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Political Fictions
Political Fictions
by Joan Didion
Edition: Hardcover
115 used & new from $0.01

50 of 73 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking views but highly annoying writing style, October 22, 2001
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This review is from: Political Fictions (Hardcover)
I had several problems with this collection of essays, but first and foremost among them was Ms. Didion's, shall we say, different writing style. [The following sentence does reflect my views but, for purposes of illustration, is written in Didion-speak:] I cannot believe that others who have read these essays have not had a similar reaction, because she seems to have an extreme aversion to periods which, when combined with her love of including multiple concepts in each sentence (often set forth by use of parenthetical footnotes or illustrations), and further combined with her EXTREME use of the passive tense--in which the main thrust of the message she was trying to convey in the given sentence is withheld until the very end of the sentence--made for numerous sentences that were virtually impossible to follow the first time through and instead required 3 and 4 re-readings, and even then were difficult to follow. If I didn't know that Ms. Didion already has an established reputation as a superb writer with, as the NYT calls it, ""ice pick/lasre beam/night scope sniper prose", I would have thought some of her writing to be simply abominable. Indeed, I felt that her reputation is so entrenched, that no editor would ever have the nerve to alter any of her writing and so what seem like random (and rambling) musings get committed to the final draft exactly as they appeared in the first draft. That is not to say that her views aren't provocative--I just wish that some of them could have been put to paper by someone else.
Just by way of illustration--and believe me, I could have picked from any one of dozens and dozens of examples--consider the following sentences and see if you can fully follow them the first time through--and note that each of them is just one sentence:
"This account of Mrs. Clinton's not entirely remarkable and in any case private conversations with Jean Houston appeared under the apparently accurate if unsurprsing headline "At a Difficult Time, First Lady Reaches Out, Looks Within," occupied one-hundred and fifty-four column inches, was followed by a six-column inch box explaining the rules under which Mr. woodward conducted his interviews, and included among similar revelations teh news that, according to an unidentified source (Mr. Woodward tells us that some of his interviews were on the record, others "conducted under journalistic ground rules of 'background' or 'deep background', meaning the information could be used but the sources of the information could not be identified"), Mrs. Clinton had at some unspecified point in 1995 disclosed to Jean Houston ("Dialogue and quotations come from at least one participant, from memos or from contemporaneous notes or diaries from a participant in the discussion") that "she was sure that good habits were the key to survival."
Clear as can be, right? Consider this one:
"The "future historian" who might be interested in piecing together the details of how the Clinton adminstration arrived at its program for health care reform, however, will find, despite a promising page of index references, that none of the key participants interviewed for The Agenda apparently thought to discuss what might have seemed the central curiosity in the process, which was by wha political miscalculation a plan initially meant to remove third-party profit from the health-care equation (or to "take on the insurance industry" as Puting People First, the manifesto of the 1992 Clinton-Gore campaign had phrased it) would become one distrusted by large numbers of Americans precisely because it seemed to enlarge and further entrench the role of the insurance industry."
And finally:
"The more grave misreading, as D'Souza sees it, came from within Reagan's own party, not from his more pragmatic aides (the "prags", or "ingrates and apostates", whose remarkably similar descriptions of the detachment at the center of the administration in which they served suggested to D'Souza "an almost definat loyalty") but even from his "hard-core" admirers or "true believers", those movement conservatives who considered Reagan a "malleable figurehead" too often controlled by pragmatists on his staff."
I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Could these views have been expressed with any more clarity than that? Finally, I also felt that there was a certain desultory nature about the essays and they were only connected by a theme to a certain degree. On page 7, she talks about how the political process did not reflect but proceded from a series of fables about the Americna experience. And indeed, a number of the essays do address this topic. But what do her various "book reviews" such as those of books by Dinesh D'Souza, Newt Gingrich and Bob Woodward have to do with that theme. So far as I can tell, not much. In all, it's not a bad book, but I almost wish that Ms. Didion's thoughts could have been committed to paper by someone else.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 4, 2008 7:58 AM PDT


The Seven Sins of Memory: How the Mind Forgets and Remembers
The Seven Sins of Memory: How the Mind Forgets and Remembers
by Daniel L. Schacter
Edition: Hardcover
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85 of 103 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 1/3 interesting and informative; 2/3 soporific, October 17, 2001
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I feel a little guilty that I couldn't praise this book as much as others have, but I'll explain why. But first I'll give credit where it is due. One of the main benefits of the book is the author's ability to isolate, identify and characterize the 7 sins of memory. Each of us instantly recognizes each of them when their symptoms are described, because who among us has not been guilty of all of them at one time or another? It takes someone who thinks about, analyzes and writes about memory for a living to be able to be able to distinguish between and describe the 3 sins of omission and 4 sins of misattribution. When I have a memory lapse in the future, I may stop to consider which of the author's 7 categories was involved. So that much of he book is clearly enlightening. I also enjoyed the anecdotes and the discussions of the various experiments by fellow researchers to prove some of the points being made--the guy in the gorilla suit being a good example.
The problem I had however, is that the book really could have been magazine-article length instead of book-length. The 7 sins are set out right in the Introduction and it took about 1 page to do it. Obviously each of the chapters goes into greater detail as to each of the sins, but most of that detail was of a fairly scientific bent or, sad to say, just not that interesting. This is particularly true with respect to the author's very frequent discussions of the brain and how its function (or malfunction) affects memory.
The following sentences are just a few examples of what I am talking about, which appear over and over again in the book, almost as if he is writing to medical doctors:
"Shallice's experiment suggests that dividing attention prevents the lower left frontal lobe from playing its normal role in elaborative encoding."
"In a more recent fMRI study conducted by Anthony Wagner in my laboratory, we saw further evidence of how automatic behavior, reflected by reduced activity in the left inferior prefrontal cortex, works against forming vivid recollections."
"Could this interplay between the precuneus and the frontal system represent the neural signature of a type of blocking that resembles Freud's dynamically inspired concept of repression?"
"Buried in the inner regions of the temporal lobe, the amygdala abuts the nearby hippocampus, but performs quite different functions than does its neighbor."
Sentences like these go on and on, but you get the idea. It's almost as if the author periodically forgot his intended (lay) audience and instead was writing for the benefit of his fellow professionals. A month (or even a week) after reading this book, how much of any of this type of information about the inner-workings of the brain will anyone remember? We will remember the 7 sins themselves however and for this alone, this is a valuable contribution. I just didn't need a whole book to tell me about the 7 sins.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 5, 2012 12:05 AM PDT


The Lost Art of Drawing the Line: How Fairness Went Too Far
The Lost Art of Drawing the Line: How Fairness Went Too Far
by Philip K. Howard
Edition: Hardcover
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb., August 21, 2001
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Aside from what I considered to be a weak title, everything else about the book was superlative and highly thought-provoking. It is obvious when when people were spreading the gospel of individual rights through our society, no one stopped to realize that the random and haphazard exercise of one person's individual rights often ran in direct contradiction to society's rights as a whole. As Mr. Howard says about juries for example: They are not thinking about the effect of their decision on society; they are merely thinking about the two litigants whose case they have been asked to decide. The problems created by this phenomenon are particularly evident when it comes to puntive damages. When plaintiff's lawyers urge jurors to "teach this company a lesson for their [supposedly] heinous conduct" the jurors can respond by blithely awarding tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars in punitive damages, and go to bed at night feeling that they have "served" society by their actions. And of course the great irony is that they have accomplished the exact opposite result. I don't know how much of an effect Mr. Howard's book will have. While it may not be readily apparent, the interest groups that have no interest whatsoever in adopting his suggestions--e.g. the American Bar Association, unions of all stripes and colors, libertarians (ironically) and even Congress to some extent--will act to make sure that the status quo remains the status quo. Nevertheless, I would be delighted to see all of America take his message to heart.


Supreme Injustice: How the High Court Hijacked Election 2000
Supreme Injustice: How the High Court Hijacked Election 2000
by Alan M. Dershowitz
Edition: Hardcover
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38 of 49 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 7-2 not 5-4; And about the "shoe on the other foot" ...., August 6, 2001
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Let me first give credit where it is due. Professor Dershowitz seems to persuasively lay out the flaws with the analytical underpinnings of the majority decision by the Supreme Court. He points out how it is hard to reconcile with previous Supreme Court decisions and his overall analysis on the apparent weakness of the decision is well presented. Having said that, I felt that there were two major problems with the book, which include the fact that Dershowitz is not above engaging in a little intellectual dishonesty of his own.
The first problem relates to his analysis of whether or not the Florida Supreme Court, through its actions, had violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. Indeed this is where Dershowitz breathes most of his fire. Dershowitz repeatedly informs us that there was no violation of the Equal Protection Clause by the Florida Supreme Court and that the wicked, villainous, biased, partisan "5-person majority" was wrong to conclude otherwise. Over and over again, he talks about the awful "5 justices" and he devotes a full chapter on the "inconsistency of the majority justices". Well there's one slight problem here. On the key issue of whether or not there was a violation of the Equal Protection Clause, there was not a 5-person majority, but a 7-person majority--a huge difference. Justices Souter and Breyer AGREED with the 5-person majority on this issue (The 5-person majority was on the issue of the remedy only, not whether or not the Florida Court had acted unconstitutionally.) However, to admit that almost the entire Court (and not just a bare majority) disagreed with his analysis would seriously undermine Dershowitz's entire argument, at least as to the bias and partisanship of the "5", so he basically sweeps that little fact under the rug.
How does he sweep this under the rug? First by mentioning it only ONE time in the entire book, on page 56. Look at the index and you'll see that Souter and Breyer are hardly mentioned at all. Second, when he does allude to their vote, it is in such a convoluted fashion that it is almost comical. Rather than simply telling us that 7 justices concluded that there was an Equal Protection violation by the Forida Court, he first tells us that 5 justices (that magic number 5) reached such a conclusion and also that the same 5 held that there could be no recount on a timely basis. He then tells us that 4 dissenters disagreed with the second part of the analysis, but that two of the four dissenters dissented from the dissenters on the first part of the analysis!!! And bear in mind, this is the ONLY time in the whole book that Dershowitz even mentions the fact that it was really a 7-2 majority on this issue and not a 5-4 majority. I am convinced that if one were not a lawyer or had not read the Supreme Court opinion carefully, they would have blown right through this poorly written paragraph (and the rest of the book) without ever realizing that 7 justices found an Equal Protection violation and not just 5. And this difference is obviously significant, given that his whole point is not just that the wicked 5 were wrong, but that they were being intellectually dishonest and partisan at the same time.
The second flaw I found with the book relates to what he calls the "shoe on the other foot" test, which he alludes to periodically. This is fact should be the real topic of th book. I believe that the pull of one's political beliefs is extremely powerful and affects a person's worldview on issues which are not directly political in nature. For example, take the Clinton impeachment. On its face, the issue was simply: Should Clinton have been impeached for the acts he committed? On its face, that is solely a legal, and perhaps a moral and ethical issue, as well. The same is true, I believe, of the Bush v. Gore election battle. The opinions of the vast majority of Americans closely followed their political affiliations even though--again in theory--that should have nothing to do with one's views on the Supreme Court decision or the Florida decision. In fact, I strongly believe that this rule extended to the Supreme Court justices themselves even though the (correct) point is made that this is exactly what should not happen.
Enter Professor Dershowitz. He tells us that he is a Democrat "who sometimes votes for Republicans". Though Professor Dershowitz--like all of us looks at the world through that particular prism, just as I do and just as we all do. There is nothing inherently the matter with that, except when we get to the shoe on the other foot test.
First of all, while he lovingly describes the "inconsistency of the majority justices" he never once finds the time to tell us that the minority justices were inconsistent as well. It is generally accepted that in most cases, the conservative justices champion state's rights over federal rights, while the liberal justices generally go the other way. Of course Bush v. Gore required the wicked 5 conservative justices to flip-flop on this issue. Fine, but how come we are never informed that the minority flip-flopped as well? And does anyone really believe that when, say, Justice Ginsburg pulls the lever in the ballot box, that she ever votes Republican? Please.
And therein lies the problem. There is no doubt in my mind that if all of the facts had been reversed, then all of the debaters on BOTH sides would be making the exact opposite arguments, including Dershowitz himself. Of course, we will obviously never know for sure, but for those Democrats who say "Not me! I would have would have strongly criticized the Supreme Court opinion even if it meant arguing for Bush's election", I say [no]. It is absolutely astonishing to me how Dershowitz repeatedly speculates that the wicked 5 would fail the foot on the other shoe test, but it barely seems to even occur to him whether the minority 4 (or 2) would also fail the same test. THIS is intellectual dishonesty.
Significantly however, on at least two occasions Dershowitz does mention the fact that we may ALL fail the "shoe on the other foot test". The first is on pp. 119-120, where he tells us that when he asks the audiences in his speeches for a show of hands as to how many people believe that all of the justices on both the U.S. Supreme Court and the Florida Supreme Court would pass the test, "not a single hand went up." And again on p. 172, he tells us that some people believe that all the judges and justices would fail the shoe on the other foot test.
And that, I believe, should be the real topic of this book. If his primary message had been how ALL of us--including the judges--fail that test, that would be a fair message and one worthy of serious discussion. However to spend 99.9% book of the book talking about how the conservative justices only failed the test--while not discussing at all the more important issue of whether all the justices would fail the test--is a real disservice to his readers.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 11, 2014 1:26 PM PDT


Supreme Injustice: How the High Court Hijacked Election 2000
Supreme Injustice: How the High Court Hijacked Election 2000
by Alan M. Dershowitz
Edition: Hardcover
220 used & new from $0.01

6 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 7-2 not 5-4; And about the "shoe on the other foot" ...., August 6, 2001
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Let me first give credit where it is due. Professor Dershowitz seems to persuasively lay out the flaws with the analytical underpinnings of the majority decision by the Supreme Court. He points out how it is hard to reconcile with previous Supreme Court decisions and his overall analysis on the apparent weakness of the decision is well presented. Having said that, I felt that there were two major problems with the book, which include the fact that Dershowitz is not above engaging in a little intellectual dishonesty of his own.
The first problem relates to his analysis of whether or not the Florida Supreme Court, through its actions, had violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. Indeed this is where Dershowitz breathes most of his fire. Dershowitz repeatedly informs us that there was no violation of the Equal Protection Clause by the Florida Supreme Court and that the wicked, villainous, biased, partisan "5-person majority" was wrong to conclude otherwise. Over and over again, he talks about the awful "5 justices" and he devotes a full chapter on the "inconsistency of the majority justices". Well there's one slight problem here. On the key issue of whether or not there was a violation of the Equal Protection Clause, there was not a 5-person majority, but a 7-person majority--a huge difference. Justices Souter and Breyer AGREED with the 5-person majority on this issue (The 5-person majority was on the issue of the remedy only, not whether or not the Florida Court had acted unconstitutionally.) However, to admit that almost the entire Court (and not just a bare majority) disagreed with his analysis would seriously undermine Dershowitz's entire argument, at least as to the bias and partisanship of the "5", so he basically sweeps that little fact under the rug.
How does he sweep this under the rug? First by mentioning it only ONE time in the entire book, on page 56. Look at the index and you'll see that Souter and Breyer are hardly mentioned at all. Second, when he does allude to their vote, it is in such a convoluted fashion that it is almost comical. Rather than simply telling us that 7 justices concluded that there was an Equal Protection violation by the Forida Court, he first tells us that 5 justices (that magic number 5) reached such a conclusion and also that the same 5 held that there could be no recount on a timely basis. He then tells us that 4 dissenters disagreed with the second part of the analysis, but that two of the four dissenters dissented from the dissenters on the first part of the analysis!!! Boy that's really clear Professor! And bear in mind, this is the ONLY time in the whole book that Dershowitz even mentions the fact that it was really a 7-2 majority on this issue and not a 5-4 majority. I am convinced that if one were not a lawyer or had not read the Supreme Court opinion carefully, they would have blown right through this poorly written paragraph (and the rest of the book) without ever realizing that 7 justices found an Equal Protection violation and not just 5. And this difference is obviously significant, given that his whole point is not just that the wicked 5 were wrong, but that they were being intellectually dishonest and partisan at the same time.
The second flaw I found with the book relates to what he calls the "shoe on the other foot" test, which he alludes to periodically. This is fact should be the real topic of th book. I believe that the pull of one's political beliefs is extremely powerful and affects a person's worldview on issues which are not directly political in nature. For example, take the Clinton impeachment. On its face, the issue was simply: Should Clinton have been impeached for the acts he committed? On its face, that is solely a legal, and perhaps a moral and ethical issue, as well. And yet, how many rabid Democrats were clamoring for his impeachment? How many rabid Republicans were saying he shouldn't be impeached? Answers: very few on either side. And yet this is despite the fact that, at least in THEORY, one's political affilation should have no bearing on the issue. The same is true, I believe, of the Bush v. Gore election battle. The opinions of the vast majority of Americans closely followed their political affiliations even though--again in theory--that should have nothing to do with one's views on the Supreme Court decision or the Florida decision. In fact, I strongly believe that this rule extended to the Supreme Court justices themselves even though the (correct) point is made that this is exactly what should not happen.
Enter Professor Dershowitz. He tells us that he is a Democrat "who sometimes votes for Republicans". We'll never know for sure, but I'd like to know exactly what Republicans he has ever voted for. I would guess that it was not for a post higher than County dogcatcher (and certainly no Congressional or Presidential candidates or else the votes wree made a long time ago. Though Professor Dershowitz--like all of us looks at the world through that particular prism, just as I do and just as we all do. There is nothing inherently the matter with that, except when we get to the shoe on the other foot test.
First of all, while he lovingly describes the "inconsistency of the majority justices" he never once finds the time to tell us that the minority justices were inconsistent as well. It is generally accepted that in most cases, the conservative justices champion state's rights over federal rights, while the liberal justices generally go the other way. Of course Bush v. Gore required the wicked 5 conservative justices to flip-flop on this issue. Fine, but how come we are never informed that the minority flip-flopped as well? And does anyone really believe that when, say, Justice Ginsburg pulls the lever in the ballot box, that she ever votes Republican? Please.
And therein lies the problem. There is no doubt in my mind that if all of the facts had been reversed, then all of the debaters on BOTH sides would be making the exact opposite arguments, including Dershowitz himself. Of course, we will obviously never know for sure, but for those Democrats who say "Not me! I would have would have strongly criticized the Supreme Court opinion even if it meant arguing for Bush's election", I say BS. I don't believe that for one second. In fact it is absolutely astonishing to me how Dershowitz repeatedly speculates that the wicked 5 would fail the foot on the other shoe test, but it barely seems to even occur to him whether the minority 4 (or 2) would also fail the same test. THIS is intellectual dishonesty.
Significantly however, on at least two occasions Dershowitz does mention the fact that we may ALL fail the "shoe on the other foot test". The first is on pp. 119-120, where he tells us that when he asks the audiences in his speeches for a show of hands as to how many people believe that all of the justices on both the U.S. Supreme Court and the Florida Supreme Court would pass the test, "not a single hand went up." And again on p. 172, he tells us that some people believe that all the judges and justices would fail the shoe on the other foot test.
And that, I believe, should be the real topic of this book. If his primary message had been how ALL of us--including the judges--fail that test, that would be a fair message and one worthy of serious discussion. However to spend 99.9% book of the book talking about how the conservative justices only failed the test--while not discussing at all the more important issue of whether all the justices would fail the test--is a real disservice to his readers.


Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America
Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America
by Barbara Ehrenreich
Edition: Hardcover
229 used & new from $0.01

24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb., July 29, 2001
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On economic issues (if not necessarily on social issues), I am more or less a card-carrying member of the Republican Party, and what it stands for. Thus, if you told me that I should read a book that touts the wonders of unionism and strongly advocates the need for a higher minimum wage, I normally would have said thanks, but no thanks. But I read it based on a friend's recommendation, and can only say that I could not be more impressed by Mr. Ehrenreich's effort. It is one of the most thought-provoking books I have read in a long time. Here were some of the things I admired:
1. Her writing ability. She has a wonderful fluid style that is very easy to read and yet which struck me as much easier described than done. It had an effortless quality about it, but as one who has to write for a living, it was either not effortless, or else she is simply a talented writer.
2. Her sense of humor. Surprisingly, there is quite a bit of humor in this book and I found myself laughing out loud quite a few times. Her humor, appropriately, is always directed at her actual or potential employers rather than her co-workers, to whom she shows nothing but compassion and respect.
3. The force of her message. There was something subtle and understated, or shall we say less than shrill, about the way she presents her case, that merely adds to its impact. In fact, she almost doesn't present a case at all--she simply lays out her own experiences (together with some footnotes showing national statistics) and lets the reader come to their own conclusion. This is not to say that I am suddenly wildly pro-union or advocate an immediate increase in the minimum wage to $14. However, there is no question that what she has to say is serious food for thought, especially as regards the minimum wage. Indeed, by going in there and getting her hands dirty (literally and figuratively) she presented to me a far stronger case for raising the minimum wage then, say, Ted Kennedy or Barbara Boxer or Dick Gephardt or Maxine Waters and their ilk ever could or did. As for unions (which is of course not the focus of her book), I have always had mixed feelings. They always seem like such a better idea in theory than in practice.
4. I thought the footnotes were an excellent addition to the book and helped put into a macro perspective some of the same experiences the author was suffering on a micro perspective.
Finally, I don't even necessary disagree with some of the criticisms I have read below. As but one example, it did seem that she could have made life a bit easier on herself in certain respects, even within the confines of her own parameters which she set for herself. But despite that, I found this easily to be a 5-star effort and applaud Ms. Ehrenreich for the book.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 7, 2011 8:18 AM PDT


Inspired Sleep: A Novel
Inspired Sleep: A Novel
by Robert Cohen
Edition: Hardcover
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good but would have liked more Bonnie and less Ian, July 23, 2001
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First, I agree with all of the reviewers who commented on how well-written the book was. Cohen is simply an excellent writer who really can string words together beautifully. I was particularly impressed by little touches such as Cress' book report on Macbeth, where he has to write as a 15-year old like Cress might write, and the E-mail exchanges, and the E-Mail exchanges. The dialogue is great too. I really admire his talent. In addition, I don't necessarily agree with those who criticized the entire cast of characters in the book, as if to throw them all in a pot together. However, I did find all the chapters about Bonnie and her world (Larry Albeit, Cress, her kids etc.) to be much more interesting than the chapters about Ian and his world (Heflin, Marisa Chu, Erway, Eddie, etc.). And therein lies a problem: As the novel went on, while there is obviously some intersection between Bonnie's life and Ian's life, it seemed that Ian and his world took center stage more and more while Bonnie and her group got pushed to the sidelines. Not completely of course, but enough to annoy. I would have enjoyed more about Bonnie & Co. and less about Ian & Co. It also seemed to me as if, except for one twist, the ending seemed to fizzle out a little, as if the author lost some of his focused edge. Nevertheless, still a fine novel.


Amanda's Wedding
Amanda's Wedding
by Jenny Colgan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $33.25
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8 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars How derivative can you get?, July 15, 2001
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This review is from: Amanda's Wedding (Hardcover)
Notwithstanding everyone else's glowing review of this supposedly hilarious book, I found it to be nothing more than a vastly inferior imitation of Bridget Jones' Diary. That is, another first person narrative by an incredibly hapless (and, due to self-awareness, incredibly self-deprecating) British, female singleton in her late 20's whose life consists of looking for Mr. Right and winding up with Mr. Wrong. Virtually every attempt at humor comes in the form of Melanie's self-criticism (mostly justified). If I were Helen Fielding (author of Bridget Jones' Diary) I would sue for plagiarism. However, compared to the one-dimensional predictable stick figures in this book, the characters in BJD seem deep and multilayered by comparison. People like Amanda are virtual cartoon characters--i.e. completely unrealistic. If you haven't read Bridget Jones' Diary, skip this book and read that far superior, and funnier (not to mention more original) version instead. If you have read BJD, and are hoping that this will be of an equal caliber, you'll be sorely disappointed.


Napalm & Silly Putty
Napalm & Silly Putty
by George Carlin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $22.95
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not vile, not offensive .... and not very funny either, July 8, 2001
This review is from: Napalm & Silly Putty (Hardcover)
There is no doubt that Carlin is (or was) a groundbreaking and historically important comedian. He earned his stripes years ago with such brilliant albums as AM/FM and great bits like the 7 dirty words. A this point however, with literary efforts like these, it seems that he is pretty much just mailing in his effort. I found 10% of this book funny and/or clever (hence more than 1 star), 10% ripped off from other comedians (... in particular), and the other 80% simply not funny or interesting. It wasn't offensive or sacriligious, it was worse--not funny.
Also, at the risk of sounding prudish (which I'm not), I found his incessant swearing to be entirely gratuitous. There is no question that you need the full range of our language including good dirty words here and there to punch up a joke or story and on those occasions the right swear word can be indispensable. But there is also such thing as overkill. And in Carlin's case it just seems very forced (especially with the ... all over the place). It seemed to me as if Carlin--who is going on about 65 by now--is trying, in his way, to say to us:
"I'm vital! (or as he might put it: "I'm ... vital!"). I'm relevant!. I'm happening! Look at how I swear all over the place (even when it adds nothing to the joke). You know I must be hip, because that's how hip guys talk."
As I say, historically, he is an important comedian. But now he seems well past his prime and, and this point is trying to come off as the brash young iconoclast and it just doesn't work


Bud, Sweat, And Tees: Hootie, Martha, and the Masters of the Universe
Bud, Sweat, And Tees: Hootie, Martha, and the Masters of the Universe
by Alan Shipnuck
Edition: Hardcover
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, but how did he write this?, June 7, 2001
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It's not every author who could look at a couple of guys like Beem and Duplantis and say to themselves: "Gee, I could write a book about these guys!" After all, they don't seem that fascinating on the surface. But Spipnuck saw the potential and made it work. Really a good read. The whole time reading the book however, I found myself wondering exactly how Shipnuck wrote the book. In other words, what was the nature of his involvement with these guys and when did it start? It certainly appears that he spent a ton of time in their actual presence and was relating the story as it happened. He certainly was in their presence sometimes--for example, right at the start of the book, 8 days after the Kemper--Beem met up with Shipnuck. However, given that Beem and Duplantis were often apart, it cannot be the case that he was always in their company. Was it instead based primarily on interviews with the two over the phone? Would they speak every night? (It certainly seemed like it given that he has almost daily quotes from the two about major matters and mundane matters alike). I also could not ascertain when the author picked up with his narrative. Was it at the start of 1999, meaning that he just happened to get incredibly lucky when his obscure guy won the Kemper. Or did the idea come to him only after Beem won the Kemper, and if so, how is it that he has such meticulous detail as to the lives of Beem and Duplantis up to that point? To take just one tiny example of that--in early 1999, Shipnuck is coveing Beem at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am. On the 7th hole, Beem hits a 6-iron and Shipnuck quotes him as saying "A good 6-iron." Well, obviously, Beem would not have said that to Shipnuck 5 or 6 months later, so we have to assume that it was more or less contemporaneous, as nearly all the quotes seem to be. If so, that would mean that the author was in full coverage mode throughout 1999 and, by incredible coincidence, happended to luck out when his man won the Kemper. Anyway, I was just wondering about all this. Lastly, I thought the title was stupid and not worthy of such a good book.


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