Left-Handed Kudos

I just read another one of those book reviews that makes me want to say, “Um, thank you?” But then, compliments of the left-handed variety are in a way my favorite kind. When they come with this much sting, it’s hard to doubt their sincerity. This one hails from the keyboard of Bob Corrigan on the ack/nak blog. This slim little book is chock full of hackneyed dialog, stock characters straight out of central casting, and features an ending that will remind you of a Disney movie. But I loved it for the simplicity of its message—the key to success (sorry, “stratospheric” success) is … I won’t spoil it for you, but you can probably already figure it out from the title. I carry this book around with me and dip into it on a frequent basis. No kidding. It’s 144 pages of goodness. Hackneyed dialog; stock characters, Disney ending. Okay, that’s not what we were going for. But 144 pages of goodness? Hmph. He makes it hard to be...

Joe-San

This week an amazing treat landed in my mail box: the hot-off-the-press Japanese hardcover edition of The Go-Giver. (I wrote about this over on the Go-Giver blog, but figured perhaps I should post it here too.) The people at Bungei Shunju Ltd. did a phenomenal job: gorgeous production values. Even though I can’t read a lick of Japanese, leafing through this book is an experience. For one thing, it’s illustrated—and in the most hilarious, creative, practically hallucinogenic Japanese fashion. Sort of Saul Steinberg meets Manga. And this is no casual production: whoever did these illustrations took incredible care, and has an uncannily intimate knowledge of the text. And a helluva sense of humor. For example: In Chapter 2, when Pindar says, “Have you ever heard people say, You can’t always get what you want?” and Joe grins and says, “You mean, the Rolling Stones?” — in the Japanese edition, so help me, there is a full-page drawing of Mick Jagger on stage belting out The Song. Accompanying the description of Rachel’s history in Chapter 7, “Rachel,” is a drawing of Rachel serving coffee. Behind her is a Mellita the size of a well-fed black Labrador Retriever, and a vivid rainbow arcs out of the cup in her hand. (The artist, I think, has seen the film “Yellow Submarine” more than once.) How would you illustrate the story’s dramatic conclusion, at the end of chapter 13, “Full Circle”? The artist devotes the facing page to a single image, tucked into the lower-left corner: a simple black and white drawing of a cup of coffee. What a brilliant touch. When we...

Fireworks and Friendship

Last night we drove down our street to park in full view of a glorious fireworks display, on the campus of the University of Massachusetts. From 8:30-ish to nearly 10, we sat surrounded by hundreds of neighbors, oohing and ahhing. It made me think of Adams and Jefferson. John Adams, the scrappy lawyer from Massachusetts, and Thomas Jefferson, the gentleman-farmer from Virginia, were two of the three principal architects (with Benjamin Franklin) of the Declaration of Independence. They were also temperamental opposites, as near-perfect a human example of yin and yang as you could wish for. Through the years of the “war for independency,” Adams and Jefferson become exceptionally close friends. However, in one of those peculiarly human twists of plot, they later became bitterly estranged political enemies, running fierce campaigns against one another for the presidency and spearheading the opposing camps of the nation’s emerging two-party paradigm. Jefferson even hired a hit-man-journalist to publish vituperative attacks against Adams in a vicious character-assassination campaign — all while Jefferson was serving as his former friend’s vice president. And yet — evidence of a peculiarly human capacity for redemption — the friendship miraculously healed itself decades later. After both were long out of public life, Adams wrote Jefferson a letter, and they not only reconciled but proceeded to engage in one of the greatest long-running correspondences in American history. At the end, the one in Quincy and the other in Monticello, the two were so psychically connected to one another that they held onto life in tandem, each saving his last breath for the appointed day. On July 4, 1826, one...