Book Report: The Return of Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1913, 1963)

This is the second book in the Tarzan series. Given its origins in pulp fiction, one must forgive some of the circumstances that come around for no other purpose than to spin a good yarn.

Tarzan leaves the United States after leaving Jane to his cousin, who has assumed Tarzan’s birthright. Then, he enlists in the French secret service. Stop snickering. Then he goes to Africa on a mission, meets some of the desert nomads, is almost killed, and then catches a ship that also holds Jane’s best friend. Tarzan is pitched overboard by bad guys, but he survives by swimming to Africa and then has some adventures becoming the king of a tribe and going to a lost city of gold. Meanwhile, Jane meets her friend, who tells her Tarzan has died. They start cruising up the west coast of Africa and are shipwrecked near where Tarzan’s cabin from the original book lies. Then Tarzan comes back, finds his cousin has died, rescues Jane from some bad men, and they are married.

Man, if I were Jane, I would never get on a boat again. I wonder what will happen in the next book, too. These pulp adventures are a guilty pleasure.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: Celebration of Poets Showcase Edition by International Library of Poetry (1998)

This is a collection from one of those poetry contests that makes everyone a winner and then puts all the winners into a book and then sells the winners copies of the book for $50. Full disclosure: I appeared in one of these books in 1984, and my sainted mother bought a copy. I probably even still have the copy of the Henderson Highlighter that reprinted the poem. But I digress. As for book quality, this isn’t the phone directory of the olden days like my poem appeared in, with 15 poems to a page of newsprint. This is actually like a real book of poems, with one or two per page.

Unfortunately, the poems aren’t that much better than I could have written in the sixth grade. I’m sorry, that’s not true; some of them are on more sophisticated subject matter, but that doesn’t mean that many of them are any good.

On the one hand, it really is awful that I subjected my children to hearing these as I read them aloud. On the other, it’s good to run through a bunch of these poems, especially after one has gotten a little bored with Ogden Nash, to recognize, again, what good poetry is.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: The Taking of Pelham One Two Three by John Godey (1973, 1974)

This book is the novel that launched two films. The paperback I have is not a true tie-in since it doesn’t have the stars of the original on it, but it does mention that it will soon be a major motion picture.

The book hinges on four guys who take a subway train hostage. It’s gritty seventies suspense, and seems somewhat dated because these days we expect more dastardly plots than the lives and deaths of sixteen hostages. The book bounces between scenes and characters and occasional flarings of violence.

Frankly, I don’t see how you make it into a movie featuring Mattheau or Washington, since the dispatch cop isn’t a featured player, but there you go.

Good piece of writing. I enjoyed it, but it does seem dated.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: Brimstone by Robert B. Parker (2009)

So far, I’ve kept my word. I didn’t buy this book, I checked it out from the library. It’s not that bad of a bit, really, compared to some of Parker’s other recent entries. In it, Hitch and Cole rescue April Kyle Susan Silverman Allie from a whorehouse and they move to Brimstone, a town on the upswing. There, a revivalist preacher works to shut down the saloons. Hitch and Cole work as marshals and set up shop and home with Allie and the daughter of a farmer. The unholy alliance between the preacher and the biggest saloon owner breaks down violently, and Spenser and Hawk Everett and Virgil call winner. Then they decide to leave Brimstone and return to Appaloosa to settle down.

I think I got the major things, but I left out a sidebar about an Indian with a vendetta against the saloon owner. But Parker could have, too.

Books mentioned in this review:

County Government Has Official Lobbyist

Do you think there’s a problem with this?

    St. Louis County’s chief governmental lobbyist announced late Monday night that he would resign his position with County Executive Charlie A. Dooley’s staff in favor of a career as an independent political consultant.

    Darin Cline, Dooley’s one-time campaign director who was appointed to the county job of director of intergovernmental affairs in 2007, said the move had nothing to do with persistent rumors that he was the subject of any federal investigation into county government.

I’m not talking about his leaving nor the rumors of corruption. I marvel that the St. Louis County government has a highly paid staff position whose sole purpose (and his whole staff’s sole purpose) is to lobby other governments for money.

Book Report: The Shepherd, The Angel, and Walter the Miracle Dog by Dave Barry (2006)

I think David Barry wanted to write A Christmas Story for our generation. The book is short (117 pages, which is just right for a movie script). It’s a sweet little story that’s not full of quite the absurdity of his normal work or his full novels, and it’s cut into a short number of scenes. It tells the story of a dog’s death on Christmas Eve against the backdrop–or maybe it’s the foreground–of the children’s participation in the Christmas pageant.

Now, the text itself is not 117 pages. As a matter of fact, almost fifty percent of the book is old pictures and illustrations designed to visually evoke the scenes, although they are not direct illustrations of the scenes. It’s Lileksian.

It’s a plenty short piece and an easy read, so it’s worth its time.

Books mentioned in this review:

Consistency Ain’t Even A River In Egypt

On the national scale, the Republican Party and rightwing commentators say that proper health care reform would include allowing insurance parties to sell across state lines and eliminating state mandates for coverage.

On the state scale, Republican state legislators push for more mandates:

“We know if we pass legislation, we will give these children a better shot,” Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, said Sunday at a rally supporting legislation requiring insurance companies to cover therapy for children with autism.

The Republican Party is a large, diverse organization. But sometimes I wonder if it has any core principles. Less government mandating does not seem to be a common bond.

Full disclosure: Senator Schmitt represents my district and is actually part of my township party club.

A Touching Story That Could Use Improvement

Here’s a touching story about how a high school football team gave up a shutout so that its opponent could have a Downs Syndrome running back get a touchdown:

So in the final stages of Benton’s third game of the season on Monday at Maryville, McCamy decided it was time for Ziesel — a 15-year-old freshman with Down syndrome — to make his season debut.

With about 10 seconds left in the game, and Benton trailing 46-0, McCamy called his final timeout, told an assistant coach to organize the team for the “Matt play” and ran across the field to the Maryville defensive huddle — and to some puzzled looks from the opposing players.

“I’ve got a special situation,” McCamy remembers telling Maryville freshman defensive coach David McEnaney. “I know you guys want to get a shutout. Most teams would want a shutout, but in this situation I want to know if maybe you can let one of my guys run in for a touchdown.”

Here’s the video:

Those kids on both teams (and the coaches) did a nice thing.

But you know what would make it even better for some people?

A compulsory government program to redistribute touchdowns from the teams who can play football to those who just try. And take 14 points from each good team each game just to run the program.

I know, I can’t leave a nice story alone. My comment doesn’t diminish the real story at all.

Book Report: 101 Easy Ways To Make Your Home Sell Faster by Barbara Jane Hall (1985)

This is a lightweight tip book, a self-help bit. It focuses mostly on staging your home when you’re still in it and provides a lot of ideas about how to alter your furniture arrangements and little things you can do with your accessories to help sell your home. As such, it wasn’t that helpful for me, since we’re vacating before selling.

However, if you’re selling your house with your stuff is still in it, this book is probably worth your time.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: The Yuppie Handbook by Marissa Piesman and Marilee Hartley (1984)

This book, like Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche, is an early 80s mocking snapshot of a demographic. In this case, it’s mocking the young urban professional, the Manhattanite two-career couple with eyes on improving themselves.

The craziest thing about it is you could substitute casual attire for the pinstripe suit, a DVR or Slingbox for the VCR, an iPod for the Walkman, and add some comic book allusions and come up with the modern urban geek (MUG, I just made that up but you can use it). Some of these books really prove how little has changed since the 80s. It’s just we have the Internet now.

Coupled with my reading of Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche, this really seems to support my assertion that culture has flattened in the last 30 years. You can read this and recognize the stereotypes and even the more common flourishes.

As with Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche, the book is amusing in spots and obviously filler in other spots. Not as good as Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche, but longer.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: Working Cats by Terry Deroy Gruber (1979)

It takes a strong man to buy a book of photography depicting cats and then to admit it on his blog, publically. At least that’s what I tell myself before the beatings start.

This book focuses on cats in the workplace, mostly in New York City, in 1979. It’s worth more for the backgrounds of the workplaces than the cats in the foreground. A liquor store that Ed McBain would have described. The window of a bodega looking out on the New York street. Broadway full of 1970s cars. That sort of thing. I think I’m turning into James Lileks. Moreso. Of course, I’m not scanning them and making a Web site dedicated to them. Yet.

Also, if you like kitties, this book has them. No chinchillas, though.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: TV Superstars ’82 by Ronald W. Lackmann (1982)

I couldn’t help it; I read another children’s book about television stars in the 1980s. See also books as historical documents week here at MfBJN. Earlier this year I read TV Close-ups, and in 2005 I read the next edition of this series, TV Superstars ’83. Unlike those books, I knew pretty much all the stars in this book. Perhaps 1982 was the pinnacle of my television viewing.

The book includes the stars from the programs The Dukes of Hazzard, One Day At A Time, The Greatest American Hero, Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, Little House on the Prairie, That’s Incredible!, WKRP in Cincinnati, CHiPs, Mork & Mindy, M*A*S*H, and The Incredible Hulk. I won’t enumerate them individually; either you know who they are, or you’re a damn kid.

I can summarize the bios for you: The superstar was shy/outgoing, decided to try acting, went to LA, became a superstar. A couple other things I noted: The attractive women were all attractive in an approachable, datable fashion, not in the trampy fashion of so many modern television superstars. And all the manly men were six foot tall and 160 pounds. You mean I have finally fought my way up to a manly weight–that is, to say, I’m as big as my father was, and all I had to do to match my boyhood heroes was hit 160? I feel gypped.

Books mentioned in this review:

James Lileks: Heretic

Lileks breaks with the church:

Given the immense stuff-reduction program I’m on, it seems counterproductive. I set aside a great many books for the thrift store today, to give you an idea of the magnitude of this effort. (The piano required moving a table, which required moving a bookcase, which required distributing the bookcase’s contents.) Five grocery bags full of books – sorry, boys, but that’s the way it has to be. There’s a certain sort of despair you feel when you look at a 500-page book about a particular subject, and you know that you read it, and you’ll be damned if you remember anything about it. There’s an enormous bio of Mao – a Maobio – and aside from the general hideous cruelty of the bastard and his miserable regime, the main thing I remember is the ruinous impact of the drive to increase steel production, how everyone had to give up their woks and build poisonous smelters in the backyard. It’s 900 pages thick.

Out go the tiny-type art history books from college, because while I know the difference between Mannerism and Rococo I am reasonably sure I will never have to concern myself between the interstitial period between the two styles. Out go the phone books with Stephen King’s name on the spine; out go tidy little non-fiction accounts of narrow moments in history that narrowly affected another narrow aspect of Western Civ. Sometimes it seems as if these books aren’t trees you plant so you can enjoy the shade decades on – they’re bouquets you wear on your mental lapel for a week or two, enjoying the fragrant aroma until the book is filed and the perfume fades.

Suck it up and get a bigger house every couple of years like we do. You do not have to get rid of books, ever.

Book Report: Heathcliff Strikes Again by Geo Gately (1984)

It must be books as historical documents week here at MfBJN. This particular entry is a Heathcliff collection of cartoons from the newspaper (in those days, I would have been reading him in the Milwaukee Journal Green Sheet).

This book, unlike Sweet Savage Heathcliff, does not focus on his love for Sonja, so I got my wish. Unfortunately, the book hits the same tropes of what Heathcliff does. It’s mostly a one-panel cartoon, so hoping for the sophistication of Calvin and Hobbes is probably foolish. But some bits are amusing enough to spend an hour or so flipping through this book.

Plus, it counts as one entry on the annual books read list just as much as War and Peace would.

Books mentioned in this review:

A Fundamental Fallacy

The piece is entitled “The Case for Killing Granny“, so you know you’re in for it. The very lede identifies the core issue of a government health plan:

My mother wanted to die, but the doctors wouldn’t let her. At least that’s the way it seemed to me as I stood by her bed in an intensive-care unit at a hospital in Hilton Head, S.C., five years ago. My mother was 79, a longtime smoker who was dying of emphysema. She knew that her quality of life was increasingly tethered to an oxygen tank, that she was losing her ability to get about, and that she was slowly drowning. The doctors at her bedside were recommending various tests and procedures to keep her alive, but my mother, with a certain firmness I recognized, said no. She seemed puzzled and a bit frustrated that she had to be so insistent on her own demise.

This anecdote in defense of a government system wherein appointed or hired officials rethink the health care decisions for you removes all choice from the patient.

It gives the author’s mommy the outcome she wanted. But someone who wants to fight on and hope for a miracle? No, sorry, you get to choose death anyway.

Book Report: Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche by Bruce Feirstein (1982)

It’s been over a decade since I listened to the sequel to this book, Real Men Don’t Bond, as an audiobook during my hour-plus commuting days. I thought highly enough of the audiobook sequel that I went ahead and bought the original when I found it at a book fair.

As a document from 1982, it’s quite the historical document. Portions of it are amusing, and parts of it are not. Its uneven nature stems from the very, dare I say it, bloggishness? A couple longer pieces obviously appeared in magazines, but some of the shorter riffs are just lists to put something on the pages in between the covers of the book.

Masculine readers can take some chuckles from the work if they can tell themselves he means it. Sometimes, the humor does seem defensive of masculinity, but other parts of it build ridiculous straw real men for the cosmopolitan (ca. 1982) set to mock.

Fortunately, the book is short. As I said, some funny bits, but some not so funny at all. But it’s a historical document, too, a peek not only at the image but also the lens that produced it.

Books mentioned in this review: