:: Book Report 2003 ::

Real book reports. Real fun.
:: welcome to Book Report 2003 :: bloghome | contact ::
:: rosco magazine [>]
:: splendid [>]
:: davehayes dotcom [>]

:: Saturday, July 12, 2003 ::

Book Report 2003
How to Win Friends and Influence People
By Jensen Whelan 

One of my many personal weaknesses is the inability to not assign human emotions to inanimate objects. I was recently stranded out in the rain without an umbrella or a coat. I took refuge beneath the covering of a bus stop. A book was there on the sidewalk: it was wet, alone and looked so very sad. I braved the downpour to rescue it.  Without looking at the title of the book or its cover, I picked it up, cradled it against my chest and took it back to the safety of the bus stop. My plan was to dry it off and leave it sitting on the bench in the bus stop to be picked up by someone else. I was hoping that its rightful owner would come by and find it. I am no thief.
I read the cover with no small amount of joy. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie published November, 1936 and billed as the “most popular non-fiction book of our time. Over 4,000,000 copies sold.”  
“Amazing,” I thought. “This is just the book I’ve waiting all my life for.” I skimmed through the table of contents and found that the book I held in my hand was full of little kernels of wisdom that seemed able to solve all of my problems. The book promised to, “Increase your popularity”, “Help you win people to your way of thinking” and “Help you arouse enthusiasm among your associates”.  Incidentally, these are the three issues in my life—other than personifying everyday things like books—that I need to work on most. I’m not very popular, not very many people agree with my way of thinking and my associates are the biggest bunch of unenthusiastic bores I’ve ever met.
I should mention here that I have not completely read this book. Not yet. Power of this kind can only be attained in small doses. I’ve only stolen short, cursory glances at sections I feel are of particular interest.
How to Win Friends and Influence People is full of wonderful quotes that, if understood properly can help you achieve everything you want in life. Take the following as an example (page 31), “Remember, you can make a man give you his watch by sticking a revolver in his ribs.” It is almost poetic in its simplicity.
Another example (page 182): “I used to know Pete Barlow. Pete had a dog-and-pony act and he spent his life travelling with circuses and vaudeville shows.” I have no idea who Pete Barlow was, but a dog-and-pony act certainly sounds inspiring.
Dale Carnegie seems to have been forgotten to history, or as in my case, only just introduced, but with this book, he shows that being a successful, happy person is much easier than one might have previously assumed.
I’m working on it, Dale.

:: Pasha 10:32:00 AM [+] ::
:: Wednesday, June 11, 2003 ::

“The National Opinion,” July 1, 1914

I came across this classic work of literature two years ago in one of the several book fairs that Lima, Peru, boasts each year, and was immediately taken with its cover, which bears photographs, or possibly lithographs or whatever it was that they had before they had photographs, unless these actually are photographs--does anyone know that timeline?--of six lovely if large-boned women in poses of varying coquettishness. Though the cover price said that the text only cost twenty cents--twenty-five in the provinces, where I wasn’t--the stand owner charged me upwards of five dollars, probably because of the rarity of the first edition--indeed, the only edition--of “The National Opinion” that was published on the particular day in question eighty-nine years ago next month.

“The National Opinion,” having been published in Peru for consumption by Peruvians, was written in Spanish, but for the purposes of this book report I’m going to pretend that it wasn’t. Also, while it was ostensibly a “newspaper” rather than a “book,” it is my contention that in fact it represents, or at least this issue represents, this issue being the only issue I’ve ever read, a hard forward charge in terms of post-modern (“pomo”) effects and consequences, though in fact it was written during what has come to be known as the modern (“mo”) period.

For example, one might think that the six large-boned lovelies featured on the cover--Julia McClean y Viñas, Mercedes García Gastañeta, Sara Elmore, Margarita Larrabure, Mary Thorndike, and, cutest of the bunch, Josefina Estrada--would be central characters in the narrative to follow. However, they do not appear at all in the text cum text: a clear example of the irony and playfulness characteristic of postmodern novels. Similarly, a sense of bricolage and discontinuity rules throughout: the narrative skips from the pictures of these women to a schedule of the arrivals, departures and prices of the Pacific Steam Navigation Company, and from there to an “article” on internal anarchy, and so on through the “Social Pages,” a text on the advantages and disadvantages of smoking cigarettes, and, my favorite, a section entitled “Forbidden Blows in Football” showing, among other things, a really terrific drawing of one player kneeing another player in the testicles, said drawing labeled ‘A Painful Knee-strike!’

Needless to say, this sort of fragmentation leads the reader inexorably to a celebratory meditation on the human subject(s) as de-centered, even de-humanized. Furthermore, the postmodern claim that there are no signifieds, only signifiers, is amply borne out by the fact that I couldn’t find a single reference to any so-called “Pacific Steam Navigation Company” when I went to look in the Yellow Pages just now.

In conclusion, with its constant shifts of reference, its scattered amalgamation of “articles,” “editorials,” “advertisements,” and “funny drawings of football players kneeing each other in the nuts,” and its utter dismissal of real-life things like World War I going on across the way, the July 1, 1914 edition of “The National Opinion” clearly joins other seminal postmodern texts in rejecting grand narratives in favor of little tiny ones, favoring local events over global concerns, and just generally delighting in all that is makeshift, dependent and temporary. For these reasons, it is my opinion that this newspaper/novel has earned its place alongside the tomes of Paul Auster, A.S. Byatt, Margaret Atwood, Nadine Gordimer, and several other people I’ve also been meaning to read one of these days.

:: Pasha 11:07:00 AM [+] ::
:: Saturday, May 03, 2003 ::
John Barlow is the early-bird-worm-getter for 2003, with his stunning book report on a 1964 edition of the Ontario Fish and Wildlife Review. Please find John's report below.


The book I have selected is the ONTARIO FISH AND WILDLIFE REVIEW, volume 3,
no. 1 from Spring, 1964.

The cover is described well within: the 1st page with a section titled "THE COVER": "Our cover picture shows the beauty of a stream in early spring near Buttermilk Falls in the Haliburton highlands." It is quite nice. A dim, bluish black&white photo of said stream, featuring snow bodied pines and bushes, and a very rapid stream. Bottom of the cover is the Ontario Govt insignia, and red letters again caps DEPARTMENT OF LANDS AND FORESTS," then, caps again: "HON. A.KELSO ROBERTS, Q.C,. MINISTER" and "F.A.MACDOUGALL , DEPUTY MINISTER".

Inside's a lot of broad hunter jokes scattered loosely around a number of
articles and accompanying photos, followed by a letters section to which
every letter has been appended a reply. By far, the choice article is
ANIMAL LIFE IN THE CITY, by J.S. "Sandy" Ellis. It begins thus: "To many
persons it may be a revelation to learn that there is an abundant wildlife
population within the boundaries of Metropolitan Toronto. These animals live
happy, normal lives. Furthermore, they appear to be organized into unions
for their mutual benefit and protection. They are familiar with the general
alarm system, areas designated as out-of-bounds and their positional role
within their Order."

The second paragraph resumes: "All forms of wildlife have a definite means of communication and their minds are very active. They brag, gossip, joke and laugh. They certainly have reason to laugh because of the ease with which they can hoodwink and beguile human beings..."

The letter section's where it heats up. Though many of the letters contain complaints against other hunters, and receive coy joking replies addressed to the city from which the writer wrote, one seemed to strike it on the head. : "Gentlemen," writes Oshawa, "You will find the enclosed form #15462 enclosed 'Blank'. The reasons for this are as follows,~ It is the opinion of this writer as well as many others that the fish and game laws, regulations and in many cases stocking programs are best described as, incompetent,
thoughtless and thoroughly disgusting. Therefore, I will have no part in anything which tends to help in the encouragement of a land owner and rich man's monopoly of our natural resources. If those in the responsible offices are blind, the rest of us sportsmen are not. Sincerely, Oshawa, Ontario."

Thirty-nine years later I am reading that with the same sense of provocation I did then, in 1964. And many's the time between now and then, I've re-broken the pages of this fine book, coming to again take the sense of inspiration, and audacity, into my own.


:: Pasha 1:11:00 PM [+] ::
:: Wednesday, April 30, 2003 ::

This is the book report email address: book_report_2003@yahoo.com.sg! Send everything there!


:: Pasha 11:56:00 AM [+] ::
Here is webmaster and all-around helpful person Mike Baker's book report of last year.

MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers - 4th edition
Joseph Gibaldi
The Modern Language Association of America, 1995

While many bask in the glow of repeated readings of Burroughs, Salinger and Blume, the text I find myself returning to season after season is the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. Full of academic whimsy and fantasy, it is the affecting tale of a young adult's mythic search for... ... ... particular citation techniques.

In many ways, the MLA Handbook is a coming-of-age tale. Swept away in a sea of works cited and intrigue, the young student and his aged master battle, not against the scourge of spelling and grammar, but the bad form and incomplete nature of amateur bibliographies and filmographies. Often ignoring what the experienced elder has to say concerning the proper form for citing articles from encyclopaedias and reprinted translations of unpublished dissertations, the young man instead spends his time fascinated by the pert, nubile forms of email references and images culled from cd roms.[1] Agitated and short of breath, the old man finally leaves his young student behind, fearful his training is incomplete.[2]

Although some have argued the pace and structure of the MLA Handbook fails to engage the reader [3], I contend the post-modern structure of Gibaldi's prose in the MLA Handbook renders the narrative hyper-realistic and illustrates the author's concern for process over product. The mixed type-face, quivering from Times New Roman to Courier and back again, is a testament to Gibaldi's inventive approach to presentation. Black fonts bleed into red as the frequency and intensity of the citations builds to a rhythmic orgy of... orgiasticity. [4]

Rumours abound that the 5th edition of the MLA Handbook and 6th edition of the MLA Handbook for Scholarly Publications and Dissertations incorporate illustrations of soft-core pornography amongst the now-standard system of tables and diagrams currently intended to guide students to other sections of the book with the hope it may assist them in finding difficult forms of citation.[5] Should the inclusion of naked male asses and small-titted females captured in soft-focus actually appear in these latest editions of the MLA Handbook, I see no harm. We are all us of mature adults, are we not?

In conclusion, MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers - 4th edition is a striking tale that transcends its original 1977 incarnation by leaps and bounds. A gripping page-turner, Gibaldi's text leaps from the page and into the hearts and minds of a captivated audience. While Phyllis Franklin, in her foreword to the 4th edition, contends "In time, you too may identify ways of improving future editions of this book," only the fool-hearty and menopausal could dream of a way of building upon this slice of perfection.



1 - For further information concerning the citation of electronic media, see Joseph Gibaldi, MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers - 4th edition (New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 1995) 4.8.
2 - Ibid, 163.
3 - New York Times Review of Books, 34:8, August 1997.
4 - The definition for the term "orgiastic" (see "orgy") can be found in The Oxford Dictionary of Current English, ed. R. E. Allen (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990) 517.
5 - David J. Hayes, E-mail to the author, 6 June 2002.
:: Pasha 11:29:00 AM [+] ::
:: Tuesday, April 29, 2003 ::

I am going to post some of the book reports from last year, just to give people an idea of what they're getting into.

First is Doug Waters's A+ report, pasted below. Enjoy.


In Praise of Older Women
By Stephen Vizinczey
Published by Pan Books, London, 1978 (first published in 1966)

I discovered this gem in one of Tokyo's used bookstores a couple of weeks ago. I had ventured into the "Movie Tie-In" section of the shop with the intention of picking up a copy of The Karate Kid Part II (which happens to be set in Japan, where I currently reside). But I happened to spot In Praise of Older Women - the modern classic which is now a sensational film starring Karen Black and Tom Berenger - and had trouble concentrating on any of the other titles. The first chapter is an open letter titled: To Young Men Without Lovers. Friends and strangers, I am such a young man. The search for a book was over.

The book takes the form of a faux-autobiography penned by Andras Vajda, a middle-aged Hungarian immigrant working as an Associate Professor at the University of Saskatchewan. He explains that he doesn't intend to overwhelm the reader with an in-depth personal history. Instead, he hopes to stimulate the reader’s curiosity about himself. Mission accomplished, Professor.

Andras details his coming of age using Eastern Europe - and all of its political drama - as an intriguing backdrop. His appreciation of older women begins to develop at age thirteen when young Andras receives fellatio from a respectable housewife turned army-base prostitute. This appreciation swells with each new lover he takes, the odd romance with girls his own age reaffirming his belief that ladies who’ve lived a little are where it’s at. They are more than mere lovers; they are also teachers.

One might expect that the purpose of these vignettes is to do little more than increase blood flow to the nether regions, which they most certainly do. However, the author is attempting to do much more. This book is a call to return to a time when community and human contact mattered. There is a new loneliness in the modern world, and as an older Andras observes, "being the giver and the taker of his pleasure/ one’s legs grow too weak/ to run after company/ and each jerk-off is a cut-off/ from the rest of mankind" (p.123). That, friends and strangers, is literary brilliance.

The book is a wonderful source of inspiration and information for young men. I warn you though that while some of the romancing tactics employed my Andras are timeless, others most definitely are not. For example, at one point Andras blurts out, "I wish I could rape you" (p.75) during a casual conversation with an acquaintance. Apparently a line like that used to get you some action. Nowadays it gets you nothing but black eyes and bruises... or so I would expect.

I encourage all of you to read In Praise of Older Women. It should not be too difficult to find a copy - by 1978 there had already been over 2 000 000 copies sold worldwide. Or perhaps you can rent the movie adaptation, though I suspect it lacks the maturity of Stephen Vizinczey's novel. Books like this are why I learned to read.

:: Pasha 10:16:00 AM [+] ::
:: Monday, April 28, 2003 ::

Welcome to the 3rd annual summer book report.

While the site is still under construction, you should all be busy at work on your book reports. Details to come on the procedure for submitting your book reports.

Check back soon...

:: Mike 9:41:00 PM [+] ::