Saturday, September 14, 2002

Looking back, I see that I haven't posted any book reviews for a while, so here are three quick reviews of last month's reading...

The Cadence of Grass - Thomas McGuane
Dysfunctional families at their most entertaining and devious. This novel has both the wide open scope of the Montana it takes place in, and the uncomfortable intimacy of a jail cell. Family ties are questioned and pitted against loyalties of marriage and business, and none emerge unscathed. A few small parts of this novel dragged for me (multi-page descriptions of a horse's actions), but each time it returned to the family, it pulled me in deeper, pushing me on to the satisfying end. A truly great American novel. My grade: A

Who Moved My Cheese? - Spencer Johnson, M.D.
Advice books is a genre I normally avoid, so perhaps I shouldn't be reviewing this - or, at least, you shouldn't care too much about my review - but somebody gave me the book, and it was short enough (94 pages), so I read it. Mainly I continued to read it only to see how much worse it could get. The simplistic point of the book (don't panic, move with the cheese) is made in the first paragraph, and then just repeated hundreds of times. Because Dr. Johnson thinks we're all morons, he gives this advice in the form of a parable. The parable, however, reads like an un-edited children's book manuscript. My wife's second grade class would be bored with this story, and think it beneath them. Yet, Johnson somehow sells millions of these to "adults." The book did inspire me, however, to write my own simplistic advice book and make a million dollars too. My grade: D-

Oh, the Things I Know! - Al Franken, Ph.D. (Hon.)
Apparently, Al Franken also thought it would be easy to get in on the advice book bandwagon (and dollars). This hilarious send-up of the genre was just what I needed to get over my cynicism and recover my sense of humor after the Cheese book. Though not his funniest book (I love the political aspects of "Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot" and "Why Not Me?"), this is still a must-read for fans of Franken's dry wit and intellectual humor. My grade: A-

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