science Fiction and Fantasy?” www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/09/12.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com and www.twitter.com/janiceharayda

August 5, 2008

‘Can I Describe the Joy of a Spouting Blow Hole?’ – Delete Key Awards Midterm Scouting Report, Continued

Filed under: Delete Key Awards,Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:18 am
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I hadn’t seen this gem when I posted my recent scouting report on lines that have a chance to win one of the next Delete Key Awards, given to authors who don’t use their delete keys enough:

“Can I describe the joy of a spouting blow hole?”

From a letter written in 1939 by a dolphin-loving character in David Ebershoff’s new novel, The 19th Wife (Random House, 514 pp., $26, as quoted by Janet Maslin in the New York Times www.nytimes.com/2008/08/04/books/04masl.html.

To read the full midterm Delete Key Awards scouting report, click here www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2008/07/28/.

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

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