Review of Where Men Win Glory

Jon Krakauer’s Where Men Win Glory, The Odyssey of Pat Tillman, is a deeply disturbing book on many levels. As usual, Krakauer has done massive research on Pat Tillman’s entire life as well as the wars against the terrorists after September 11, 2001. Tillman was an unusual person and a gifted athlete.  Partly his California upbringing and partly the self-possessed person he was, Tillman danced to the beat of his own drummer.  Case in point, of course, he gave up a $3.6 million dollar contract with the NFL in order to enlist in the army. Tillman grew up in a family of  sports-oriented boys in California.  As a younger lad, he was small, so he made up for his size with sheer determination and practice.  When he enjoyed a growth spurt in high school, he was already positioned to be a star football player.  He played in college for Arizona State University where he had a scholarhip, then for the Arizona Cardinals when he joined the NFL.  Along the way, he met the love of his life, Marie, to whom he was faithful in spite of the fact of his celebrity.  She provided the steady balance to his intensity. One disturbing part of the story is the beating Tillman forced on a high school student whom Pat mistakenly thought had roughed up one of his high school football buddies.  Fortunately for Pat, a lenient judge reduced the savage beating to a misdemeanor so Tillman would not lose the crucial scholarship to Arizona State. Most disturbing, however, was the chaotic mess that was the US Army in Afghanistan.  Krakauer indicts the...

Review of Mick Jagger by Philip Norman

This is a comprehensive biography by the noted biographer Philip Norman, who has also written about John Lennon, Buddy Holly, and The Beatles.  So we get the whole deal from the time of Jagger’s reasonable middle class childhood to his current reign as classic Rock God. Yes, there are many, many women and seven children from four mothers.  Interestingly, his children love him and are proud of him and he maintains amicable relations with the mothers of his brood.  And there is no question that Jagger is behind the success of The Rolling Stones.  A graduate of the London School of Economics, Mick is disciplined and hard working.  In the face of endless temptations, Jagger has managed to avoid the stereotypical downfall to drugs and alcohol where so many of his peers have succumbed. Alas, his salient feature is his overwhelming self-centeredness.  The fact that he claimed that his marriage to Jerry Hall, mother of four of his children, was invalid so she could not filch too much of his vast fortune, says it all. If you can get past Jagger’s narcissism, this biography is a reliable overview of legendary rock history and a compelling read.To select this book, go...

Review of Max Perkins, Editor of Genius by A. Scott Berg

This fascinating biography celebrating Maxwell Perkins of Scribners Publishing, who changed the way editors work,  began its life as a senior thesis at Princeton University way back in 1971.  Before Perkins, an editor’s role was closer to that of a copywriter, one who tended to grammar, usage, and mechanics. With Perkins’ ascent, an editor also became a confident, analyser, father-figure, advisor, marvelous interpreter.  After Perkins, editors have contiued to have a much greater role in their writers’ lives as well as their work. What captured my interest here  is our insight into the lives of seminal American writers like Scott Fitzgerald, after whom the author is named;  Thomas Wolfe;  and Ernest Hemingway. We are struck by just how needy these icons were, emotionally as well as financially. Fitzgerald, an immensely talented man but scourged by alcoholism, was forever securing loans from Perkins. Thomas Wolfe, who wrote the epic Look Homeward Angel, was the son Perkins never had. The macho Hemingway, who changed the way Americans write with his pared down prose, gained his own notoriety by first being published by Scribners. Perkins was unfailingly gracious to these authors and remained quietly in the background where he felt a proper editor should be. Seeing  the tragic dissolution of Fitzgerald, who never lived to see the immense popularity of his Gatsby, is a long, sad journey reflected in his letters to Perkins. Thomas Wolfe, for all his brilliance, bordered on crazy and ended up estranged from Perkins because of Wolfe’s own paranoia.   Bombastic Hemingway charmed and needled fellow writers, even when they had, like Fitzgerald, brought him to the attention of...

Review of Audiobook, Love Life by Rob Lowe

At first, I was put off by the preachy title of this audiobook:  Love Life.  Really, Rob???  Is this actor old and wise enough to be telling us how to live our lives? Have we forgotten the bad PR Mr. Lowe brought upon himself in the wilder escapes of his youth? In addition to advising us how to live our lives, Lowe also does some serious name-dropping.  According to Rob, major players in Hollywood, like Warren Beatty, are close friends.  Never knew Rob Lowe was that level of star quality. In spite of these annoyances though, Rob is now a loving husband and father of two and comes across as charming, in a good way.  Self-effacing, funny, and very observant, Rob Lowe does a titillating job of dishing about the characters and scandals of Hollywood.   Add to that the fact that he reads the text himself. The most moving, even eloquent part of his memoir is the chapter on sending his older son off to college.  It is an experience most parents can relate to strongly and, as Lowe admits, he never went to college himself so the send-off is important on several levels.  That I was able to recognize the Duke University campus from his description was quite satisfying. In the last chapter, Lowe sings the praises of his wife, Cheryl, to whom he has been married for twenty-some years, so effusively we can only hope the two are still married.  (As of this writing they are.) An interesting sidelight:  Lowe’s younger son wrote the soundtrack. Talented family. In the end,  Rob Lowe  is fun to spend...

The Isle of Youth by Laura Van Den Berg

Two Opinions Leslie’s POV: It is true that the characters in this slim volume of stories are dark.  Very dark.  But they are rounded enough to capture our imagination.  When I finished the book my first thought was, “What kind of mind comes up with these characters and these odd circumstances?”  In fact, the predicaments in which these folks find themselves–at an acrobat party in Paris;  in Antarctica;  gazing after The Isle of Youth itself–almost have a comic element to them.  What are these people doing here and why is the  obvious question. Van Den Berg fills in the blanks.  Almost in spite of ourselves we are caught up in the flight of the children with those androgynous  and confusing names, or find ourselves at the bunker in the tundra at the bottom of the world, or on the roof with the detective sisters:  “For Julia, risk was like air.” How about  the savage truth in the description of the mothers of the children in “Lessons:” who were . . . “long-faced women scrubbed free of dissent and desire.” In “The Greatest Escape,” what kind of a girl descends from ” parents (who) met at magic school?” In the title story, “The Isle of Youth,” twin sister Sylvia is described as “. . .a shape-shifter, someone who bounced from one life to the next like a drug-resistant virus changing hosts.”  How would you feel about this lady as your twin? In the first story of the collection, poignantly titled, “I Looked For You, I Called Your Name,”  the  wife in an unraveling marriage tells us she once was alarmed...

14 Books That Will Change Your Life And Your Business

14 Books That Will Change Your Life And Your Business from Don Campbell This presentation is a complete list of business books which will also carry over to your personal life. The Slideshare, by Expand2Web President Don Campbell also offers advice on how to read the books for maximum comprehension and...

Review of Catherine The Great, Portrait of a Womanby Robert K. Massie

At 574 pages, this biography of the legendary Russian Empress is a history of  Russia as well as a thorough analysis of  her reign.  From a relatively humble birth as Sophia, a German princess, through her journey to become one of the most important monarchs of the Eighteenth Century, Catherine displayed a remarkable sense of politics. Wed at a young age at the behest of then Empress Elizabeth of Russia to the pathetic and dull Peter, the only surviving heir to Peter the Great through his mother, Catherine spent miserable years as the Emperor-to-be’s unloved wife.  It is doubtful that the marriage was ever consummated.  Therefore, Catherine took lovers, bearing a son to her first lover, the rake Sergei Saltykov.  This child would later become Emperor Paul himself. Through political croneyism and intrigue worthy of an epic movie, Catherine became Empress of Russia after the abdication and then murder of her husband. Here is where the real tale begins.  Catherine read widely and was greatly influenced by the Age of Enlightenment.  She encouraged relationships with famous philosophers like Voltaire and Diderot of France.  Taking her role as the guardian and monarch of the Empire of Russia to heart, Catherine worked incessantly.  One of her early accomplishments was  summoning an assembly to create a new code of laws and write them down.  She made improvements in medical care and was the first to be inoculated against smallpox, a disease which killed and maimed huge numbers of her subjects. An accomplished horsewoman all her life, Catherine rode alongside the troops in battles when she first took over the throne. Catherine comes...

The Puppy Diaries, Raising a Dog Named Scout by Jill Abramson

Review by Leslie Brown Abramson joins the ranks of memoirists who have paid homage to humankind’s best friend. Bereft after losing her longtime terrier, Buddy, Abramson is apprehensive about taking on another dog, let alone a large English golden retriever. However, apprehension soon gives way to adoration as the author and her husband raise the beautiful pup at their country home in Connecticut and, far more challenging, in their apartment in New York City. Scout, named after the heroine of To Kill A Mockingbird, becomes “the delight of our lives.” The charm of dealing with the new family member while these two negotiate middle age and the empty nest provides the narrative of the book, while the solid research the author has done to accommodate Scout’s puppy issues is useful as the side story or how-to manual. That Abramson is the executive editor of the New York Times adds considerable clout. That said, a professional at this level should ease off the narrative, or telling, a bit and show us, with more concrete specifics, about the ups and downs of training and coming to love a new pet....