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The Banana Sculptor, the Purple Lady, and the All-Night Swimmer: Hobbies, Collecting, and Other Passionate Pursuits Hardcover – March 26, 2002


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (March 26, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743201221
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743201223
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,668,078 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Deep down, people are weird. Searching for those whose weirdness expresses itself through art, sport, religion, and other relatively normal pursuits, writers Susan Sheehan and Howard Means found 40 strangely compelling stories, recounted in the wonderfully titled The Banana Sculptor, the Purple Lady, and the All-Night Swimmer. One man's ambition is to eat at every McDonald's in the United States; a young woman has won more than 3,000 ribbons at the huge Iowa State Fair. The authors go beyond simple believe-it-or-not reporting, instead interviewing each of their subjects to tease out their motivations and the consequences of their passions. One gentleman, whose aim is to swim across each of the Great Lakes, admits that his goals don't permit him to have a family or much social interaction, but he seems genuinely satisfied with his purpose in life. Much of the book is told in the subjects' own words, which offer insights into the pride and humility, the genius and madness of these singular individuals. The book may not inspire the kind of zeal it takes to carve a life-sized Last Supper, but it will help readers appreciate the weirdness to be found in ordinary people. --Rob Lightner

From Publishers Weekly

Lots of people have hobbies golf, knitting, collecting baseball cards but the subjects of this lively oral history have bypassed the obvious pursuits. Instead, they collect Noah's arks and Gore Vidal memorabilia, swim the Great Lakes and play competitive tiddlywinks. Sheehan (Is There No Place on Earth for Me?) and Means (Colin Powell: Soldier/Statesman Statesman/Soldier) interviewed 40 Americans with unusual hobbies. They provide some narrative, but mainly allow their subjects to speak for themselves and the individuals aren't shy. They hold forth on everything from walking across suspension bridges to having the largest marble collection in the country. Other subjects include a one-handed bonsai gardener, a competitive kite-flying couple and "the Purple Lady," a Tennessee woman named Sonia Young who dresses in purple, lives in a purple-decorated house, drives a purple car and admits "without being the Purple Lady I don't think I have an identity." Some common themes emerge: many refer to their obsessions as life changing; they value the connections they make with kindred spirits or appreciate the relaxation their activity provides; and most find chasing their goal more satisfying than actually completing a collection or setting a record. Although the authors provide no analysis of their topic, the book is an enjoyable read in short snatches and offers an unusual insider's look at America's unconventional pastimes.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Pamela Jameson on March 25, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book! It's a fascinating mix of "real life" stories of the passions of down-to-earth and "regular" people who have intriguing obsessions. Reading it is like joining a secret society or club or meeting a new group of wild friends whose lives are the richer for (as the Banana Sculptor himself puts it) the need "to dream."
This book could be called "American Eccentrics" for its wonderful range of characters - from the tiddly wink competitor to the inveterate garage saler to the sculler and the skater and the card shark. The authors are the best kind of good listeners and interviewers - they stay out of the way and let the enthusiasts speak for themselves, about the magic of baking or bonsai and how the soul and spirit factor into swimming all night or collecting pre-cancelled stamps.
A great one-of-a-kind summer/beach book, and a terrific anytime gift!
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 8, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This book is a series of mini-biographies of Americans with odd hobbies or pursuits or interests. They are very short (5-7 pages) and very well-written. However, there is no analysis as to why these people do what they do or whether there is something wrong with them. For example, many of the men profiled are bachelors. Is this cuase and effect or effect and cause or neither? It might have been interesting to speculate. This book is like whipped cream - fun to eat but ultimately of no nutritional value.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Polar Paul on April 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is indeed a book about people who are stranger than fiction. The author interviews people who have unusual hobbies and have gone over to the far side of hobby land. Nevertheless, they are happy and not locked up in an insane asylum. Each chapter is about a different individual. Some amazing stories... one man for example swims across the great lakes. Another reunites American and Japanese World War II veterans who fought against each other.

The authors also talks about how they met the various people in the book and maps out the social network of friendships. Often very funny, weird, and amazing. After reading the book you'll start thinking of the people you know who would be perfect for the sequel or if you're really lucky, perhaps yourself.
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