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81. Ex Libris : Confessions of a Common
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82. Roar Softly and Carry a Great
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83. The Opposite of Fate: A Book of
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84. The Periodic Table
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85. Writing in Restaurants
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86. Reflections
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87. Of Women and Horses
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88. It's the Little Things . . . :
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89. The Trouble With Testosterone:
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91. A Region Not Home : Reflections
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81. Ex Libris : Confessions of a Common Reader
by Anne Fadiman
list price: $10.00
our price: $7.50
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Asin: 0374527229
Catlog: Book (2000-11-25)
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Sales Rank: 13190
Average Customer Review: 4.73 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Anne Fadiman is--by her own admission--the sort of person who learned about sex from her father's copy of Fanny Hill, whose husband buys her 19 pounds of dusty books for her birthday, and who once found herself poring over her roommate's 1974 Toyota Corolla manual because it was the only written material in the apartment that she had not read at least twice.

This witty collection of essays recounts a lifelong love affair with books and language.For Fadiman, as for many passionate readers, the books she loves have become chapters in her own life story. Writing with remarkable grace, she revives the tradition of the well-crafted personal essay, moving easily from anecdotes about Coleridge and Orwell to tales of her own pathologically literary family. As someone who played at blocks with her father's 22-volume set of Trollope ("My Ancestral Castles") and who only really considered herself married when she and her husband had merged collections ("Marrying Libraries"), she is exquisitely well equipped to expand upon the art of inscriptions, the perverse pleasures of compulsive proof-reading, the allure of long words, and the satisfactions of reading out loud.There is even a foray into pure literary gluttony--Charles Lamb liked buttered muffin crumbs between the leaves, and Fadiman knows of more than one reader who literally consumes page corners. Perfectly balanced between humor and erudition, Ex Libris establishes Fadiman as one of our finest contemporary essayists.
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Reviews (71)

5-0 out of 5 stars I am not alone!
Being a true lover of books and of reading to the point of obsession, I often wonder if others exist in this world who share the same sensual and unusual experience with books that I do. Anne Fadman is one of those people. That now makes three if I include my mate. This collection of essays touches on nearly all of the issues I encounter with the books in my life. I am often stressed by the inevitable need to "marry" my library with my mate's. Whose copy of a particular book will remain? Will our shelves be occupied by duplicate copies of "A Portrait of a Lday" because neither one of us can part with outs? At what point will I need to move my couch out of the house to make room for more bookshelves? Fadiman's essay "Marrying Libraries" deals with this very issue in a relatable and humorous way. It was refreshing to read "My Odd Shelf". These shelves are filled with books that she "cannot trot out at cocktail parties." It's a lonely interest. I know there are books in my collection that would raise eyebrows among my family and friends if they knew they occupied space on my shelves. Who would understand my obsession with Alexander Trocchi or Jungian literature? Finally, Fadiman's essay "Never Do That To A Book" made me realize that I may be a woman of contradictions when it comes to the care of my books. I'm both a courtly lover and a carnal lover of books. She distinguishes the two modes quite eloquently. A courtly lover sees books as only things to be read--no writing in the margins, no water wrinkles from reading in the bathtub or working out on the stairstepper. A carnal lover loves books to pieces. I believe I am both. It seems I have a carnal relationship with any paperback classic I read and a courtly relationship with everything else. Hmm, I wonder why that is. Although the enjoyment is there for both the classics and the contemporaries, the former are like a favorite pillow. They are something I can really cuddle up with and love to pieces. Reading Ex Libris was like having a morning cup of coffee with my best friend.

5-0 out of 5 stars A book for people who love books
I was reading Ex Libris as my 9-year-old daughter Sarah was reading a Marguerite Henry book. I laughed out loud, and Sarah wanted to know why, so I read her a passage from Ms. Fadiman's essay on taking care of books. There are two camps of booklovers: the "words are everything" group, into which the entire Fadiman family, as voracious a bunch of readers as you could imagine, belongs. They write in margins, dog-ear pages, break spines. To them, a book is merely a container for the thoughts in it. And then there are the folks who would never write in a book, or turn down a page. I asked Sarah, who's been reading, avidly, for six years, which group she belonged to. Of course the words are important, she replied, but if you don't take good care of the book, you won't be able to read them. You can have that sort of conversation over and over while reading the essays that make up Ex Libris, and since you care about books (why else would you be visiting Amazon dot com, or Ms. Fadiman's page?), you probably will -- even if you're alone, and the conversation is internal.

5-0 out of 5 stars Charming and witty
If you are a bibliophile and would like to bury your nose in a charming collection of essays on reading and collecting books-then this is a book that you will enjoy reading.

I picked up the book on a whim and put it away to read at some future date. Then, late one evening I picked up the book, and casually started reading it. I was hooked! I continued reading till the wee hours of the morning, and only put it away when I had finished reading the book. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.

This slim volume with about 160 pages has about 18 essays. And as Robert McCrum of the "London Observer," put it, "Witty, enchanting, and supremely well-written, one of the most delightful volumes to have come across my desk in a long time..."

This collection of personal essays is a celebration of the written word. After reading this book I have become a carnal lover of books and boldly make notes on the margins of the book. Fadiman says that there are two kinds of book lovers: courtly and carnal. For courtly lovers the "book's physical self was sacrosanct," but for the carnal lovers "a book's words were holy, but the paper, cloth, cardboard, glue, thread, and link that contained them were a mere vessel, and it was no sacrilege to treat them as wantonly as desire and pragmatism dictated."

Fadiman is the editor of "The American Scholar," and a National Book Critics Circle Award winner and shares her love affair with books in this collection of essays Fadiman grew up in a house filled with books. Both her parents were well known writers. Her father, Clifton Fadiman, was a critic, anthologist and a judge of the Book of the Month Club and her mother; Annalee Jacoby Fadiman was a Time correspondent.

5-0 out of 5 stars Superb! What a gem.
Beautifully written, warm, and generous. A book lovers delight! Ms. Fadiman does a wonderful job of bringing to life each individual portrayed in her essays. A very engaging, often humorous, and lively read.

5-0 out of 5 stars lovely literate laughs for lovers of literature
This book is adorable! (And I've been enjoying seeing all the perfectly spelled reviews here!) I was only sorry it was so short. Every chapter made me wish I had the author for a friend. I almost cried with joy reading the description of the Fadiman family at the restaurant, horribly distracted from the food by misspellings-- I always thought we were the only ones.
I was a big fan of her genial father Clifton, and I see the talent came down in the family. Anne, come to Paris! ... Read more

82. Roar Softly and Carry a Great Lipstick: 28 Women Writers on Life, Sex, and Survival
by Autumn Stephens
list price: $14.95
our price: $10.17
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Asin: 1930722389
Catlog: Book (2004-11-09)
Publisher: Inner Ocean Publishing
Sales Rank: 2107
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Book Description

The title of this anthology riffs on Teddy Roosevelt's phallocentric motto, "Speak softly, and carry a big stick." Few American women today are interested in cultivating a Teddyesque machismo - but in Roar Softly, women writers recount witty and poignant tales of modern-day survival, from finding love (and sex) as a single mom to overcoming anorexia to adopting a child. Not only do their stories offer reassurance that no woman is alone in her struggles, but they also suggest better battle strategies - more womanly battle strategies, if you will - for those who shrink from the "muscle your way through" approach. As each essay demonstrates, women can overcome the challenges of their lives not only with strength, but also with grace. Contributors include Anne Lamott, Edwidge Danticat, Mary Roach, Elizabeth Fishel, Laura Fraser, and Anneli Rufus. ... Read more

83. The Opposite of Fate: A Book of Musings
by Amy Tan
list price: $24.95
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Asin: 0399150749
Catlog: Book (2003-10-01)
Publisher: G. P. Putnam's Sons
Sales Rank: 3197
Average Customer Review: 4.42 out of 5 stars
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Amy Tan begins The Opposite of Fate: A Book of Musings, a collection of essays that spans her literary career, on a humorous note; she is troubled that her life and novels have become the subject of a "Cliff’s Notes" abridgement. Reading the little yellow booklet, she discovers that her work is seen as complex and rich with symbolism. However, Tan assures her readers that she has no lofty, literary intentions in writing her novels--she writes for herself, and insists that the recurring patterns and themes that critics find in them are entirely their own making. This self-deprecating stance, coupled with Tan’s own clarification of her intentions, makes The Opposite of Fate feel like an extended, private conversation with the author.

Tan manages to find grace and frequent comedy in her sometimes painful life, and she takes great pleasure in being a celebrity. "Midlife Confidential" brings readers on tour with Tan and the rest of the leather-clad writers’ rock band, the Rock-Bottom Remainders. And "Angst and the Second Book" is a brutally honest, frequently hysterical reflection on Tan’s self-conscious attempts to follow the success of The Joy Luck Club.

In a collection so diverse and spanning such a long period of time, inevitably some of the pieces feel dated or repetitious. Yet, Tan comes off as a remarkably humble and sane woman, and the book works well both to fill in her biography and to clarify the boundaries between her life and her fiction. In her final, title essay, Tan juxtaposes her personal struggles against a persistent disease with the nation’s struggles against terrorism in the aftermath of 9/11. She declares her transformative, artistic power over tragedy, reflecting: "As a storyteller, I know that if I don’t like the ending, I can write a better one."--Patrick O’Kelley ... Read more

Reviews (19)

5-0 out of 5 stars The Opposite of Fiction
Although I read only the rare novel, I really love it when a novelist tries her hand at non-fiction. Fiction writers turn everything into stories. The essays and memories in The Opposite of Fate read like short stories, with the pacing and structure of fiction.

This is not a memoir, rather a collection of thoughts, essays, interviews, memories, even a prize-winning essay Amy Tan wrote when she was eight years old. The pieces at the beginning of the book are more light-hearted than the later ones. In one, Tan is surprised to find that Joy Luck Club has a CliffNotes version and is interested to discover what she was trying to say in her novel. Not only that, the CliffNotes biography doesn't quite match what she recalls from her own life. In another chapter, Tan tells how she became a bad singer in the Rock Bottom Remainders, a bad band. Her story of how Joy Luck Club was made into a movie is fascinating.

There is a lot about Tan's mother, a huge influence in her life, both good and bad. When Tan turns serious, watch out. She has had several brushes with death, and her September 11 memories are out of the ordinary, as well. She also writes about how she came to be a writer and have her first novel published at thirty-seven.

Most of these pieces are quickly read, and only one or two seem seemed too long. I am embarrassed to say that I have not read the novels of Amy Tan, but having finished this very enjoyable "Book of Musings," I look forward to getting her other books right away.

5-0 out of 5 stars A touching self-revelation with wit and emotion
I have read all of Amy Tan's books, and I think that she is a brilliant writer because although she writes mainly from her life experiences, stories from her mother, and her own imagination, she takes you back to different parts of China during different periods of time while putting you on an emotional roller coaster to find a balance in life. What is the meaning of life? Tan knows that no one really knows the real answer, IF there is a real answer.

In this book, Tan reveals her stressful childhood in which her mother was very unstable and always threatened suicide. Since both her father and brother died from brain tumors within a year, her mother knew that fate was on their wrong side when she counted that nine bad things had happened in her life (see the reference in BONESETTER'S DAUGHTER). She reveals that although she uses many experiences from her and her mother's lives in her novels, she only bases her novels on the stories. The novels are fiction, not biographies. She talks of her fear of death since when she was six years old and saw a class mate in a coffin, her mom muttering to her, "This what happens when don't listen to mother!" She realizes that she is very lucky to be an author, and that fate must keep her alive since she has had many near death experiences. Yet at the end of the book, she comes to the realization that it is not fate that determines her life.

It is a very touching book, filled with parts of speeches and writings that will make you laugh, shiver, cry, and have sympathy for this brilliant woman. I think that anyone who reads this book can relate to Tan and her hard life (she actually thinks she has had a great, lucky life and is very optimistic).

The reason why Tan uses the mother-daughter theme so much in her novels and short stories is because that is what she knows. That is what is important to her. That's like Steven King uses horror as his theme, etc. It's a page-turner- you won't be able to put it down!

5-0 out of 5 stars The Opposite of Fate
This is Amy Tan at her best... Her own life is much more interesting than her fiction!
I enjoyed hearing her own point of view as she described the motivation for writing her various novels. Each one is based on a real experience in her life. Her family, especially her relationship to her mother, is simply fascinating and the way she crafts her words is so poetic.

I am now inspired to read all of her other fictional books!

4-0 out of 5 stars Amy Tan in her own voice
"The Opposite of Fate" is a collection of musings that cover the many facets of Amy Tan's life, career, and philosophies. The book runs the gamut from a library contest entry written when she was eight to articles and lectures about her current life as a writer. These essays are quite personal, honest, and told with humor and amazing insight.

Tan reminisces on her childhood and the clash of Chinese fate and Christian faith in her upbringing. She provides many details about her family, especially her relationship with her mother. She also talks about the loss of both her father and brother to brain cancer the same year, as well as the deaths of several close friends. She describes her harrowing experience with Lyme's disease. She talks with amusement about doctoral dissertations and Cliff's Notes that analyze her work. She discusses what it means to be classified as an Asian-American writer, and how it feels to be a literary celebrity. She recounts her experiences in the literary rock band "The Rock Bottom Remainders."

I listened to the audio version of this book, which was read by Amy Tan herself. Since this collection let me peek into the author's triumphs, tragedies, hopes, and fears, it was very effective to hear the essays read in her own voice. After reading this book, you will better understand the elements that make up the author's stories, such as the echoes of her mother's influence in the novels' mother-daughter relationships. I recommend this book for every Amy Tan fan. It may provide enough insight on the real Amy Tan so that you'll want to reread some of her novels.

Eileen Rieback

4-0 out of 5 stars Your Life May Depend on It
This nonfiction book is an interesting collection of essays and musings about Amy Tan, written by Amy Tan, the author of four best selling novels. Organized into seven sections beginning with "Fate and Faith" and concluding with "Hope," the collection is in roughly chronological order. To enjoy the thread of this work, the reader should note those section titles and keep them in mind while reading.

I am not a fan of Amy Tan's fiction. "The Bonesetter's Daughter" could not sustain my interest and I have an uncertain memory of giving up on "The Joy Luck Club" as well. Although both books peaked at number four on the USA Today's bestseller list, I've yet to develop a taste for their themes.

I began reading "The Opposite of Fate" with a tinge of obligation because it was a gift from a good friend, and continued reading with dedicated interest to the end. Being an aspiring novelist, I was in part curious about the trials and tribulations of an accomplished writer of fiction, and this book has a wealth of singular anecdotes and insights. But there is much more, principally Amy Tan's tenacious sprightliness in spite of tragedies, deaths and diseases, bad luck and ill fate, always clinging to the opposite of fate. There are lessons in the Chinese-American philosophical, the multiple perspectives of truth, the management of memories and the indestructibility of mother-daughter love.

In the chapter "Angst and the Second Book," Amy Tan discusses her determination to overcome the axiom that the second book is doomed no matter what the author does, but she does not mention how well her second novel did. In fact, of her four novels, her second, "The Kitchen God's Wife," faired the poorest, peaking at the 94th position in USA Today's bestseller list, and stayed on the chart for only five weeks. Interestingly though, her first book, "The Joy Luck Club," and the second novel entered USA Today's list on the same date, October 28, 1993.

Regardless of your interests, the final chapter of this book describing the advent and of a prolonged illness and its eventual diagnosis is essential reading. Your life could depend on it. ... Read more

84. The Periodic Table
list price: $12.00
our price: $9.00
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Asin: 0805210415
Catlog: Book (1995-04-04)
Publisher: Schocken
Sales Rank: 25257
Average Customer Review: 4.88 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

An extraordinary work in which each of the 21 chapters takes its title and starting point from one of the elements in the periodic table. Mingling fact and fiction, history and anecdote, Levi uses his training as a chemist and his experiences as a prisoner in Auschwitz to illuminate the human condition. ... Read more

Reviews (25)

5-0 out of 5 stars Toward a Deeper Understanding
Nobel Laureate Saul Bellow said, regarding this book, "There is nothing superfluous here; everything this book contains is essential. It is wonderfully pure and beautifully translated."

Since I read this book in the original Italian, I cannot attest to the beauty of the translation. However, I would agree with Bellow that the book is wonderfully pure and lacking in the superfluous.

The Periodic Table, Primo Levi's fantasy regarding chemical elements and written in his elegant, spare style, is filled with images that animate the chemist's world. To a trained chemist, as Levi was, the molecular world is very real, and the its underlying events do not go unnoticed. This is the world that exists beneath the one we usually see; the world that gives matter its colors, tastes, smells, shapes and capacities. Levi's desire for a more complete understanding of the chemical world parallels his desire for a more complete understanding of the spiritual world of mankind.

In this book, Levi tells us, in part, of his years as a teenager and of his experiences with another young man named Enrico. Both boys wanted to become chemists, but for very different reasons. Enrico thought that chemistry would be the key to a more secure life. Levi, however, looked at chemistry as a way to understand and make sense of the universe. He says, "Chemistry represented an indefinite cloud of future potentialities which enveloped my life to come in black evolutes torn by fiery flashes." He goes on to describe his burning desire to find the truths hidden in chemistry by telling us that he would have grabbed Proteus, himself, by the throat and forced him to speak, so great was his hunger.

Levi's burning desire for a deeper understanding of the universe and all it contains is not new. The ancients, such as Aristotle, and later, Newton, also searched for the key to the mysteries of life. But Levi's desire was perhaps more pure, more essential. He writes, "Conquering matter is to understand it, and understanding matter is necessary to understanding the universe and ourselves."

Although chiefly a Holocaust memoir, the book is not without its lighter moments. In school, Levi had decided that chemistry alone could no longer fulfill his needs and he resolved to pursue physics. As an assistant, he was called upon to prepare pure dry benzene for an experiment by distilling the solvent over sodium. However, using potassium instead of sodium, Levi caused a laboratory fire.

The quest for knowledge of the universe is ongoing. Levi, however, sadly found himself spurred on by the prejudices that only man can inflict on man.

5-0 out of 5 stars One of the great books of the 20th century
I first read The Periodic Table in a college course on 20th century Italian literature. Since then I have reread it perhaps a half dozen times. Parts of it -- the chapter about Sandro, for instance, and the last chapter -- I have reread many more times than that.

It is such a great book -- such a clear-eyed, deeply felt, wide-ranging look at the human cost of Fascism and the Holocaust -- that anything I could possibly say about it would be idiotically trite. All I can really say, in honesty, is that I think it is one of the greatest books ever written. In any language. In any century. On any topic.

Having never read it in translation, I have trouble imagining how a translator could capture the poetry and the rich literary resonances of Levi's deceptively simple writing style. It is the kind of writing where you read sentences over again, sometimes aloud, just for their rythm and sound. However, friends who have read it in English say the translation is excellent. Even if it weren't, it's a book no thinking person should go without reading. It has a beauty and a gripping quality that goes far, far beyond style.

Just read it. Unlike most books you hear this about, it REALLY WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE.

5-0 out of 5 stars Strangely inspiring
I started this book expecting a story of how a Jew survived the Holocaust in Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. I thought that I'd read about tragedy and misfortune, but I didn't get what I expected.

What I got was a tale of subtle defiance and quiet resiliency to the war that looms in the background of the book. The author hints at the drama and struggle of the war through his many short vignettes--each related to an element from the Periodic Table--but he is never overcome by it, remaining distant from the events, submitting helplessly to the way things were, but looking brightly toward the future.

This was altogether a very interesting book. Strangely inspiring, aloof but aware, it provided me a view of the second world war that I never would have imagined.

3-0 out of 5 stars Disturbing and Trivial
I happened to read this book shortly after reading a book about a character struggling to come to terms with his wife's suicide (from depression) - 'The Dogs of Babel'. And that made me wonder about the signs the character had missed in his wife's decline that lead to her suicide. Should he have seen them? Did the writer plot them into the story in a meaningful way? Did I miss them? So I got off to a bad start with 'The Periodic Table' when I read that Promo Levi ended his life in suicide. Should I try and see the indicators in this novel that were pointing to that - as it turned out - inevitability? What a task to put on oneself!

Much of 'The Periodic Table' is entertaining in the quirky way of modern fiction; quirky and annoying for me. Even trivial. It may be interesting to learn a bit about a chemist's occupation, especially a chemist of the past, but this does seem to be an artifice to carry the novel - unless it carries some deeper allegory.

And allegory is important for me here. I have a story to tell myself but I will not tell it the way survivors of Auschwitz keep telling theirs. I need an allegory and I have yet to find a satisfactory one. I don't doubt that we did need stories of Auschwitz to inform the world - stories from survivors, stories from workers in the camps, stories from the liberators, even imagined stories from those who did not survive. But 'The Periodic Table' was written in 1975 by an author who had already written of his experiences. It seems to me that this is too late to keep telling the stories - it is time for allegories. 'What happened to me is described elsewhere (p122)' is an annoying quote for me.

I also take issue at comments like 'so this is what it meant to be different: this was the price for being the salt of the earth (p104)'. I don't doubt that Jewishness does carry a weight that imposes especially on young people. And Jews like Levi experienced terrible times. But then so did Gypsies, so do people in today's times in many places all over the world. For me everyone is 'different' and has to accomodate their own special differentness and cope with the constraints it imposes on them.

Finally, I return to the matter of Levi's suicide (and you can probably guess that the whole notion of suicide is anathema to me, inconceivable - but perhaps I am lucky in that). There is no doubt that the best chapter for me in this book was the second last one in which Auschwitz does impose on the time of Levi's writing in an entirely justifiable way. I leave it to the reader of this review to decide for themselves when they read the chapter if they can see any pointers to the author's suicide.

Other recommendations:
Schubert's song cycle 'Die Winterreise'

5-0 out of 5 stars Primo Levi's way out book
The Periodic Table by Primo Levi is quite a fascinating book. Although the first chapter is slow (as pointed out in other reviews) the other chapters are pretty interesting. Although only one chapter directly relates to Auschwitz there is another about Primo's involvement with the partisans in Italy (including the bit about the gun he doesn't know how to use), and a very interesting chapter called Vanadium which is the second last chapter. This chapter is based on Primo's dealings with a German chemist (Dr Muller) in 1967. Dr Muller was a head of the Buna Rubber plant at Auschwitz where Primo worked. Basically Primo has business dealings with this person as well as personal correspondence although it's not as insightful as you might think because by Primo's own admission Dr Muller does not make a perfect protagonist because he was a civilian (business chief of Buna which was part of IG Farben I believe) and not a member of the SS, and therefore Primo realises that he won't get answers to questions like "Why Auschwitz?" (Although Primo corresponding with one of the butchers of Auschwitz could be a bit too weird). Nonetheless Primo's dealings with this person are very complex/interesting/multilayered/etc.
The tale about the centuries long journey of a carbon atom from being part of limestone to being part of Primo's brain is pretty way out too. ... Read more

85. Writing in Restaurants
by David Mamet
list price: $13.00
our price: $9.75
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Asin: 0140089810
Catlog: Book (1987-12-01)
Publisher: Penguin Books
Sales Rank: 33496
Average Customer Review: 4.33 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (3)

4-0 out of 5 stars Good stuff here
There are some really great essays in this book, especially if you're a person who loves the theater. Much like "True and False", this book takes aim at problems plaguing America's theater. His best essays in here are for actors - they inspire and reclaim some of the art's dignity.

Also, if you're like me, you can appreciate his essay in here on pool halls. I've never seen anyone nail why they're such great places to visit like he does in this book.

This isn't his best work. But it's a pleasant read nonetheless. Worth the time.

4-0 out of 5 stars Inspiring one to be better
This book's strength was that it made me challenge my own beliefs. As a filmmaker and writer, I have developed a sense for writing crap that appeals to the lowest common denominator. Mamet made me re-evaluate what made me become a writer, and the importance of the theater. I find his writing very interesting from the standpoint that he is very much of the theater, and an elitist as a result, but he is very favorable when discussing Hollywood. I think everyone should read his section on the Oscars in this book. Overall, I was very pleased I read the book, and would have to ultimately recommend it to others.

5-0 out of 5 stars Eat and Write A Novel
David Mamets "Writing In Restaraunts" is a perfect execution of playwriting technique guidance and education. When Mamet, the pulitzer prize winning author, combines his know how of writing business and his suave writing style, you get "the goods". Do yourself a favor, and purchase this book. ... Read more

86. Reflections
list price: $16.00
our price: $10.88
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 080520802X
Catlog: Book (1986-03-12)
Publisher: Schocken
Sales Rank: 67868
Average Customer Review: 3.67 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

"This book is just that: reflections of a highly polished mind that uncannily approximate the century's fragments of shattered traditions." - Time ... Read more

Reviews (3)

5-0 out of 5 stars "A Highly Polished Mind"
Reflections presents for the reader the great range that Benjamin had as a writer, critic and occidentalist. This collection further demonstrates Benjamin's acute awareness of the literature of his time, as evidenced by his essay on 'Surrealism', which is as fine a reflection on its themes as the manifestos of Andre Breton. Furthermore, his writings and conversations with Bertolt Brecht show Benjamin to be very close to the thinking of the author himself. Also included is his celebrated essay on Karl Kraus,"the Jewish Swift of Vienna". But what I like most about this collection are the amorphisms and autobiographical sketches of 'Marseilles' and 'One-way Street'. In his images of Marseilles Benjamin creates an "exegesis of the city" that is as fine as any poet could offer; spellbinding, acute, and beautiful. As well, his wit and insight into social phenomena is detailed in 'One-Way Street', and also in the piece on Moscow, which lets the western reader experience a rare witnessing of the Russian city in the years after the Revolution in a way that recalls Dziga Vertov. Finally, the inclusion of several pieces of Benjamin's philosophical-theological speculations show that he was a man of great breath and wisedom, and further showcase the wide range of his highly polished mind.

1-0 out of 5 stars Reflections:
I think that this book is a forgery by appenine fascist youth. Like most of this book's readers, they took their master plan far too seriously. It's this inability to laugh which makes the work canonical, but nonetheless a product of unknown authorship.

5-0 out of 5 stars He was really a pretty funny guy if you give him a chance...
"Walter Benjamin is now recognized as one of the most accute analysts of literary and sociological phenomena of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. A companion volume to Illuminations, the earlier collection of Benjamin's writings, Reflections presents a new sampling of his wide-ranging work. In addition to literary criticism, it contains autobiograohical narration and travel pieces, aphorisms, and philosophical-theological speculations. Most of Benjamin's writings on Brecht and his celebrated essay on Karl Kraus are included."

Enjoy charming anecdotes like "Hashish in Marseilles" and the sardonic incites of "One-Way Street" (Germans, Drink German Beer!) as you peruse the timeless thoughts of a persecuted man. ... Read more

87. Of Women and Horses
by GaWaNi Pony Boy
list price: $39.95
our price: $25.17
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1889540528
Catlog: Book (2000-05)
Publisher: BowTie Press
Sales Rank: 6953
Average Customer Review: 4.92 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

In the tradition of Horse, Follow Closely comes the fascinating book Of Women and Horses. Author and horse trainer GaWaNi Pony Boy gathers an impressive array of known and unknown horsewomen, who in touching prose describe the unique relationships they have with their horses. Women from all walks of life delve into their hearts to give us a taste of the special love, admiration, respect, and fun they have had with various horses. Illustrated with beautiful full-color photographs by Gabrielle Boiselle and other artwork from various artists, Of Women and Horses gives us a glimpse of a most rewarding and historical bond between human and animal. ... Read more

Reviews (13)

5-0 out of 5 stars A thoroughly engaging compendium of essays by horsewoman
"Of Women & Horses" is a thoroughly engaging compendium of essays by several horsewomen, augmented by the commentary of GaWaNi Pony Boy, the photography of Gabrielle Boiselle, and illustrations by diverse artists. The unifying themes are the relationships, insights, experience, and fascination of women with respect to the horse. From Heather E. Greaves's "A Woman's Metamorphosis with Horses" to Lisa Kiser's "The Horse in the Woman's Role" to Martha Josey's "My Love for Horses," these 22 informative, inspiring essays are very highly recommended reading for students of human/animal relationships, the psychological influence and impact of horses upon the human psyche, women's studies, and equine studies reading lists.

5-0 out of 5 stars Touching, intimate portraits of horses and their women...
I've been riding on and off all my life since my grandfather put me on a horse at the tender age of three. This book explores the relationships we, as women, have with our beasties, and does so beautifully. Through the words of 22 women from all walks of life: cowgirls to princesses; barrel racers to show jumpers; we see the intricate, emotional, complex relationship that women have with their horses.

The book has an essay on horses by each of the women featured, and is illustrated with beautiful photographs, expressive watercolors, textural oils, and graceful line drawings. It's a book to be savored, read in the evening when you won't be distracted, sipped gently like a fine wine, not gulped. It's a book to come back to again and again, to re-read the essays, to empathize with the writers, and to ponder anew the comments that GaWaNi makes after each piece. It's a book which captures, in physical form, the ephemeral relationship we have with our 'mulies. It's rather surprising that a man could do so, but given this man's expertise with horses, I suppose not so much so.

If you're looking for a gorgeous book to celebrate the special bond between horses and women, this is the one to buy.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Book With Amazing Pictures and Essays
This book, in my opinion, was incredible. It displays the beauty of horses and their relationships with women. I highly recommend this book for all horse enthusiasts and non-horse enthusiasts. The photographs are amazing and overall they are beautiful. Read this wonderful piece of literature, I don't think you will regret it.

5-0 out of 5 stars A great gift for any Woman!
It seems that all of us (women) at one time or another had a fascination with the horse. This book is beautiful, and wonderful on my coffee table. The words are beautiful and heartwarming, moving and intriguing. A must have for the horse owner, or for any woman who once fell in love with the horse!

4-0 out of 5 stars Excellent Coffee Table Book
This is a very appealing coffee table book. The stories are very good but I wish these kind of books would acknowledge the ties men have with their pets as well. Women are not more "attuned" to nature as so many pc authors would lead us to think. ... Read more

88. It's the Little Things . . . : An Appreciation of Life's Simple Pleasures
list price: $9.95
our price: $8.96
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0375758968
Catlog: Book (2002-09-10)
Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks
Sales Rank: 85219
Average Customer Review: 4 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

In 1996, Craig Wilson began writing a column for USA Today called “The Final Word.” In it, he extolled the virtues of the true pleasures in life—clotheslines, freshly cut firewood, sweet corn, and Adirondack chairs—and looked back on his childhood in the country with fondness and an infectious sense of humor. Wilson’s message struck a nerve, and now he receives hundreds of letters and e-mails each week from readers who share his sense of nostalgia and appreciate his warm, thoughtful observations on daily life.

It’s the Little Things... showcases the best of “The Final Word,” with the pieces arranged by season. In fall, for example, Wilson remembers his mom’s Thanksgiving gravy and his crush on his first-grade teacher; in winter, he holds forth on aluminum Christmas trees and the kiddie table; in spring, he writes about the joys of walking to work and puttering in the garage; and in summer, his thoughts turn to white bucks, front porches, and outdoor showers. The result is a delightful book to share with others and to relish throughout the year.
... Read more

Reviews (10)

5-0 out of 5 stars Craig Wilson just makes you feel good!
You can hear the sound of the screen door in your head as Craig Wilson writes about the squeek it made when he visited an open house some years ago. That sound reminded him of his childhood, and the same wonderful sound that his grandmother's screen door made and in an instant you are transported back in time with Craig. He writes in such a way that you instantly feel better with every sentence. His book is a wonderful collection of his best essays from "The Last Word", his Wednesday column in USA Today. Craig Wilson is a true gem that can turn the simplest experience into one to be treasured. Whether you are having a bad day or jsut need a little perspective, Craig Wilson's book will make you smile! You know that feeling you get on an early crisp winter day when you warm up some good old fashioned oatmeal and snuggle up with your favorite blanket before anyone else is awake? Craig Wilson just makes you warm and happy all over! After reading this collection, you too will run to the news stand every Wednesday to get your Craig fix! He is just awesome!

5-0 out of 5 stars A Treasure of Pleasures.
I found myself laughing out loud and shouting YES! Oh my, Craig Wilson has finally put into words what makes one so happy in life. I LOVED the Sweet corn story. So much so, that I had to read it out loud to my husband. He laughed too. Probably because we can so relate to that one. And the Clothesline, Oh lord let me die face down in line dried sheets...lmao. Right on, hit the nail right on the head. The camping chapter will help me explain to my dear mother in law why I will NEVER be at the family reunion campout. Roughing it is a tub with no jacuzzi and that's as rough as I get. Hysterical laughter could be heard over the Italian vacation with mom. USA Today must thank Craig Wilson for my subscription. Reading his columns should be listed as one of the simple pleasures in life.

5-0 out of 5 stars Little Things
Graig Wilson's work is an act of genius. In a society where all things are measure by their price tag, Craig Wilson appreciates the small things in life. He has been my favorite write for USA Today since day one, and I was excited to hear of his collection of columns. He is able to poke fun at things, and be serious. His writing style is wonderful. His view of life is simple, and wonderful. Everyone should read this book, and appreciate the simple things of life!

3-0 out of 5 stars A nice little read - nothing spectacular
If you like his column you'll enjoy this book. It's so small, however, it's really more like a large brochure.

5-0 out of 5 stars Funny, funny, funny
I was introduced to Craig Wilson's columns through the nationally syndicated "Don and Mike Show". Every week, Don and Mike read Craig's column on the air, in lisping voices with "Feelings" playing in the background, and almost without fail, there is one gem in each column. Whether it is a mention of "My partner, Jack" or shoe shopping with his mother in France, the humor is there each and every week.

Rumor is that Craig doesn't quite appreciate the way his column is read on the show. Fear not Craig, it sold one copy of this book, and i'm sure many more. In fact, without Don and Mike, I would never have found the weekly USA Today column. Now, it's the first thing I look for in Wednesday's edition.

The book really is quite good, whether you are buying the book for inspiration or humor, you make a good choice in buying this book. ... Read more

89. The Trouble With Testosterone: And Other Essays On The Biology Of The Human Predicament
by Robert M. Sapolsky
list price: $14.00
our price: $10.50
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0684838915
Catlog: Book (1998-04-24)
Publisher: Scribner
Sales Rank: 20091
Average Customer Review: 4.44 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (9)

5-0 out of 5 stars A marvelous read to squeeze between scholarly articles
Robert Sapolsky has written a wonderful, fun and terribly informative book, and it's a lovely break to anyone who wants to put their endocrinology articles aside for a night and read something a little smoother. I loved "Curious George's Pharmacy" so much I devoted a day in my Great Apes syllabus to a discussion of pharmacognacy and assigned that chapter as a reading. I also quite enjoyed the last chapter on the "heterozygote's advantage" of schizotypal disorder as the root of major world religions (and read the bit about Martin Luther's clear obsessive-compulsive behaviors aloud to my husband in bed, where we both got a good gasp and a laugh). As an anthropologist and a student of primate endocrinology myself, I highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the biological basis of human behavior.

4-0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly nutritious mind candy
Robert Sapolsky does a really nice job of tackling complex subjects in an entertaining, thought provoking and accessible manner. The Trouble with Testosterone is a collection of essays covering a range of subjects more (or less) tied to behavioral biology - the study of the extent to which our behaviour is influenced by our bodies and our bodies by our behaviour.

M. Sapolsky's approach is thoughtful and addresses not only some of the really nifty developments in the field, but also some of the thorny philosophical issues arising from what we think we know (and what we thought we knew but didn't). Whether discussing the social interactions of aging baboons, the extent to which testosterone does not affect aggression, an important difference between 1/2 and (1/4 + 1/4), or the risks in deciding too readily what is normal, M. Sapolsky usually has something interesting to say, and for the most part says it well.

The Trouble with Testosterone is a keeper on my bookshelf.

5-0 out of 5 stars Brain food from a fantastic teacher...
The same qualities that make Sapolsky one of the most popular teachers at Stanford come through in his writing. Although I was an English major, I took his human behavioral biology class because the man has a well-deserved reputation for being entertaining and thought-provoking. If you attend one of his lectures, you'll find students from all disciplines, all wide-awake. Sapolsky makes the biology of the human condition come to life without compromising the integrity of its scientific underpinnings. This book is especially recommended to those with an interest in biology or psychology, but the appeal is universal.

5-0 out of 5 stars What a surprise!
When I bought this book I really didn't know what I was getting into. I really have enjoyed reading it and have learned new things I hadn't thought about before. Mr. Sapolsky managed to keep my attention to science through his humor and conversational style. It's a great read.

5-0 out of 5 stars Enlightening and Entertaining
People have said some fairly stupid things in the name of socio-biology, but Robert Sapolsky isn't one of them. This is a distinguished researcher who can write like a best-selling journalist; a man who can address such deeply fundamental human concerns as growing up, growing old, and finding a god, and illustrate them with examples from baboon behavior, while not seeming to trivialize the issue; a man with enough courage in his observations to extend them into realms where science has been forbidden to tread, yet with the honesty and modesty to always indicate where he is uncertain, and even to include a rebuttal to one of his essays. One of the reasons I read is to get a chance to 'meet' authors like this. ... Read more

90. High Tide in Tucson : Essays from Now or Never
by Barbara Kingsolver
list price: $13.00
our price: $9.75
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0060927569
Catlog: Book (1996-10-09)
Publisher: Perennial
Sales Rank: 26920
Average Customer Review: 4.24 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

"There is no one quite like Barbara Kingsolver in contemporary literature," raves the Washington Post Book World, and it is right. She has been nominated three times for the ABBY award, and her critically acclaimed writings consistently enjoy spectacular commercial success as they entertain and touch her legions of loyal fans.

In High Tide in Tucson, she returns to her familiar themes of family, community, the common good and the natural world. The title essay considers Buster, a hermit crab that accidentally stows away on Kingsolver's return trip from the Bahamas to her desert home, and turns out to have manic-depressive tendencies. Buster is running around for all he's worth -- one can only presume it's high tide in Tucson. Kingsolver brings a moral vision and refreshing sense of humor to subjects ranging from modern motherhood to the history of private property to the suspended citizenship of human beings in the Animal Kingdom.

Beautifully packaged, with original illustrations by well-known illustrator Paul Mirocha, these wise lessons on the urgent business of being alive make it a perfect gift for Kingsolver's many fans. ... Read more

Reviews (34)

5-0 out of 5 stars A book of hope, of finding adventures. High Tide!!!
This book of essays reads like a novel. From the very first story about a hermit crab who finds himself in the desert of Tuscon, which is an allogory for those of us who find ourselves displaced at times, to the hopeful last essay in which the author writes about her new life, this is an inspiring book to read. It becomes one of those books that you give to friends because you know it will touch them in some way. Barbara Kingsolver is an exceptional writer with insight into our hearts and minds

4-0 out of 5 stars Confessions of a Reluctant Rock Goddess
This is my first look at Barbara Kingsolver. I am not much of a fiction reader, but when I saw that she had written two volumes of essays and she is a member of the Rock-Bottom Remainders, I had to take a chance. After reading the first of the two volumes, I am a fan.

High Tide in Tucson is a better than some collections because Kingsolver has rewritten many of the pieces. Some of the essays were originally magazine articles, so she was able to rewrite them without the length and editorial restrictions imposed by the original publication. And she arranged them so that they flow, if not exactly like a story, at least so that the sequence makes sense, rather than just a random selection. She warns us ahead of time that these need to be read in order -- no dipping into them here and there.

Kingsolver writes here about the desert, her year in the Canary Islands, a visit to Benin, being a parent, love and divorce and new love, and writing. She also covers war, wildlife, and how she came to be the keyboardist for a bad rock group. Even though these essays are more than nine years old, they don't seem dated at all. Even the piece on protesting the first Persian Gulf War is pertinent.

I especially enjoyed Kingsolver's writing on writing. She loves being a writer and everything about it. Except for book tours. Her piece on a long and dreadful book tour is one of my favorites, and the funniest. Her decision to pack light and take only a minimal wardrobe gets her into trouble several times.

Although I still don't plan on reading her fiction, I am looking forward to the second volume of Barbara Kingsolver essays, Small Wonder.

5-0 out of 5 stars Second reading, even better than the first
The essays in this book speak to the troubles of today's world because they are timeless. I feel like standing on the roof top and offering Barbara Kingsolver's wisdom and love of life and all it encompasses to all who pass by. The essays are a wake up call without being strident while at the same time a salve to my soul and a voice of reason. Let alone the fact that Kingsolver is a fabulous writer.

Somehow for me, it is the time to immerse myself in Kingsolver's words and ideas. I also re-read "Small Wonder" and I'm now savoring "Animal Dreams". I can only suggest that other readers might enjoy her books for the first time or second or third.

5-0 out of 5 stars This is what good writing is all about
If my fellow writers, who struggle with the modern essay format, want to read an example of good writing, this would be a great place to start. Barbara Kingsolver, already famous for Beantrees, Pigs in Heaven, etc., lets loose with this collection of 25 essays on issues as diverse as hermit crabs, political activism, and vegetarianism. Her exquisite and thoughtful language persists throughout as, trained as a naturalist, she links minutae in the natural world with the more close-to-home issues of parenting, family, honesty, and her political views. Some of her best writing can be found in this collection.
Top rating.

1-0 out of 5 stars Ho hum!
I'm glad I didn't waste any money on this dreary litany of what an eternal adolescent doesn't like about the world. However, I do concede that some people who grew up after 1970 would think these ideas original. There are better (and more honest) memoirs of warriors who fight to make the world better without descending into self-pity. As for "style"--where is a good editor when you really need one? ... Read more

91. A Region Not Home : Reflections from Exile
by James Alan McPherson
list price: $24.00
our price: $24.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0684834642
Catlog: Book (2000-02-24)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Sales Rank: 566271
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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James Alan McPherson's essays are purposive in the largest sense of the word: These narratives are headed somewhere, specifically, toward an America that he is in the process of imagining, a place of equity and deliberate thoughtfulness. Born poor and black in the American South, McPherson has had a great intellectual adventure leading him a merry, brainy chase all over the States, into all levels of society. This Pulitzer Prize winner spends half his book, it seems, listing the towns where he has lived, centers of American thoughtfulness: Cambridge, Berkeley, Iowa City. And his writing, while never losing sight of his greater intent, reflects this sprawling journey. Certainly, in terms of topic: A Region Not Home finds him holding forth on Disneyland, homelessness, a suicidal student, Ralph Ellison. And also in form: He's fond of expansion, inclusion, never-quite-explicit connectives between disparate events. His far-reaching "Ukiyo" recalls the best essay of the last decade--Jo Ann Beard's "The Fourth State of Matter"--in its juggling prowess: All the balls stay in the air, all the time. In "Ukiyo," 20 short pages encompass McPherson's bout with meningitis, the legacy of the '60s, Clinton's impeachment, family reunions, and the golden rule. He also weaves in a singsong recitation of all the names of all the people who helped him during his illness ("Ted Wheeler, a track coach, cooked a meal and brought it to me for a special lunch"), offering a homey counterpoint to his philosophizing. Along the way, McPherson mentions a lesson from his education:

Paul Freund, who taught me constitutional law at Harvard, used to say that his students knew all the answers without knowing any of the basic questions. I think now that I was trying to learn the basic questions through reading so that, when combined with my own experiences, I could develop a national mind--a sense of how the entire culture, regional, ethnic, class, institutional, functioned together, as a whole.
McPherson's peculiar derring-do is that he attempts, every time, to think with a "national mind." Sometimes he succeeds, but even his failures are gallant, edifying, and spectacular to watch. --Claire Dederer ... Read more

Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars A Must Read
A must read.As a followup to McPherson's book, Crabcakes, these aretight, thought provoking essays on race and region.Not only does eachchapter reveal a dimension of the author's life, the are insightfulglimpses into social relationships and the shaping of a gifted Americanwriter. ... Read more

92. Local Wonders: Seasons in the Bohemian Alps (American Lives Series)
by Ted Kooser
list price: $10.95
our price: $8.21
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 080327811X
Catlog: Book (2004-03-01)
Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
Sales Rank: 37979
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (3)

5-0 out of 5 stars So This is Nebraska
You feel like that. Like a Nebraskan. Ted Kooser puts you there. Like stepping out of the stark house in Edward Hopper's, "High Noon" with great acres waiting outside and wind whistling. Or eyeing a line of thunderstorms sweeping across fields of wheat like in John Rogers Cox's "Grey and Gold". His apt metaphors and great imagery paint clear pictures. He chooses words for his prose with poetic care. He frames these anecdotes like an artist, easily shifting from the simple to the sublime, from way back when to this morning on a walk. He focuses on the importance of small things. His stories exude a great warmth of spirit and bear repeated reading. I wish he was an uncle of mine. I'd follow his directions and visit, like a neighbor.

5-0 out of 5 stars Memory lane
As a native of Seward County (Seward High School, 1984) Mr. Kooser has provided me with a wonderful trip down memory lane. But even if I was not, I would still have enjoyed the book immensely. Mr. Kooser weaves together some of the everyday tasks of living in rural Nebraska into a basket full of life. The book is a wonderful escape from the life I now live (city life, frustrating job), back to the life I remember and plan to return to. It is very easy to read, with the individual stories flying past as I turned the pages. I must admit I was disappointed when I finished it - only because I didn't want to leave the place where Mr. Kooser had invited me. I wish it had been 10 times as long. A wonderful book !

5-0 out of 5 stars nonfiction at its best
When so much of best-selling nonfiction today is so sensationalistic, Ted Kooser's memoir is refreshingly down-to-earth. It is moving, nostalgic, and as beautifully written as his poetry. Although it is entirely set in Nebraska and Iowa, it is a book I would recommend for readers from anywhere in the country. ... Read more

93. Pure Drivel
by Steve Martin
list price: $10.95
our price: $8.76
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 078688505X
Catlog: Book (1999-10-06)
Publisher: Hyperion
Sales Rank: 7296
Average Customer Review: 3.71 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Steve Martin's talent has always defied definition: an actor who's kept us riveted for over 25 years, a razor-sharp screenwriter, an acclaimed playwright. In this ingeniously funny collection of humorous riffs, those who thought Martin's gifts were confined to the screen will discover what readers of The New Yorker magazine already know: that Martin is a master of the written word.

Hilariously funny and intelligent in their skewering of the topic at hand, the audiobook's pieces, some of which first appeared in The New Yorker, feature Martin at his finest.

With a playwright's ear for dialogue, a sense of irony only Steve Martin could muster, and a first-class comic ability to perfectly time the punch line, Pure Drivel will have listeners crying with laughter, and marveling at the fact that in addition to all of his many talents, Steve Martin is also a superb writer. ... Read more

Reviews (140)

4-0 out of 5 stars The title can¿t be more appropriate
Some time ago I read a short article by Steve Martin in The New Yorker. In the article, he complained about the packaging executives who created the CD wrapping, and the pineapple! I had no idea Steve Martin wrote, and that he wrote so well (later on I found out he is a banjo virtuoso, to boot). This book cannot have a more accurate title. The short snippets of drivel that are contained in this volume are, however, pure fun. They range from the absurd ("A Word from the Words", literally that) to the realistic ("Hissy Fit", about the animosity that East Coast intellectuals feel over California). The commentary on "Michael Jackson's Old Face", contrasting his new face to Walter Matthau's, is an excellent piece, as is "I Love Loosely", in which Lucy, Ricky, Ethel and Fred debate over whether oral sex is sex at all. This book is a fast and light read, but very much worth it if you need a laugh.

5-0 out of 5 stars Brilliant!
After reading Shopgirl, I was completely blown away by Steve Martin's talent. This guy is much more then an actor/comedian. I am now pursuing his other books to find out what makes him the master of the written word.

The second book I read is Pure Drivel. This is a departure from Shopgirl. Shopgirl follows a defined storyline with defined characters much like a typical novel. Pure Drivel is a collection of short pieces he wrote primarily for The New Yorker. Each piece is vastly different from the other covering one creative topic after another. The approach he takes and the twists he creates are hilarious.

An example from one of his especially funny topics 'Changes in the Memory After Fifty': "There are several theories that explain memory problems of advancing age. One is that the brain is full. One solution for an older man is to take all the superfluous data swirling around in the brain and download it into the newly large stomach where there is plenty of room."

As intelligently accidental as it may seem, Martin has clearly done his homework. One piece in particular comes to mind: 'The Sledgehammer: How It Works' Martin opens this piece stating that many suffer from 'sledgehammer anxiety'. "The old ways still work for me. Much of the initial fear from its use comes from a failure to understand just how it works." This may sound silly and it's meant to bring a chuckle from the reader considering its topic is... a sledgehammer, but it triggered a prompt that I remembered reading from The Writer's Idea Book by Jack Heffron. Heffron writes "Begin a scene with a line you've overheard someone say recently. It needn't be a catchy or powerful line. Something mundane will work: "How much are these pants?" If you're good I'll let you pick out some candy at the counter." Begin there, and move forward, providing a completely different setting and context for the line." This is exactly what Martin did.

Along with humor and everyday topics of discussion, there is a vast amount of vocabulary and subjects involved that the average person may not understand, hence, triggering the "I don't get it". Terms such as tawdry, stultify, perambulate, aft, fulcrum, feldspar, dirge and slaver may require a dictionary. Subjects Martin refers to such as an Oushak rug, a Doric column, the Chinese goddess of song, Socrates, Plato, Raphael, Rembrandt, the Pantheon, Newton and Schrodinger may not be well known to everyone to follow along with the reading.

I urge anyone who has intelligence for real writing and a well-rounded education of the world around us to read this. This is far from the typical celebrity spewing words on paper. If you get the chance, rent the audio from your local library or the-like. Hearing this in Martin's voice only adds to his work. In my opinion, Steve Martin is brilliant!

5-0 out of 5 stars An absolutely gorgeous book
Annotation: In this ingeniously funny book of humorous skits, Martin shows he is master of the written word. The book is hilariously funny and intelligent in his skewering of the topic at hand. The book features Martin at his finest. The book is incredibly witty as Martin shows off his superb writing ability. This is the funniest book I have ever read.
Author Bio: Born in Waco, Texas and raised in Southern California, Martin became a television writer in the late 1960s, winning an Emmy Award for his work on the hit series "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour". By the end of the decade he was performing his material in clubs and on television and went on to host several episodes of "Saturday Night Live". Martin continued to use his stand-up skills as host of the 73rd and 75th Annual Academy Awards, for which he was nominated for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program. Martin has stared in many movies which include The Jerk, The Man with Two Brains, and All of Me in which he was nominated for an academy award. His latest film was Cheaper by the Dozen.
Evaluation: This was one of the best books I have ever read. It was so funny I found myself being stared at by my parents. They must have thought "What Is he reading?". Anyway I was inspired by the book to try a hand at writing comedy. I hope I can use and master the English language the way Martin has. He is beyond description.

4-0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly bizarre
Steve Martin is a funny guy. Almost always. Even when he's in a bad movie (and he's made his share), the man himself is usually funny. This book is a fantastic little piece in which he pretty much emptied his mind of all the screwy, random thoughts that had been rattling around and turned them into strange essays about... well... anything. Politics, a day in the garden... my personal favorite was a great piece about a sudden shortage of a certain punctuation mark. The synapses in this man's brain make quantum leaps to connect the oddest things and turn them into something utterly histerical.

Drivel? Perhaps. But it's among the best drivel I've ever read.

5-0 out of 5 stars Proof positive
If, for some (wild and) crazy reason you need more proof of the unadulterated comedic genious that IS Steve Martin, here it is. The essays contained herein are so funny that if you don't laugh out loud call the undertaker because you are dead!
He hit some rough patches with movies but there is not a rough stretch in this book. If you want to think and laugh, buy it. ... Read more

94. The Future of the Book
by Geoffrey Nunberg
list price: $24.95
our price: $24.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0520204514
Catlog: Book (1996-12-01)
Publisher: University of California Press
Sales Rank: 153503
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

The death of the book has been duly announced, and with it the end of brick-and-mortar libraries, traditional publishers, linear narrative, authorship, and disciplinarity, along with the emergence of a more equitable discursive order. These essays suggest that it won't be that simple. The digitization of discourse will not be effected without some wrenching social and cultural dislocations.

The contributors to this volume are enthusiastic about the possibilities created by digital technologies, instruments that many of them have played a role in developing and deploying. But they also see the new media raising serious critical issues that force us to reexamine basic notions about rhetoric, reading, and the nature of discourse itself. ... Read more

Reviews (2)

5-0 out of 5 stars One of the best meditations on old and new media
The "death of the book" is supposedly in evidence everywhere: in the rise of the Web, the growth of video games, the troubled state of the publishing industry, etc. etc., ad infinitum. But as "The Future of the Book" shows, this death is greatly exaggerated. Part of its brilliance is that its contributors manages to both look forward and look back, to remind us of the many transformations that the book has undergone through history; it also manages to balance enthusiasm for new media with a realistic appraisal of how books will be used in the future, and what place they will have in literate culture. Individually, the essays are somewhat uneven some are better than others, but the pieces by James O'Donnell and Geoffrey Nunberg are especially good. The collection overall is extremely valuable.

4-0 out of 5 stars Strong on history of the book; weak on computer texts.
THE FUTURE OF THE BOOK, edited by Geoffrey Nunberg, frames the debate about the future of the book in the digital age with a lot of erudition but also some unwarranted concerns. Several essays provide invaluable information about the history and development of the book. Most of the essayists are concerned that computers will radically alter the concept of the book as a legal object, undermining current concepts of the author and the reader as well. They will disrupt established publishing and distribution methods for texts. They will decentralize control of information currently dominated by libraries, universities, and the government. Computers even threaten to redefine the nature of texts and, more important, the nature and function of language. But cyberspace will not destroy the concept of authorship and texts as legal entities. If you have doubts, just read those dire warning labels about copyright infringement on the latest web page you surfed or on the that software you just bought. Geoffrey Nunberg sees hypertext leading to a loss of quality information because he thinks publishing on the Internet is not controlled as well as it is by print publishers. To him, "Computers don't preserve the social and material boundaries ... they disrupt the properties embodied in the notion of publishing." Nunberg is correct. But I don't think removing control of publishing from the hands of a few communications' conglomerates, whose bottom line is money, is such a terrible thing. Others, like Nunberg, are also concerned about the breakdown of catalogs and classifications of information by hypertext because collections won't be materially constrained. The chaos that surely will follow is to him akin to "removing library walls and seeing the reading rooms fill up with street people. "Understand, the government, universities, and libraries have controlled information and access to it for centuries. They have done a pretty good job. But like other bureaucracies, they won't tender their control easily. Despite this, computers are making revolutionary changes in how information is accessed. And most of those changes suggest that it will be a more democratic, less elitist system, at least for a while. Virtual Reality (VR), more than hypertext, is seen by many of these essayists as the major threat to the book as the purveyor of our culture and a particular threat to verbal language. A good part of these essayists' concern has to do with an apparent lack of closure to VR worlds. It is true that VR will create entertainment, work, and instructional environments all over the known landscape. There is, however, a vast difference between having a VR experience and writing a novel about a VR eperience. That is, there is a critical difference between looking through and experiencing virtual worlds and looking at and creating texts about them as Richard Lanham points out elsewhere. The difference between experiencing a VR world and writing a text about that experience is clear. One is life; the other is art. But, anxiety about Virtual Reality runs even deeper. It has to do with what Jay David Bolter calls "the renegotiation of word and image" with images dominating text and leading "to a crisis in rhetoric." Others direly predict that VR is a movement toward "an unmediated perception of the world" away from language all together toward natural signs. I find these comments interesting but unrealistic. When, for example, was the last time you had an "unmediated perception"? If you're not sure, maybe it's time to re-read Mikhail Bakhtin about language, perception and mediation. And, how can a sign be natural once we make it symbolic? Some of the essayists express legitimate concerns about the effect of the computer on the book and society; others less warranted ones. Many happily conclude that society is not at the mercy of implacable technoforces. O'Donnell, for one, asks not what computers can do to or for people, but rather what people can do with computers "by pitching in joyously to the ongoing reconstruction of our culture." The main flaw of THE FUTURE OF THE BOOK is that it's a book with some outdated information and flawed assumptions. More important, it offers vital insights into how we can shape our multimedia future and still preserve our cultural connectedness to our most glorious, printed past ... Read more

95. Travels in Hyperreality (Harvest Book)
by Umberto Eco
list price: $15.00
our price: $10.20
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Asin: 0156913216
Catlog: Book (1990-05-27)
Publisher: Harvest Books
Sales Rank: 278913
Average Customer Review: 3.62 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Eco displays in these essays the same wit, learning, and lively intelligence that delighted readers of The Name of the Rose and Foucault’s Pendulum. His range is wide, and his insights are acute, frequently ironic, and often downright funny. Translated by William Weaver. A Helen and Kurt Wolff Book
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Reviews (8)

3-0 out of 5 stars Interesting collection of essays
Many readers will probably be attracted to books like these after reading and enjoying Eco's novels, especially The Name of the Rose and Foucalt's Pendulum. If so, be warned. As I discovered, the Eco of the essay is NOT the Eco of the novels. Both Ecos are eccentric, clever and witty. However, the Eco of essays is a more radical and postmodern thinker. His topics can be seen by some as mundane. He's interested in pop culture and some of his theories are a tad obscure.

This collection is a series of loosely connected essays by Eco. It's an interesting book to read not cover-to-cover but to read an essay once in a while until the book is finished. That way the attitudes can sink in. The biggest fault I found with the book is certain essays to do with semiotics have arguments that are complex and hard to follow. This is understandable as they're taken from more specialised publications whereas in the novels, he strives to bring his ideas to the general public.

The essays I found to be most likeable are Travels in Hyperreality (about the proliferation of wax museums in the US and the general obsession with replicas in society), Reports from the Global Village (a series of essays on media), an analysis of Casablanca and In Praise of St Thomas (Eco's PhD was on Thomas so his views can be seen as fairly authoritative).

A good read but not brilliant.

1-0 out of 5 stars Reader from Israel
Well this was my third book by Mr. Eco and dthe continue to get worse. The Rose was excellent and made me hungry for more but after the Pendulum and this Hyper-Realty bit I'm going to have to call it quits. The author has the ability t oput together a great novel such as the Rose, I wish it were mine, but the other stuff is just not happening.

2-0 out of 5 stars Amorphous Lump o' Eco
Umberto Eco is clearly a genius - his fictional works testify to that. I assume his reputation as a semiologist is well earned (since I know little about the subject beyond what Walker Percy digested).

Unfortunately, I found "Travels in Hyperreality" to be a hastily pasted collection of observations and commentary that is not really worthy of Eco's growing portfolio. The book was sometimes interesting, but dry and tasteless. I thought the whole lot of it could be encapsulated in Eco's strange observations concerning "the wearing of blue jeans." That is, if you're really, really, really into Eco and want to soak up everything he says, then this book will not disappoint. If, on the other hand, you have limited time on your hands, then Eco's fictional works, or "Search for the Perfect Language," are far better temporal investments.

Perhaps I didn't get it, or perhaps it was a mistake reading much of it in a bar in Santa Clara, but I would assert that this is only a book for the Eco purist.

4-0 out of 5 stars Does Disney Own The Planet?
A deliriously funny trip through the mad places the earth's inhabitants call home. Eco skewers like "kitsch-ka-bob" the artificial pseudo paradises we have created with all our so-called modern conveniences. What have we turned our cities into, by the way? Do we really understand art?

If you've ever driven through rural Arkansas or Texas and wanted to capture with words the seemingly inexplicable, paradoxical sights along the way, it's been done for you and can be enjoyed in these side-splitting pages.

Lots of fun.

5-0 out of 5 stars on travels in hyperreality
i got this book because of the essay by which it is entitled. it is a great work, and a basic reading for those interested on the topics of hyperreality, simulated or thematized environments, and the like. quite contemporary tho Eco's work is Baudrillard's la precession des simulacres. so they are from the 70's and much more has been written on the topic, but these texts are, as i said, basic to understand all the rest. eco's work is quite openning ranging from xanaduswax museums, the theming of nature, etc. it is worthy. ... Read more

96. For the Time Being
list price: $12.00
our price: $9.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0375703470
Catlog: Book (2000-02-08)
Publisher: Vintage
Sales Rank: 41480
Average Customer Review: 4.08 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

National Bestseller

"Beautifully written and delightfully strange--. As earthy as it is sublime, For the Time Being is, in the truest sense, an eye- opener."--Daily News

From Annie Dillard, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and one of the most compelling writers of our time, comes For the Time Being, her most profound narrative to date. With her keen eye, penchant for paradox, and yearning for truth, Dillard renews our ability to discover wonder in life's smallest--and often darkest--corners.

Why do we exist? Where did we come from? How can one person matter? Dillard searches for answers in a powerful array of images: pictures of bird-headed dwarfs in the standard reference of human birth defects; ten thousand terra-cotta figures fashioned for a Chinese emperor in place of the human court that might have followed him into death; the paleontologist and theologian Teilhard de Chardin crossing the Gobi Desert; the dizzying variety of clouds. Vivid, eloquent, haunting, For the Time Being evokes no less than the terrifying grandeur of all that remains tantalizingly and troublingly beyond our understanding.

"Stimulating, humbling, original--. [Dillard] illuminate[s] the human perspective of the world, past, present and future, and the individual's relatively inconsequential but ever so unique place in it."--Rocky Mountain News
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Reviews (64)

5-0 out of 5 stars This is a Book for Thinkers
Annie Dillard has a style unique to herself. She is able to change direction of her book's subjects drastically but continue to hold the readers attention with odd, unconventional listing of thoughts and facts. Dillard takes the subjects Birth, Sand, China, Clouds, Numbers, Isreal, Encounters, Thinker, Evil, and Now; and embarks on a spiritual journey into the questions of God's omnipotance, the importance of the individual, and the innevitablility of death. The book seems to circle after a while, like having a converstation with 10 different people who each have a wealth of knowledge and statistics about their own subject. But this is a power of Dillard's style: being able to pull seperate unrelated factors all together, like a mosaic, only comprehesible as a whole work of art from a distance. I liked this book from the beginning of Dillard's description of a few children's deformation from birth. Her knowledge is impressive, expecially that of French paleontologist and theologian Teilhard de Chardin, who battles with questions of God in midst of finding ancient human remains. Dillard incorporates quotes from near and far to weave this quilt of human question and answers that remain to be enshrouded in clouds of mystery, shifting with each generation. She uses a countless number of successive statistics that will drive any reader into a deep tunnel of thought. The end will challenge anyone to continue on their own encounter with the meaning of existance.

5-0 out of 5 stars more excellence from one of the more interesting thinkers
Annie Dillard had inhabited a place close by since PILGRIM AT TINKER CREEK.Her observations about natute and God are quirky,interesting and lovely to read. I was once at a reading of hers'{in NYC} where a member of the audience asked her" Yes, but do you really believe in God?" Dillard responded with"of course I do ,honey, do you think this is Europe?"Her ability to bring faith and reason together is extremly rare in this time when it seems to be either fundamentalism or secular humanism.In these essays, she dleves into child deformities or birth defects{an extremely difficult chapter for me to read,by the way},Israel,death,the sky{clouds} and Pere Pierre Teilhard de Chardin,Jesuit paleontologist,theologian and truly original thinker.{in a way you get the impression that Ms. Dillard finds him a kindred soul.}These are full bodied essays of a courageous thinker and believer, struggling with day to day belief while being filled with awe. A stunning collection by a superb writer and a good woman.

2-0 out of 5 stars For the time to Come!
I just don't get it, Annie.

You've got two trains of thought going here, in opposite directions. Eventually they should clash spectacularly, and after the wreck we would know what's what. But it never happens.

First train: eternity. The way you write about this is breathtaking. Beautiful even as it's unsettling, you make us realize how small we are, how many of us there have been, how insignificant our lives are. We are like sand, so numerous, and like clouds, so fleeting. No one tries to remember the clouds or get to know the sand. Why should we be any different?

Second train: Calamity. Birth defects. All of the ugly and tragic things that have happened, are happening, will happen. A tidal wave kills 108,000. Bird-headed dwarves. Baal Shem Tov, the exile of Teilhard. Who can cope with all of this suffering?

Do you see how they must clash?

Yet you come away with some strange conclusions. That God must have his hands tied, cannot be omnipotent and good simultaneously. Annie, don't you see that this conclusion is riding on that second train? You carry suffering back onto that first train and wave it around like a weapon..

We could go insane thinking like this. Insane like Mao, distancing himself from the individual and focusing on the eternal. That's how he could say things like "I'm willing to lose 600 million." What, after all, in the face of eternity, is 600 million deaths? But the other insanity is even worse -- the one that comes from focussing on the suffering and forgetting the eternal. For in this case, you may save the suffering individual, but you murder God. And without God, there is no healing for the suffering.

Once you've been on that first train, how can you walk away with any confidence in your own ability to reason and understand the big things? Things like eternity, the Absolute the Reasons? How can I attempt to know the mind of God? Where He begins and ends? I cannot even get my mind around the beginnings and endings of beetles.

When the two trains clash, what must emerge is a profound humility. Yes, there is profound suffering in the world. But it is an incomprehensibly vast world. Suffering is not what defines this universe. Defining the universe in terms of suffering -- letting that be the data from which you draw your conclusions about God and Evil and the Point of Things -- is like defining the universe based on beetles. There are so many other things out there!

And maybe, Annie, maybe that's the leap you're unwilling to make. If this life, in its terrible shortness and insignificance, is our only shot at things, if pain can define us and death can end us, then the conclusions we would have to draw would be quite frustrating. If the physical world is our only chance at understanding God, we have no chance. We are doomed to make bad guesses.

Death comes often and unpredictably. A hundred thousand die of the plague, a holy man is tortured and killed at the hands of the Romans. And if that's the end of the story, it's a horrible story and I want no more of it. But what if it isn't? What if that's just chapter one? What if there are a thousand other pages of life, and justice, and joy? What if the Reason doesn't come till the End? Will you still give up in chapter one?

Annie, hang on. You can outlast this life, this terribly limited perspective and tiny brain. You can outlive the tragedy of the bird-headed dwarves to see the beauty and glory of the bird-headed dwarves. Don't come to any final conclusions yet; the votes aren't all in.

I am more and more convinced that one day we will look back on our years in this meatbag in much the same way we look back on puberty. With a laugh. Aware that it was formative, amazed we didn't kill or permanently scar ourselves. Heck, we didn't even know which things were important and which didn't matter. Most of the big questions don't get answered; most of the big issues never get addressed. You just realize, eventually, that they're not that big. Actually, they're pretty stupid and embarassing. The product of a small mind working too hard.

Will it be this way in eternity? I think so. I strive today for understanding of God and His ways. I make progress one hard-earned step at a time. It is right that I should do this. I am like an adolescent trying to grow up. But there will come a time when all the progress I have made in a lifetime will be surpassed in a few seconds, if seconds exist in eternity. I will look on the face of God, and will understand.

So who is God? Why is there so much suffering? WHAT'S WITH THE BIRD-HEADED DWARVES? I don't know. I am as yet miles away from God. How can I know His mind? My very best, most intelligent guesses fall short. How can I put any stock in them? But I have learned this -- I don't have to put any stock in them. It's ok that they're wrong. I don't want them to stay wrong, but I'm confident that they won't, and in the mean time, all I have to do is keep them from killing me. Just hang on. There is no test, there will be no test on how many of my ideas about God and the Universe are right. I will be held accountable for the lives of my fellow human beings, and I will be judged on whether or not I spent my little life crawling towards God or away from Him. That's all, I think, but it's plenty enough to keep me busy for these seventy or eighty years. And it's small enough that I can get my little brain around it.

5-0 out of 5 stars Awesome taken apart makes "A we so me"
Annie D. does it again and gives us a work of the illumined heart - an awesome witness for the bird's-eye view of the snail's eye view - and in her unique way of always unearthing facts that shake the foundation pillars that our beliefs have erected to the heavens, above and below. When Aunt Annie writes, we feel the cosmos move in us. By her life in the writing - "In the beginning was the Word" - universe means uni-verse, "one song", a we - interconnected and experienced (the butterfly effect) - so me. The Kingdom of Heaven is within us. As it is in heaven, so it manifest on earth: As within, so without.

This personal narrative surveys a panorama of our world, past and present posing questions about God, natural evil and individual existence. Personal meanderings by the author with diverse topics such as the natural history of sand, the different types of clouds, visiting an obstetrical ward, and the story of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a Jesuit paleontologist digging in the desert of China. Filled with information and Dillard's relentless curiosity.

Compassionate, informative, enthralling, always suprising, For The Time Being shows one of our most original writers - her breadth of knowledge matched by keen powers of observation, all of it informing her relentless curiosity - in the fullness of her powers.

4-0 out of 5 stars not a light read
What i respect most about this work of Ms. Dillard is that she doesn't claim to know the answers to her questions, but she is asking them. This book made me think, laugh aloud and squirm uncomfortably in my seat. In today's black and white, commercial world, this book is like a breath of fresh air. There are answers to her questions, and this book gives an impetus to try to find them. ... Read more

97. Holidays on Ice: Stories
by David Sedaris
list price: $14.95
our price: $10.17
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0316779989
Catlog: Book (1997-12)
Publisher: Little, Brown
Sales Rank: 3598
Average Customer Review: 3.82 out of 5 stars
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Holidays on Ice is a collection of three previously published stories matched with three newer ones, all, of course, on a Christmas theme. David Sedaris's darkly playful humor is another common thread through the book, worming its way through "Seasons Greetings to Our Friends and Family!!!" a chipper suburban Christmas letter that spirals dizzily out of control, and "Front Row Center with Thaddeus Bristol," a vicious theatrical review of children's Christmas pageants. As always, Sedaris's best work is his sharply observed nonfiction, notably in "Dinah, the Christmas Whore," the tale of a memorable Christmas during which the young Sedaris learns to see his family in a new light. Worth the price of the book alone is the hilarious "SantaLand Diaries," Sedaris's chronicle of his time working as an elf at Macy's, covering everything from the preliminary group lectures ("You are not a dancer. If you were a real dancer you wouldn't be here. You're an elf and you're going to wear panties like an elf.") to the perils of inter-elf flirtation. Along the way, he paints a funny and sad portrait of the way the countless parents who pass through SantaLand are too busy creating an Experience to really pay attention to their children. In a sly way, it carries a holiday message all its own. Read it aloud to the adults after the kids have gone to bed. --Ali Davis ... Read more

Reviews (101)

4-0 out of 5 stars Excellent twist to the usual holiday fare.
David Sedaris has a sick sense of humor, and he conveys it well in this book of Christmas shorts. It opens with the extremely funny "Santaland Diaries", giving an insider's view of elves at Macy's. Next comes "Season's Greetings", an overenthusiastic 'family newsletter' that spins off into satirical tangents with the unexpected addition of a Vietnamese daughter. "Dinah, the Christmas Whore" tells of young David's encounter with his father's "Christmas present" ::wink:: "Front Row with Thaddeus Bristol" is a theatrical review of the Christmas pageants in the elementary schools (we've all had to suffer). "Based on a True Story" is a somewhat sickeningly funny look at a hustler trying to gather holiday special ideas. Finally, "Christmas Means Giving" rounds out the collection, telling of two families who can't stop competing with each other. I'm a newcomer to Sedaris's wit, and the next book on my list is 'Naked'. This was a great way to be introduced without being overwhelmed--even if they are Christmas stories being read in July.

4-0 out of 5 stars SantaLand Diaries
Sedaris shines when his essays focus on real characters and events. His pieces on family life and French expatriate living in Me Talk Pretty One Day stand out as examples.

Holidays on Ice features fewer such gems. Most of the stories here are fictional, and in my opinion do not work nearly as well. The standout exception, however, is the hilarious SantaLand Diaries, one of the funniest things I've ever read and which in itself is well worth the price of the book. This is the real-life story of Sedaris' stint as a Macy's SantaLand elf. Sedaris focuses on our collective stupidity, but as always he mixes in just the right amount of self-depreciation to make the piece come off perfectly.

I believe that it was Tom Clancey that said that the difference between fiction and reality is that fiction has to make sense. The figures in SantaLand Diaries (elves, Santas, and the Great American Public) behave just irrationally enough that the story has to be true. Ironically, aside from being hilariously funny Sedaris uses all of this illogical behavior to give us an interesting look at human nature.

This is a two star book that is saved by a five star story. Buy it and read the last thirty pages.

1-0 out of 5 stars Terrible
An Abominable book - I have read Dress Your Family which I recommend but this thing is trash.

5-0 out of 5 stars a little satire for Christmas, anyone?
This was my first time reading Sedaris' work and I loved it. He has biting humor and applied it liberally to a season reeking with opportunity to unleash it -- the overcommercialized all-American Christmas!!!!

Sedaris tells of his stint as an elf in New York's flagship Macy's Santaland, and how much he hates it. He writes a satirical church sermon delivered by a TV exec, a Christmas letter from a soccer mom-type who discovers her husband fathered a child while serving in Vietnam, and a story of two neighboring families so into one-upping each other in terms of giving that they actually send their children off to be killed and dismember and disfigure their bodies.

Gruesome but truthfully, anyone who has attended any kind of holiday party or been near a mall after Thanksgiving knows he has touched on some people's holiday spirits with only a little bit of exaggeration.

5-0 out of 5 stars One sure Holiday
This is, as usual, a side-splitting Sedaris book though not as funny as "Naked" or "Me Talk Pretty."The Santaland Diaries" is a glimpse at our own attitudes and behavior during "the festive holiday season". Perhaps it is a clicheed sentiment (if a cynical opinion can be sentimental), but it is true that during the one time of the year when we should be celebrating peace and love for our fellow man, we behave like looters and scavengers in an orgy of mass consumption, ready to slit the throat of anyone who we percieve is trying to interfere with our quest to have a picture taken with a guy in a Santa suit. Sedaris illustrates this with biting humor and, of course, fiction is never as funny as what happens in real life. By the way, I'm pretty sure the story in "Dinah, the Christmas Whore" actually happened too. Besides, I just love a story with a good whore in it.

Also recommended: "Bark of the Dogwood" and "Naked." ... Read more

98. Writings from The New Yorker 1927-1976
by E. B. White
list price: $14.00
our price: $10.50
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0060921234
Catlog: Book (1991-11-06)
Publisher: Perennial
Sales Rank: 80485
Average Customer Review: 3 out of 5 stars
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Three years after E. B. White's death, Rebecca Dale discovered a cache of his New Yorker writings that had yet to be collected. There's certainly nothing mediocre about these 161 pieces, which range from nature vignettes (a New York City sparrow extols urban life) to musings on language, business, and liberty. White's 1953 fantasia of visiting Thoreau's Walden Pond with Joseph McCarthy is peerless. "Wait a minute!" the senator realizes. "This man was Communist-inspired. That accounts for his sour attitude about housing--" The satire is strong, but so is the celebration. A short piece on a skating fest ends: "Ice is an odd substance to have at last freed the body in its persistent attempt to catch up with the spirit." And speaking of which, in "Fred On Space" White asks his dead dachshund how he feels about the first dog launched by the Russians. Fred is far from impressed: "The excuse you men give is that you must continually add to the store of human knowledge--a store that already resembles a supermarket and is beginning to hypnotize the customers." ... Read more

Reviews (2)

3-0 out of 5 stars Here's proof E. B. White had to work for a living.
"Writings from the New Yorker" is a poorly organized commercial re-packaging of E. B. White snippets banged-out under the pressures of deadlines in the work-a-day world. In spite of my respect for the man and my love of his more carefully crafted writings, this book sputtered and stalled as I read along.

But E. B. White does manage to shine through this collection in spite of its hodge-podginess and your reward for plowing through it will be the discovery of a gem here and there.

Were he still with us, White himself would likely have a field day editing this book, tossing out stuff. For one thing, his editors made him use "we" instead of "I" in these unsigned pieces which he objected to and which makes you wonder just how "handcuffed" he was in other unspoken ways as he wrote them.

If you're an E. B. White groupie who simply must read everything White has ever written, buy this book. Otherwise--save your money.

3-0 out of 5 stars An odd collection of White's mediocre, dated, small pieces
I can't think of a book or collection of EB White's writing to which I wouldn't give high praise. Here, the writing is good (of course, it always is) but that the collection was put together by someone not in the writer's family or intimate (editorial) circle may explain why it seems a bit void of that quintessential EB White spirit. Understand, these are not essays or letters. These, for the most part, are very short pieces, most of which ran in The New Yorker as short, witty fillers or, as that genteel set liked to refer to them, "occasionals." Some, because they were written many decades ago ('30s and '40s) are dated. Some references or phrases are left unexplained, leaving this reader stumped. If you want to read classic EB White, aside form his children's classics, I recommend his "Essays" and "Letters," and "The Second Tree from the Corner." THESE are classics. This collection, on the other hand, demonstrates that, while EB White was always a top-notch writer, even the best have their mediocre days. ... Read more

99. Just Enough Liebling
by A. J. Liebling
list price: $27.50
our price: $17.32
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0374104433
Catlog: Book (2004-09-29)
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Sales Rank: 5100
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Book Description

The restaurants of the Latin Quarter and the cityrooms of midtown Manhattan; the beachhead of Normandy and the boxing gyms of Times Square; the trackside haunts of bookmakers and the shadowy redoubts of Southern politicians--these are the places that A.J. Liebling shows to us in his unforgettable New Yorker articles, brought together here so that a new generation of readers might discover Liebling as if for the first time.

Born a hundred years ago, Abbott Joseph "Joe" Liebling was the first of the great New Yorker writers, a colorful and tireless figure who helped set themagazine's urbane style. Today, he is best known as a celebrant of the "sweet science" of boxing or as a "feeder" who ravishes the reader with his descriptions of food and wine. But as David Remnick, a Liebling devotee, suggests in his fond and insightful introduction, Liebling was a writer bounded only by his intelligence, taste, and ardor for life. Like his nemesis William Randolph Hearst, he changed the rules of modern journalism, banishing the distinctions between reporting and storytelling, between news and art. Whatever his role, Liebling is a most companionable figure, and to read the pieces in this grand and generous book is to be swept along on a thrilling adventure in a world of confidence men, rogues, press barons and political cronies, with an inimitable writer as one's guide.
... Read more

100. The Anatomy of Melancholy (New York Review Books Classics)
by Robert Burton, Holbrook Jackson
list price: $24.95
our price: $15.72
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0940322668
Catlog: Book (2001-04-09)
Publisher: New York Review of Books
Sales Rank: 38614
Average Customer Review: 4.45 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

One of the major documents of modern European civilization, Robert Burton’s astounding compendium, a survey of melancholy in all its myriad forms, has invited nothing but superlatives since its publication in the seventeenth century. Lewellyn Powys called it “the greatest work of prose of the greatest period of English prose-writing,” while the celebrated surgeon William Osler declared it the greatest of medical treatises. And Dr. Johnson, Boswell reports, said it was the only book that he rose early in the morning to read with pleasure. In this surprisingly compact and elegant new edition, Burton’s spectacular verbal labyrinth is sure to delight, instruct, and divert today’s readers as much as it has those of the past four centuries. ... Read more

Reviews (11)

5-0 out of 5 stars Chock full of curious lore and strong prose
This purports to be a medical textbook, and many of the obviously learned author's quotations are from half-forgotten late mediæval medical writers. A plausible translation of the title into modern terms would be "A Study of Abnormal Psychology." The application of Scholastic methods to this topic --- so similar, and yet so different, from contemporary academic discourse --- creates a curious impression. He invokes astrology and theology in forming his psychology.

But in fact, Burton uses this arcane subject to go off on a profound and lengthy meditation on the melancholies and misfortunes of life itself. The author, it seems, was easily distracted, and his distractions are our gain. The passages on the Melancholy of Scholars, and the Melancholy of Lovers, are themselves worthy of the price of admission.

His prose is unlike anything before him or since him. It has some kinship to the paradoxical and simile-laden style of the Euphuists, but his individual sentences are often pithy and brief.

This seventeenth-century classic ought to be read by anyone interested in the period, in early psychology, or in the history of English prose.

5-0 out of 5 stars "A rhapsody of rags."
Don't be misled by the title of this book, nor by what others may have told you about it. In the first place, it isn't so much a book about 'Melancholy' (or abnormal psychology, or depression, or whatever) as a book about Burton himself and, ultimately, about humankind. Secondly, it isn't so much a book for students of the history of English prose, as one for lovers of language who joy in the strong taste of English when it was at its most masculine and vigorous. Finally, it isn't so much a book for those interested in the renaissance, as for those interested in life.

Burton is not a writer for fops and milquetoasts. He was a crusty old devil who used to go down to the river to listen to the bargemen cursing so that he could keep in touch with the true tongue of his race. Sometimes I think he might have been better off as the swashbuckling Captain of a pirate ship. But somehow he ended up as a scholar, and instead of watching the ocean satisfyingly swallowing up his victims, he himself became an ocean of learning swallowing up whole libraries. His book, in consequence, although it may have begun as a mere 'medical treatise,' soon exploded beyond its bounds to become, in the words of one of his editors, "a grand literary entertainment, as well as a rich mine of miscellaneous learning."

Of his own book he has this to say : "... a rhapsody of rags gathered together from several dung-hills, excrements of authors, toys and fopperies confusedly tumbled out, without art, invention, judgement, wit, learning, harsh, raw, rude, phantastical, absurd, insolent, indiscreet, ill-composed, indigested, vain, scurrile, idle, dull, and dry; I confess all..." But don't believe him, he's in one of his irascible moods and exaggerating. In fact it's a marvelous book.

Here's a bit more of the crusty Burton I love; it's on his fellow scholars : "Heretofore learning was graced by judicious scholars, but now noble sciences are vilified by base and illiterate scribblers."

And here is Burton warming to the subject of contemporary theologians : "Theologasters, if they can but pay ... proceed to the very highest degrees. Hence it comes that such a pack of vile buffoons, ignoramuses wandering in the twilight of learning, ghosts of clergymen, itinerant quacks, dolts, clods, asses, mere cattle, intrude with unwashed feet upon the sacred precincts of Theology, bringing with them nothing save brazen impudence, and some hackneyed quillets and scholastic trifles not good enough for a crowd at a street corner."

Finally a passage I can't resist quoting which shows something of Burton's prose at its best, though I leave you to guess the subject: "... with this tempest of contention the serenity of charity is overclouded, and there be too many spirits conjured up already in this kind in all sciences, and more than we can tell how to lay, which do so furiously rage, and keep such a racket, that as Fabius said, "It had been much better for some of them to have been born dumb, and altogether illiterate, than so far to dote to their own destruction."

To fully appreciate these quotations you would have to see them in context, and I'm conscious of having touched on only one of his many moods and aspects. But a taste for Burton isn't difficult to acquire. He's a mine of curious learning. When in full stride he can be very funny, and it's easy to share his feelings as he often seems to be describing, not so much his own world as today's.

But he does demand stamina. His prose overwhelms and washes over us like a huge tsunami, and for that reason he's probably best taken in small doses. If you are unfamiliar with his work and were to approach him with that in mind, you might find that (as is the case with Montaigne, a very different writer) you had discovered not so much a book as a companion for life.

5-0 out of 5 stars Occult Psychology wrapped within classic literature
This book is quite interesting because it holds within its many pages a teaching that is deeper than what it may seem. There is a deep psychological teaching that mixes itself with high spiritual principles, esoteric Christian Gnosticism in its raw form, and countless viels that keep such things hidden from the eyes of the average literary scholar... Why would Burton write in such a way? The same reason Dante did...
But what is it that Burton is trying to show us, with his quotes from the Alchemical Master Galen and Latin stanzas?
Why must we understand the "Anatomy of Meloncholy"? The anatomy of our own suffering and the suffering of the world...
The Master M refers to Burton in his books of Occult Mysticism.
For us, as common "modern westerners", to understand such esoteric psychology-and not have to learn Latin, Tibetan, Sanskrit or Chinese, we must study the books of SAMAEL AUN WEOR. He writes in such a way as to unveil those truly hidden mysteries: "Know thyself and thy shall Know the universe and all its Gods".
Find the book of "Revolutionary Psychology" or "The Perfect Matrimony" by the said author. These books are amazing supplements to books like Burton's. These books give the western student a strong foundation in the psychological aspect of Occultism. SAMAEL AUN WEOR's books can be a bit difficult (to find), as they are continuously being translated from the original language (Spanish). Yet they can be bought from any Gnostic Institute (

5-0 out of 5 stars Absolutely the Best Book Ever Written...Bar None
First of all, one has a very difficult problem in defining exactly what this compendium is. Is it a book, a poem, a history, an epic? Well, I think it is all of those and many more. The Anatomy of Melancholy is, without a doubt, the best book ever written, bar none.

It was compliled from all the books of the 17th century and is not really about melancholy, per se. It is, rather, Robert Burton's view of mankind and mankind's condition. All mankind. And all conditions. It is about melancholia, sure, but it is about everything else as well. Melancholia was just Burton's excuse to write about everything under the sun in a strikingly original way and then have the nerve to remind us that there is nothing new under the sun. This is a book filled with both endless quotes and endless quotable material and, to the surprise of many, it is a comic masterpiece. Perhaps "the" comic masterpiece. Burton chose to publish this book as having been written by "Democritus Junior," and if that doesn't give you a hint regarding the humor that follows, then not much will.

If you like good literature, you'll love this book. If you like psychology, you'll love this book. If you want to seem pretentious, you need this book. Mostly, however, this is a book for people who love words. Burton may have seemed like a raving madman to some, but he was a man obsessed with a love for the English language...and it shows.

The Anatomy of Melancholy wasn't meant to be read from the first page to the last; I have never met anyone who did that and one would have to be more than a little mad to even try. Just pick up the book. Open it to any page. You may find lists, digressions, bits of 17th century prose, quotes, much Latin. Whatever you find, it is sure to please if you only give it half a chance.

The Anatomy of Melancholy is definitely "the" desert island book. The only problem with taking this wonderful book to a desert island with you (or anywhere else, for that matter), is its size. If you have the one-volume edition, as I do, it can be terribly unwieldy. I once tried reading it on a trans-Atlantic flight and had difficulty keeping my grasp...physically. I highly recommend the three-volume set, if you can find it. If not, make do with the one-volume. Just don't go without. That would be a terrible mistake.

Be warned: this dense and brilliant book is extremely addicting. Once you start leafing through the pages and writing down your favorite passages, you'll find you never want to be without the book. And, as you'll come to see, that won't be such a bad thing at all.

5-0 out of 5 stars Only about the bits on love
It is often said that The Sorrows of Young Werther is a catalogue of the symptoms of love-sickness. It can only serve as a primer for the Love-Melancholy section of the Anatomy. The list of causes and symptoms is encyclopaedic. The section on Artificial Allurements of Love, Causes and Provocations to Lust; Gestures, Clothes, Dower, etc. could probably be used as a manual in some quarters. And the section on Cure of Love-Melancholy is invaluable. It is amusing to see Burton (somewhat reluctantly) admit that 'The last and best Cure of Love-Melancholy is, to let them have their desire'. ... Read more

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