Mark Wonderful
The Mr.Wonderful ©

Review of Books

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From the Publisher:

"When Albert Einstein told Franklin Roosevelt in 1939 that the atomic bomb was possible, he did not tell the president about another discovery he had made, something so extreme and horrific it remained a secret ... until now. When twelve-year-old Daphne Marrity takes a videotape labeled Pee-wee's Big Adventure from her grandmother's house, neither she nor her college-professor father, Frank Marrity, has any idea that the theft has drawn the attention of both the Israeli Secret Service and an ancient European cabal of occultists - or that within hours they'll be visited by her long-lost grandfather, who is also desperate to get that tape."

Mr.Wonderful Writes:

Three Days to Never is simply a good old science fiction fable. And as good SciFi does, it mixes in commonly known historic and scientific facts with, what else? science fiction. There were no sloppy sexual encounters, which for me fulfills the definition of Science Fiction. (How many SciFi titles are denied to young people these days, simply because they are filled with sexual intercourse--Joe Haldeman?) Three Days to Never intermeshes time travel, earthquakes, gunplay, the Tempest, Einstein, the super-secret Mossad, the use of the swastika as a powerful occult symbol, remote viewing and all the things a George Noory fan absolutely believes in.

The author, Tim Powers, imagines an unusual result of slowing the momentum when emerging from journeying in time which results in a throwing off virtual babies. Babies that, if grabbed before they disappear, can be raised just like a infants birthed normally. Whether these babies have bellybuttons was not revealed. The author also answers the question if two versions of the same person can exist in the same moment. They can.

I enjoyed it. Three Days was my actual bedside book and I looked forward to cracking it open every evening and reading it until my eyelids, lowered during an extended blink, like jammed window-blinds, would no longer raise, while the book, weighted down by its clamped-on, twenty-two AAA battery-powered fluorescent lamp, as if filmed in slow motion, fitfully fell to my chest.

Over the two-week reading period, I had no challenges picking up the story where I left off, nor did I discover any plot holes or question any character's motivations. With its unique view of time travel, its action and mystery-packed chapters and not being weighed down by heavy philosophical or political messages, Three Days was a very good read.

reviewed: September 6, 2007
Begun: 08/23/2007   Finished: 09/04/2007 Purchased: October 2006
B&N Net Rank: 11,044
Pages: Hardcover, 420pp
Three Days to Never.
Read more/order

Three Days to Never

Tim Powers

ISBN: 0380976536
ISBN-13: 9780380976539
Copyright © 2006
From the Publisher:

"In this exuberantly acclaimed bestseller, Nick Tosches tells the tale of two odysseys: the efforts of Dante Alighieri to weave out of the grossness of his own humanity a poem that contains the sum of the world's wisdom and the very breath of the divine, and the deadly struggle, seven centuries later, to possess an object of inestimable value—the manuscript of The Divine Comedy written in Dante's own hand. Widely hailed as a work of astounding audacity and beauty, the novel draws on Nick Tosches's vast scholarship about the Middle Ages and an equally intimate knowledge of the most degenerate lowlifes of New York's toughest streets."

Mr.Wonderful Writes:

Do you have the vocabulary of a Bennett Cerf, Richard M. Nixon or William F. Buckley Jr? The educational background of a G.Gordon Liddy? Are you familiar with Italian, fluent in Latin and recently read of what is known in the vernacular as: Dante's Inferno? If so, you will find author Nick Tosches' In the Hand of Dante fascinating.

However, if you lack the above qualities, you'll find the book a touch hard to traverse. When a reader sees a comment on the back cover of book, such as from The Library Journal: "An Olympian mastery of language--it's like reading Bukowski by way of Tennyson", he should be sufficiently warned of a work incomprehensible by mortal man. Sadly the art on the cover of the front  of the book, combined with the subject matter impelled me to purchase it, albeit, at a discounted three dollars and ninety-five cents rather than the twenty-five dollar cover price.

Not possessing a Roman Catholic background (although my father--God rest his soul--was one) or a Cassell's Latin Dictionary, I was left to stumble through most of the Latin, much of which goes untranslated. I should have known I was in for a treat when my three and one-half inch hardcover Webster's didn't even define an English word  used early-on by author Tosches. Faced with an unknown word on virtually every page, and not wanting to take a year reading In the Hand of Dante, or risk suffering carpal-tunnel syndrome from hefting my six-pound dictionary from a prone position, about half-way through I halted my research and simply wondered at the meanings of the buckets of unfamiliar words being thrown at me as if I were blazing under-hood car fire. Another odd thing is, that one of the views in the book is through the eyes of author Nick Tosches, who is the protagonist within its pages. Go figure.

When the text concerns the modern-day characters, it flies by like a Michael Crichton thriller written by Hannibal Lecter for the action is oftentimes quite violent and cold hearted. When the pages concern the world and words of the 12th Century poet, Dante Alighieri (in his search for ... I forgot what) a flimsily erudite reader such as your Mr.Wonderful, finds himself creeping along like an insufficiently charged Toyota Prius dragging a Buick Straight-Eight over the Arizona-sun-baked and brownie-soft asphalt behind it.

Blurbs on the dust cover imply the book was a "best seller", however, I cannot believe that more than a handful of the buyers also actually completed reading the entire 376 stipel-edged pages of In the Hand of Dante.

reviewed: August 24, 2007
Begun: 08/10/2007   Finished: 08/23/2007 Purchased: October 2006
B&N Net Rank: 369,775
Pages: Hardcover, 376pp
In the Hand of Dante
Read More/Order
In The Hand of Dante

Nick Tosches

ISBN: 0316895245
ISBN-13: 9780316895248
Copyright © 2002 "La forte e nova mia disaventura
m'ha desfatto nel core
ogni dolce penser, ch'i' aveva, d'amore."

Visual Presentation
   of Dante's Inferno

Textual presentation
   of Dante's Inferno

Dante's Inferno Test
   Impurity, Sin ... and Damnation The Divine
Read More
  O r d e r
The Divine Comedy

From the Back Cover:

  • doing what you love
  • dealing with bills and broken legs
  • discovering your own power
  • finding peace of mind
  • dealing with disasters
  • not blaming your mother
    IT'S ABOUT ...
  • how HAPPY people think
  • why RICH people make money, even by accident
  • what LOSERS do, and how not be like them!

Mr.Wonderful Writes:

Another wonderfully inspiring book by Andrew Matthews who also penned seven years earlier, Being Happy!. This large font and quite brief book has almost one hundred author-drawn color vignettes demonstrating the concepts shown in the text. Because of these features, large font plus colorful drawings, the book is sometimes found in the "Young People" section of book stores; although I recommend Follow Your Heart: Finding Purpose in Your Life and Work for teens and older. If you've read my devastating review of The Secret and seen a partial list of the self-help books I've read listed in the far-right column, you will be aware I am somewhat of an expert in reading self-help books. However, I am an almost complete failure in implementing their truths to change the course of my own life.

Being an actor, I am naturally more open to exposing my feelings in public and I imagine as other patrons of the coffee bars I read Follow Your Heart at and after first seeing tears rolling down my face and then hearing me laugh out loud, must have thought me a little more strange than usual. But this book is that kind of book, and you too, when you hear the truths about you and your own behaviors may indeed weep, but I guarantee that the drawings will make you laugh. So you may want to consider where you read this book ... perhaps behind closed doors.

Like Being Happy!, Follow Your Heart is full of truth and incredibly simple action steps, that are so simple that we all already know what they are. This book can be read by anyone, agnostic, Christian, Eastern Religion as it compassionately leaves room for whatever you believe.

And maybe the best part are the two pages of testimonials that precede and then end the book. Be sure to read them.

It is so very sad to me, that a media carpet-bombed with, "Think it and it's your's" titles such as The Secret sells millions and millions of copies and earns millions and millions for its author. While the actual secret, the truth, is inside books like Follow Your Heart that promise nothing but hard work, certain failure, possible success and best of all, true happiness, by doing what we love, but yet struggles to stay above 90,000 on Barnes & Noble's ranking.

reviewed: August 18, 2007
Begun: 07/28/2007   Finished: 08/15/2007 Purchased: July 2007
Barnes & Noble Store
Pima & Shea
B&N Net Rank: 89,275
Pages: Trade Paperback, 144pp
Follow Your Heart
Read More/Buy
Follow Your Heart
Finding Purpose in Your
Life and Work

Andrew Matthews

ISBN: 0843174919
ISBN-13: 9780843174915
Copyright © 1997 " ... but pain is still the main reason we change.  Until we are in pain, we can pretend."
"Happy people don't just accept change, they embrace  it.  They are the people who say: "Why would I want my next five years to be like my last five?"
"Sometimes, when you do what you love, you need  less money.  ...  Sometimes we buy a lot of toys to take our mind off the fact that we hate our job."
"High performance people discard the idea that life is a lottery."
SFBC - Club Review:

"A modern master of science fiction, multiple award-winner Greg Bear (Moving Mars; Darwin's Radio) gives us a plausible sf thriller that envisions the cataclysmic outcome of the War on Terror. It's the second decade of the 21st century, and terrorism has escalated almost beyond control. The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem has been blown to bits by extremists, and in retaliation, thousands have died in another major attack on the United States. New weapons are being spawned in remote basement labs, and no one feels safe. In North America, the FBI uses cutting-edge technology to thwart domestic terrorists. Sat-linked engine blockers stop drug-traffickers cold. Devices the size of Magic Markers test for bio-hazards on the spot. 3-D projectors reconstruct crime scenes from hours-old evidence, and sophisticated bomb suits protect against all but the most savage forces. Despite all this, the War on Terror is virtually lost."

Mr.Wonderful Writes:

Quantico by Greg Beard is simply a good old not-that-far-into-the future yarn of the FBI tracking down some very bad people. I enjoyed reading it and I never hesitated to pick it up to continue my three pages at a time pace. I think one reason was that the seventy-four chapters physically break up the reading, seeming to speed it along, while, at the same time, logically breaking up the action and locales.

Of course, one of the main bad guys is the usual evil Christian fundamentalist (who we know are behind 99% of all terror threats in the 21st Century, right?) and in a twist, gasp, one of the good guys is a rug-bending Muslim. It began to concern me that, especially considering the Evening News, that Special Agent Fouad and his 'Religion of Peace' are painted with a shade just a little too white. However, it was quite interesting, for the first time for me, to view life through the eyes of a Muslim, albeit, a fictional creation.

To not spoil the story, I cannot delve into the whys, but I found the ending a little soft, similar to my father's own ending in the Alzheimer's wing of the Lutheran Brotherhood rest home. All in all, Quantico was a well written and entertaining read.

The publisher is a little queer in that it seems Madison Park Press doesn't seem to sell other than directly to bookclubs, forcing my sales ranking to be sourced from rather than Barnes &

reviewed: August 16, 2007

Page 185 "He wore slippers but no shoes. There were cuts on his face ... "
(Are not "slippers" a form of shoe?) Begun: 07/27/2007   Finished: 08/09/2007 Purchased: October 2006
sfbc invoice
( 27,694
Pages: Hardback, 355

Visit Science Fiction Book Club
Greg Bear

ISBN: 1582882177
Copyright © 2005, 2006
From the Barnes & Noble Review:

"This isn't just a great beginner’s book on blogging (though it is that). It’s a plugged-in, well-informed guide for those who are already blogging and want to "kick it up a notch." Need to know what these blog thingies are, anyhow? Brad Hill explains patiently and simply: the technology and the culture. (He masterfully captures blogosphere etiquette, so you won’t get flamed any more than necessary.)

You’ll walk through creating your first blog using free services like Blogger, MSN Spaces, or Yahoo! 360 (or cheap services like TypePad). Ready to gain far more control? Hill introduces slick tools like Movable Type, WordPress, and Radio Userland, and gets you started with each of them.

'Hill offers practical, hands-on introductions to video blogging and podcasting, too. There’s even a chapter on making blogging pay. (OK, maybe not much. But hey, every little bit helps.)' Bill Camarda, from the March 2006 Read Only."

Mr.Wonderful Writes:

I swore off the Dummies® series of books because, I guess having one in your possession basically became your sign as you toted it around hoping to read it quickly enough that you could soon leave it behind. HTML vs. Blogs Or I may have had a bad experience with a Dummies® volume that I cannot recall. In any case, when your HTML-driven Mr.Wonderful saw himself getting passed-by like the only guy on Arizona's I-17 freeway obeying the construction speed limit, I decided to jump into the fast lanes of the blogosphere. Which I quickly discovered was simply CSS put in an easy-to-use template so that dummies could use it. Don't know CSS? Who's the dummy now? <grin> And what was the only  book about blogging on the two twelve foot long rows of shelves at my brick-and-mortar Barnes and Noble store?

As with any good easy-to-read instructional book, Blogging for Dummies must have taken an immense effort, and it shows as author Brad Hill has done an excellent job of both explaining blogging and encouraging newbies to jump in. Even for a analytical guy like me it was too much information as I left out reading some chapters that I knew would not interest me. Ahem, just like in year 2000, when I left out the reading the chapters on CSS in the also excellent SAMS Teach Yourself HTML 4 in 24 Hours primer. In today's mile-a-minute internet one can tell this Dummies® book has already become slightly dated by including a Rich Tennant cartoon mentioning the long forgotten Taco Bell Chihuahua. But of course that kind of super-quick-aging can never again go unnoticed.

Author Hill goes through everything one needs to know, from the free template-style blogs of MSN Spaces, Yahoo!360, Blogger and TypePad, to the do-it-yourself blogging programs of Movable Type, WordPress, and Radio Userland. (I have decided to go with the program as my expertise in HTML should make it a cinch.) However, for the new blogger who is reading this book, myself, like the author, caution you to read about all of your options  before choosing a single one, because going back, or starting over, would be as hard as doing the same with my ex-wife--and you don't even know my ex-wife! There is also the typically excellent Dummies glossary and index at the back of the book.

The only gripes I have with Mr. Hill, is that even though the book was penned in 2004 or 2005 and there were certainly an equal number of well-visited Left-wing and Right-web blogs, there is not a single mention of one Right-wing or Conservative blog. This is the Liberal's codified method of censorship, (their version of their cry of "book burning" by the Right) and that is simply to ignore the existence of any viewpoint but their own. (Why am I convinced that Author Ed Hill is a Liberal, a Left-Winger? Simple, he sites NPR, National Public Radio, in his writing.) Anyone can visit my currently HTML-based Mr.Wonderful Talks Politics and see that I begin the page with a quote from a former communist while also prominently displaying the website and further down offering up a link to the Democratic Underground.

For I am not fearful of ideas that are contrary to my own. As a matter of fact, I drag these unproven theories and fallacies, often put forth as accepted fact, out into the sunlight of the work-a-day world (us 40 to 64 hour a week employees, live, love, and labor in) and explain why, in virtually every instance, more government only makes the situation worse, along with ceding more power and more of our so very hard-earned dollars to those in Washington and our State Houses who then can only seem to squander the money and abuse us: the law-abiding, employed, tax-paying citizens of this nation, who make the whole thing work.

reviewed: August 9, 2007

Page 77 "... (Flickr offers a premium account that cost  $25 a year at this writing)."
Page 205  The text on page 204 refers to the Discussion tab under the Options panel. Figure 10-11 (Pg.205) instead displays the Category tab under the Manage panel.
Page 206 "... that person's comment are automatically ..."
Page 207 "... might seem really obscure.  I  about  to step you ..."
Page 208  The text on page 207 refers to the Permalinks tab under the Options panel. Figure 10-12 (Pg.208) instead displays the Reading tab under the Options panel. Begun: 07/30/2007   Finished: 08/04/2007 Purchased: July 2007
B&N Net Rank: 26,179
Pages: Trade Paperback, 367pp

Read More Buy

Blogging for Dummies
Brad Hill

ISBN: 0471770841
ISBN-13: 9780471770848
Copyright © 2006

Blogging for Dummies

Beginners Go Here and Blog Today!
Newbie Bloggers
Go Here
Know HTML? Run your own blog!

Go Here
From the Publisher:

"The Jasons are a well-guarded group of world-class scientists, briefly outed in the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War, who have been meeting every summer since 1960 to tackle classified problems that the Defense Department cannot solve. Among many stunning innovations, they helped invent our electronic battlefield and Star Wars missile defense technology, and are now looking into ways to improve our intelligence gathering ... "

Mr.Wonderful Writes:

This is a well-researched book by Anne Finkbeiner as is demonstrated by the thirty-one pages of unread notes and eight and one-half pages of sources. This time however, the footnotes were unread because, the text having no indications of footnotes, I did not realize they even existed.

Speaking of the research, The Jasons explained to me for the first time that the Hiroshima bomb was uranium based, while the Nagasaki one was a plutonium generated chain reaction. Recall the 1940s fear that an atomic explosion might set the atmosphere on fire? That was shot down by a future Jason member.

The Jasons: The Secret History of Sciences's Postwar Elite sounded to me like a ultra high-IQ, and ultra secret version of Skull & Bones. Founded after World War II, the Jasons were a vague group of top-of-their-field, genius, self-vetted scientists who, since the majority of them were professors, met every summer, and while paid on a per diem basis, worked over complex scientific challenges presented to them by various governmental agencies. Certainly all the scientists had to pass the highest security clearances presented by the government prior to working on any projects and most of the time they never knew whether their conclusions were used or where they were used or if they were used. And the author herself, due to the top secret nature of most of the Jasons assignments was able to reveal only a handful of their projects.

Why use an outside group of uber-scientists, rather than a permanent government agency? Mainly so that there would be total truthfulness and with no income/employment conflicts affecting the answers this group of geniuses offered up. For the Jasons decisions could and did kill many in-progress government projects. And, while we know that the unemployment of an unelected governmental employee comes only with death (and sometimes not even then), for any work ended that was contracted out to civilian industry, these honest, hardworking citizens would  loose their jobs. (It was not mentioned in the book, but I would imagine the Jasons caused then Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld to cancel the super-expensive Challenger mobile artillery system.)

One of the most would-be paradigm-shattering ideas the Jasons killed was the military's proposal to use tactical (very small yield) nuclear weapons during the Vietnam War. (Odd that the NPR-listening author failed to insert that these are the same nuclear weapons that Democrat's claimed Republican Senator Arizona Barry Goldwater was certain to use if elected President.) They calculated that it would take thousands of nuclear missiles to slow the Vietcong and Chinese hordes. They also astutely noted, that while the enemy forces were extremely widely dispersed and virtually innumerable, American forces, confined to concentrated bases and Navy flotillas, once nuclear weapons were introduced to the battle theater, would be open to being entirely wiped out by a few dozen of Chinese-supplied atom bombs.

And it was at about this point that the book took a turn from the scientific into the worries of the apparently mostly left-wing Jasons about the moral propriety wrapped around creating something that could injure or kill and then turning that discovery over to the United States Government. I imagine if the Jasons were in charge of the Manhattan Project, Sorrento, Italy
Click, Read Morethe bomb would never have been developed and millions of mostly civilian Japanese would have been slaughtered in the invasion of mainland Japan and Josef Vissarionovich Stalin would be wintering in Sorrento.

An important Jason even admitted to the author, that had the government's plan to use nuclear weapons in Vietnam (to save the lives of American servicemen) been discovered as " . . . a perfectly good idea. 'We probably then would have kept quiet and not said anything.' " At that point I was boiling mad, as once again America was being painted by the Left as being the Satan of the World. At that moment, the book went from my night table to my backpack, for I could no longer fall asleep while reading it.

And from that point on, with a few actually interesting projects thrown in, the book for me, deteriorated into the quandary of how scientists inventions are used and if they are used to kill that they shouldn't be invented.

Author Finkbeiner, while bravely attempting to remain objective, finally allowed her leftist creed to conquer that same objectivity. I should have known seeing a previous book of her's titled: The Guide to Living with HIV Infection (an HIV infection undoubtedly not caused by Caligula-like anal sex, or injectable drug use or both, but by President Reagan) and her mentioning of National Public Radio far too often. Because everyone who loves America knows that if anyone listens to NPR programs other than the jazz music, From the Top, Performance Today or Garrison Keillor's, The Writer's Almanac (only), exposes himself as a hard-left socialist who would be happier in Stalin's 1950s Moscow than in today's so very evil U.S.A.

It is so sad that a book that one would think would be about science and discoveries and secrets and politics, devolved into one about moral questions involving warfare, to which the Left and Muslim Fundamentalist Terrorists share the same two answers: 1) America is the source of all evil in the world and 2) American must surrender.

reviewed: August 5, 2007
Begun: 07/10/2007   Finished: 07/27/2007 Purchased: February 2007
Where: scientificamericanbookclub
B&N Net Rank: 64,877
Pages: 281
The Jasons 
Click to read more/buy!

The Jasons:
The Secret History of
Science's Postwar Elite

Ann Finkbeiner

ISBN: 0670034894
ISBN-13: 9780670034895
Copyright © 2006
From the Publisher:

"In a summer that refuses to end, in the deceiving warmth of earliest October, civil war has come to Green Town, Illinois. It is the age-old conflict: the young against the elderly, for control of the clock that ticks their lives ever forward. The first cap-pistol shot heard 'round the town is dead accurate, felling an old man in his tracks, compelling town elder and school board despot Mr. Calvin C. Quartermain to marshal his graying forces and declare total war on the assassin, thirteen-year-old Douglas Spaulding, and his downy-cheeked cohorts ... "

Mr.Wonderful Writes:

Forced to purchase a title from the Science Fiction Bookclub, I knew I couldn't go wrong with a Ray Bradbury book. Boy, was I mistaken. After reading Farewell Summer two nights in a row, and slogging through text as bewildering as George W. Bush's continued support for illegal immigration, I made it all the way to page twenty-eight in chapter eight. At that juncture, I decided I had more productive things to do with my pre-dream reading moments than trying to parse out what the heck was going on in this book. I'm certain I'll be termed a Neanderthal for not being able to comprehend author Bradbury's year 2006 avante garde prose. So be it.

reviewed: July 27, 2007
Begun: 07/25/2007   Declared Unreadable: 07/27/2007 Purchased: February 2007
sfbc invoice
B&N Net Rank: 7,579
Farewell Summer

Farewell Summer

Ray Bradbury

ISBN: 0061131547
ISBN-13: 9780061131547
Copyright © 2006
From the Publisher:

" . . . an elegiac, deeply moving, and eminently accessible novel about love, loss, and the unpredictable power of memory.  The voice we hear is that of Max, a middle-aged Englishman, a writer and self-described dilettante who has been supported by his wife's money. Now, after his wife's recent death, Max has gone back to the seaside town where he lived as a child--a retreat from the grief, anger, and numbness of his new life without her, and a return to the place where he encountered the strange suddenness of both love and death for the first time. . . . "

Mr.Wonderful Writes:

I will admit, after having shelled out $11.50 for The Sea, a $23.00 retail-priced, award-winning novel recommended by Bookmarks Magazine, I began reading and shortly wondered why I had bought it. Packed with English places and customs and buckets of words so arcane my 75,000 word Funk & Wagnalls pocket dictionary couldn't define half of them, I thought of doing a thing I have only done twice in my recent reading career. And that is, to quit reading. I am so glad I did not, for in the last third of the book, the droll drama purposely accelerates towards its surprising conclusions.

The Sea by John Banville of Dublin, Ireland, left me with that certain queer feeling that only real, honest, and accurate writing can birth. This isn't a story for someone who is searching for joy and hoping for a happy ending. And I can only thank God that I did not pick up this book soon after I had lost my own wife; to a divorce.

Unlike A Passage to India, The Sea does not hint of twists and turns but simply drops them on you as if an engine fell off of a passenger airliner onto your lap, leaving the reader shaking her head in surprise and wonderment.

The book concerns the middle-aged Max who visits the seaside village where, as an eleven year old, he vacationed with his parents. But it is so much more than it sounds. Seen through the eyes and filtered through the scant wisdom of a pre-teen, his descriptions and assumptions are quite excellent, especially when capturing his perceptions of adults. Author Banville has a thing with bodily odors that I found strange and slightly disgusting, but maybe that was the plan. John's writing should also convince any American of how primitive and dreary life was and still is for our island-bound cousins and sometimes allies.

I still don't understand the meaning of, on page one, "Someone has just walked over my grave. Someone." Because the story is solely told through the memory of Max, and he does not die.

Regardless, The Sea is a very good read and if that read is performed in a slow and contemplative mood, it will leave the reader haunted, questioning and in a state of melancholy.

reviewed: July 21, 2007
Begun: 07/16/2007   Finished: 07/21/2007 Typeface: Centaur-by Bruce Rogers
Typeface Italic: Arrighi-by Frederic Warde
Pages: 195
Purchased: May 2007
Where: Half-Price Books
B&N Net Rank: 5,891
The Sea
Read More/Buy
The Sea
Winner of the 2005
Man Booker Prize

John Banville

ISBN: 1400097029
ISBN-13: 9781400097029
Copyright © 2005

"With color, irony and sensitivity, Pulitzer prize-winner Annie Dillard illuminates the dedication absurdity, and daring that is the writer's life. As it probes and exposes, examines and analyzes, The Writing Life offers deeper insight into one of the most mysterious of professions."

Mr.Wonderful Writes:

The Writing Life, by Annie Dillard, published in 1989 with 111 pages of large font text is an easy read. It has weathered the almost two decades since it's first issue simply fine. It consists of six chapters which I've roughly titled: What writing is about, Where we write, The writing life, Writing a book, Being stuck, and The writer as an artist. Chapter four, clearly headlined: "SORRY TO TELL YOU A DREAM!" is two quick pages, and I, having not understood the heading, thought it was a very strange chapter indeed.

In 2004, I began my reviews in the belief that reviewers should actually read the book they are writing about and delineate enough of the work so that their readers might have a good idea whether they'd like it enough to purchase it, rather than issue some vague verbiage almost always in an effort to promote sales of the book.

With that in mind, and never having been an ass-kisser (unless it involves my paycheck) I can tell you that I am simply unworthy to critique Ms. Dillard's work.

I read chapters one and two gasping with my mouth wide open, shaking my head at the incredible word work of Annie D. while flinging my caffeinated saliva about the coffee shop. I drained so much of my pink highlighter on those pages, that I almost was forced to borrow a 1400 watt hair-dryer from the salon next door, to blow them dry. As it is, the book, wetted from such frequent highlighting, almost appears as if it had been left out in the rain. Which in this Sonoran Desert is as rare as writing as good as her's is.

Thankfully by chapter three, the author backs off and begins putting down sentences as if she indeed is someone born on this planet. Had that not happened, I am fairly sure I would have built an alter and begun worshiping the unseen artist of the text.

While the book is certainly more of a biography than a how-to-write primer, I cannot imagine any person who enjoys writing and wishes to learn more about the craft not gaining buckets of insight, a few smiles and a handful of touching moments from The Writer's Life.

I give The Writing Life my highest recommendation and have awarded it the coveted Five Sun MustoWn (Must Own) Award® from the MW Review of Books.

reviewed: July 18, 2007

Page 90 "... and blank monitor screen scrying  for signs: dipping pens into ink, ..." Begun: 07/15/2007   Finished: 07/16/2007 Purchased: May 2007
B&N Net Rank: 24,218

The Writing Life
Read More/Buy
The Writing Life

Annie Dillard

ISBN: 0060919884
ISBN-13: 9780060919887
Copyright © 1989

From the Library Journal:

"Strasberg's posthumous memoir traces the creation of his famous ``Method,'' the most influential actor-training technique ever developed. At the beginning of his career, Strasberg embarked on a search for the sources of the actor's creativity and a means of consistently attaining emotional truth on stage. His solution, inspired by the work of Stanislavsky's Moscow Arts Theatre, was transmitted to a generation of actors at the Actor's Studio of New York. Strasberg's reminiscences are an exploration of the creative process that will reward all who are interested in the nature of inspiration. Essential for theater collections. Susan Thach Dean, Chicago P.L."

Mr.Wonderful Writes:

A Dream of Passion: The Development of The Method is definitely a book only for actors and directors. It will certainly put into a deep sleep any non-actor even if he or she frequents Starbucks and sleeps on an old style last-century inner-spring mattress.

A Dream of Passion is a large fonted 201-paged trade paperback, with my copy having been published in 1987, displaying the retail price of $8.95, and filled with rough textured yellowing pages. The manuscript for the book was dictated from 1974 on and finished by the date of Strasberg's death in February of 1982. Footnotes are indicated with an asterisk and are printed in very small font at the bottom of the page. MW reading Dreams of Passion There are sixteen pages of grainy black and white photos printed on paper stock with the many of them dating back almost one hundred years.

Non-Baby-Boomers/non-actors won't have heard that much of the traumas of 'The Method'. However it was made a very big deal in the 1950s and 1960s because Marlon Brando, James Dean, Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Marilyn Monroe and other most excellent actors, had gone through the rigors at the Strasberg founded Actors Studio. I say rigors because us gray-hairs all recall stories of students being thrown into fits of weeping or depression by mainly the exercises using emotional-memory  where,

" . . . the actor is asked to recreate an experience from the past that affected him strongly . . . I ask the student to pick the strongest thing that ever happened to him, whether it aroused anger, fear or excitement."

Many now conjecture that the "most excellent actors" previously mentioned would have been as great without The Method, and were invited into the Actors Studio to become pupils only after singling themselves out with stellar stage performances. I don't know about that. But I do know that this writer uses a modified form of Strasberg's Method (incorporating techniques that both he and Boleslavsky specifically insist can not work) and I come away with character's so human and flawed and entirely believable that even my fellow thespians shy away from me. And I would not ever think of not using this method.

On page eighty-four Strasberg defines The Method:

"It is based not only on the procedures of Stanislavsky's work, but also on the further clarification and stimulus provided by Vakhtangov. I have also added my own interpretation and procedures . . . "
Understand that Strasberg never studied under Stanislavsky, a fact he clearly reveals, but did train at the Laboratory Theatre under two Stanislavsky-taught actors, Maria Ouspenskaya and Richard Boleslavsky.

Every director or actor should have this book in her library, not so much as to actually learn The Method, but to understand the why, and where it came from and also gain a great deal of knowledge about the history of American theatre.

reviewed: July 14, 2007
Begun: 07/03/2007   Finished: 07/12/2007 Purchased: unknown
Where: Friends of the Phoenix Public Library
B&N Net Rank: 48,906
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A Dream of Passion
A Dream of Passion
The Development of
The Method
Lee Strasberg

ISBN: 0452261988
ISBN-13: 9780452261983
Copyright © 1987