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Floating Off the Page: The Best Stories from The Wall Street Journal's "Middle Column" (Wall Street Journal Book) Paperback – June 2, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0743226646 ISBN-10: 074322664X

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Product Details

  • Series: Wall Street Journal Book
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (June 2, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 074322664X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743226646
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #703,847 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Wells, a senior editor at the Wall Street Journal, has put together a terrific collection of the most memorable stories from the off-beat front-page column that covers singular topics like toad-licking and the Miss Agriculture pageant, and leads with irresistible opening lines like "First, pretend that you are a sheep." Wells, who is also a novelist (Meely LaBauve), includes stories of unconventional inventions such as braces for sheep teeth, a low-flatulence bean and underwear for the incarcerated. There are profiles of the unglamorous and overlooked, such as a professional fish-sniffer and the world's most prolific, and unknown, novelist. Readers receive an education in Greek banana policy, the national sewer-fat crisis and what it's like to be a Serbian sniper. Stories also involve reporters trying on new careers, from belly-dancing to auto-show modeling. Although there is a heavy emphasis on humor here, readers can still expect to find a smattering of serious subjects, like rescuing otters after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 or the fate of the mail destined for the World Trade Center after 9/11. For regular WSJ readers, who have loved the middle column, this collection, with pieces largely from the 1970s forward (the column dates back 50 years), is a must. Those who think WSJ stories are only for the business-minded are in for an unexpected treat.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-The column from which this collection derives debuted in December, 1941, and from its 6-decade history Wells has selected 67 engaging examples of journalistic creativity and caprice. Each entry of approximately 1500 words is signed and dated, and tackles an offbeat topic of the staff writer's choice, designed to leaven the daily news offerings and to entertain by wresting readers' eyes from serious matters. For example, one may read about cutting-edge technology in sheep orthodontics, record-breaking distances in piano flinging by trebuchet, and fantasy styling excesses at hair fashion shows. This is a book to be valued equally for the composition lessons inherent in its polished prose and for its appeal to readers.
Lynn Nutwell, Fairfax City Regional Library, VA
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A.Trendl HungarianBookstore.com TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 8, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Like many readers checking out this book, I've read the "middle column" for years. I'm bemused to learn everyone else calls it the same thing. What else could it be called? "That funky human interest article in the WSJ that has no direct relationship to anything else in the paper"? Maybe, but that would take too long to say.
"Floating off the Page: The Best Stories from The Wall Street Journal's "Middle Column"" covers all those stories you missed. On one hand, it is just a collection of articles from a well-read newspaper column. On the other, it is a peek into the unusual world we live in. As bizarre as some of these stories are, as much as you'll look and tell the other person with you, "listen to this, there's this guy in New York who...", these are real life.
It isn't all humor, but you'll find many a chuckle in the book. You'll wonder where and how they found these people, but you'll be drawn into every page. The middle column isn't one of those selection of odd newswire stories, but a fully-researched look into one story, and all its oddities. They are written with as much erudite literary prowess as the rest of the WSJ, but without the MBA-level knowledge required.
Coffeehouses should stock this one, as well as waiting rooms at dentists' office everywhere.
I fully recommend "Floating off the Page: The Best Stories from The Wall Street Journal's "Middle Column""
Anthony Trendl
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By dennis wentraub on June 11, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The middle column on The Wall Street Journal's front page has always been a refreshing break from the general seriousness and deluge of information throughout the paper. As such it has always been a respository of wit, quirky facts, humanity, and general eccentricity. As an adjunct instructor for Investments at a local college, I like to refer to the existence of the column to alter preconceptions about this otherwise serious newspaper. On occasion I have cut out the stories to leave on our kitchen table for family members. So, a collection of these
wonderful stories is very welcome. I immediately think of the loopy Brit who has constructed a medieval "siege engine" for lobbing dead horses (it was medieval thing) or soon-to-be-dead pianos a hundred yards down range. Many of us can relate to the social perils of inadvertently making a cell phone call by hitting a re-dial button and having our conversations unknowingly monitored. And I fret for the fellow who protects the Stanley Cup as it makes its appointed party rounds among ice hockey's winning athletes. A very different tone is struck in the "struggles of [sea] otter 76" to survive the toxic effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. It is a moving story that sticks to the reader's mind like petroleum goo. A vignette about Serbian snipers is both disturbing and memorable in its grimy banality. I do miss in this collection the oddity of a giant blue anatomically proportioned bug crouching on the roof of a Providence, RI exterminator. I also miss the WSJ's distinctive pixel illustrations of the people and things that are the subject of these columns. Their absence is an unfortunate editorial lapse since so many of the stories are memorable human interest sketches of ordinary people in unusual roles. But readers should not be too disappointed. This is a worthy, reasonably priced gift book and recommended vacation read!
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By "mrsfaganselves" on April 24, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This collection of mostly humorous, occasionally tragic, but always clever stories is a pleasure to read and to consider stealing from. The "middle column" of the Wall Street Journal is where you'll find all kinds of quirky, off-beat pieces on people or issues you thought you might not care about. But the writing draws you in and makes you care about the eccentric Englishman who's built a medieval siege engine, or the doomsday group, or the guy who tests aircraft viability by hurling dead chickens through the air, or the Laotian navy, and the more than 60 other characters presented in this book. While the quirkiness of finding these stories surrounded by the much more serious reporting of financial stories might catch your eye, the content of the material will hold it.
This is a great book for people looking for another view of the world and what's important. And journalists take note: there's a goldmine of story possibilities in this book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Patricia Tryon on February 18, 2003
Format: Hardcover
A few times a year we need a gift for someone whose tastes and interests are not well known to us. After perusing the many brief essays that make up this book, I know this will be a choice we'll use again and again.
First, the editor chose widely among dates available, resulting in a selection that includes not only material from the past decade, but studies that reach into the early sixties. It is intriguing to play a little game whilst reading each story: what decade is it? Sometimes you'll win; sometimes the answer will have you scratching your head for a while.
Second, the range of topics is virtually encyclopedic: from the academic ("The Art of the Perfectly Awful", a writing contest), to the esoteric ("The Bean of His Existence", about improving the quality of beans), to the banal ("Naked Assumptions", about nudist prudists), to the frankly bizarre ("Bear Hunting Is Hard on Wives"). There is much here you do not know about; there is probably plenty you have never heard of before.
Finally, some of the material is side-splittingly funny, some is thought provoking, and some is frankly poignant. This is far from being a one-note book; it invokes a full range of emotion whilst it ranges across time, geography, and subjects. This makes it a good gift for yourself or, for that matter, nearly anyone.
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