Friday, October 24, 2014

You Can Date Boys When You're Forty by Dave Barry

You Can Date Boys When You're Forty: Dave Barry on Parenting and Other Topics He Knows Very Little About by Dave Barry
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Putnam Adult; First Edition edition (March 4, 2014)

For the first time since 2010, Dave Barry is back with a collection of brand new essays that offer a unique look at fatherhood, family, and death.  He delivers a hilarious collection of parenting, families, sex, camels, women, brain surgery, sex with women, air travel, brain farts, and so much more.

Barry's daughter turned 13 and he turned 65.  For Barry, 65 is not the new 50.  No matter what age, Barry is still one of the funniest writers on this planet.

Barry even writes about a trip to Israel, which had me cracking up a storm.  When you've rode on camels and slept in a Bedouin tent, you know exactly what kind of experience that he had.  I can say that with 100% certainty as I went on a Birthright trip in 2007.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by B.J. Novak

One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by B.J. Novak
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (February 4, 2014)

This book from Novak is one of the can't-miss books of the past year.  After serving as a writer and actor for many seasons on The Office, Novak decided to write a collection of short stories.  The result is one of the newest voices in the world of American fiction.

Novak's work is endlessly entertaining, sensitive, and very original.  His zing and humor brings to mind the work of both Woody Allen and Steve Martin.

The pieces in this collection have one thing in common: they share humor.  It's like nothing else that's been done before.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Book Review: Wilson by A. Scott Berg

Wilson by A. Scott Berg
Paperback: 832 pages
Publisher: Berkley Trade; Reprint edition (September 2, 2014)

When this book was first printed in 2013, the United States quietly marked the 100th anniversary of Woodrow Wilson's presidential inauguration--most were focused on the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's tragic passing in 1963.

Berg is a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner.  He spent a decade researching and writing this biography of the nation's 28th President of the United States.

Wilson, who served from 1913-1921, rose from a Southern boyhood as the son of a minister through the ranks of academia and politics before leading the United States into the dawn of a new era.  Wilson's led the nation during World War 1 and would go on to institute many progressive reforms that shaped the country as we know it today.  These reforms would pave the way for the New Deal.  Wilson also laid the foundation of the country's foreign policy for the rest of the century.

Despite all of this, Wilson is one of the least-remembered of the great presidents.  He is often thought of as a rigid, dour figure who failed in bringing the United States into the League of Nations.  The League of Nations was the forerunner to the United Nations.

Wilson suffered a debilitating stroke, leading his wife to act as a de factor president.

In under 1,000 pages, Berg clears away the myths and misconceptions about President Wilson.  What he presents is a book on a man that was a statesman, intellectual, speaker, politician, and an idealist.

With access to hundreds of thousands of documents, including the letters of Wilson's personal physician and one of his daughters, this is easily the definitive biography of President Woodrow Wilson.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

American Pastimes: The Very Best of Red Smith

American Pastimes: The Very Best of Red Smith (The Library of America)
Daniel Okrent, editor. Afterword by Terence Smith
Hardcover: 560 pages
Publisher: Library of America (May 16, 2013)

When people think of great sportswriters, Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith is one of the first names that come to mind.  With a nationally syndicated column in both the New York Herald Tribune and New York Times, Smith was widely read from the 1940s through his retirement in the 1980s.  He was the first sportswriter to have won the Pullitzer Prize for commentary.

His sports commentaries came with literary panache and wry humor.

Writer and editor Daniel Okrent presents the best of Smith's columns.  His work, to this day, remains the gold standard in sportswriting.  It still shows many years later.

 Smith's profiles of some of the biggest figures in sports show how he can distill a career's essence in just one column.  There are the accounts of some of the most historic occasions in sports and they are joined by some of the more offbeat stories that display the writer's wit, intelligence, and feeling.

We get some personal glimpses into Red's life and work such as his passion for fishing.  "My Press-Box Memoirs", a 1975 reminiscence written for Esquire, is collected here for the first time.

Any aspiring sportswriter or sports fan in general will want to read this book.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Book Review - Men, Women & Children: A Novel

Prior to seeing Men, Women, & Children this weekend, I read the book written by Chad Kultgen.  It's not a pretty book even though I racked through it in only three days.  At just over 300 pages, it is a very quick read.

Not being familiar with Kultgen's work prior to reading, I had only known that he co-created the new NBC sitcom, Bad Judge.  While Bad Judge keeps things cleaner for TV, the book doesn't keep things clean.  Far from it, actually.  It's very graphic and even though Kultgen's message means well, it's certainly not a book I would read again or even recommend to anyone else.

Kultgen's book explores the sexual pressures of junior high students and their parents.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Searching for the Salzman Family

My great-aunt passed away in 2002.  She had built a family tree for many sides of the family going back a few generations.

Unfortunately, she also made some mistakes, too.  Unfortunately, some of these mistakes meant that it took longer to find some families--by which point some of the older generations have passed away.

What we do know is that Kassel Salzman immigrated to America in 1896 after traveling with his wife, Pauline, and children from Russia.  What we do know is that he had quite a few children: Charles, Max, Annie (Anna), Maurine (Mary), and Sadie.

We know that Kassel was convicted of larceny in the early 1900s and went to prison where he ended up dying in 1911.  We have managed to get in touch, finally, with Anna's descendants so as to update that branch of the tree.  But outside of that, we're stuck.  When it is a common name (Saltzman became Salzman or Solzman), it makes it harder with marriage records, etc.  I've found obituaries but when they don't mention siblings, it's hard to confirm whether that's the one I am looking for.

We know that the name was Saltzman in the 1900 census and Salzman when the 1905 census was recorded.

But we're stuck.  My only hope now is for a distant cousin to find this, get in touch, and help us rebuild this branch.

Book Review: Tradition!

Tradition!: The Highly Improbable, Ultimately Triumphant Broadway-to-Hollywood Story of Fiddler on the Roof, the World's Most Beloved Musical by Barbara Issenberg
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Press (September 2, 2014)

It was on this date in 1964 that the musical, Fiddler on the Roof, opened its doors on Broadway.  History would never be the same!  It may not be the behind-the-scenes movie that Mary Poppins got but it's the next best thing: the behind-the-scenes of both the Broadway production directed by Jerome Robbins and the movie directed by the not-Jewish Norman Jewison.

Since it opened 50 years ago today, there is rarely a time in which the sound of the off-tune violin is not heard somewhere on stage.  Whether it be a school, community theater, army base, Broadway revival, or countries from Argentina to Japan, the musical is being performed somewhere.

Isenberg weaves the tales and anecdotes of making the musical or film with thoughts on its cultural importance and why it resonates with such a diverse audience.

If they were still living in the author started researching and writing the book and worked on the Broadway production, the film, or significant revivals, Isenberg interviewed them.  This includes the likes of Harold Prince, Sheldon Harnick, Joseph Stein, Austin Pendleton, Joanne Merlin, Norman Jewison, Topol, and Harvey Fierstein, amongst others.

It's an amazing result.  Isenberg takes us on a wild ride as Fiddler worked its way to Broadway and later the big screen.  It's not just a look at how Fiddler became a hit on Broadway or the big screen but also how the musical became a hit across the globe!

If you love Fiddler or the soundtrack, this is a book you will enjoy!