Book Heaven

Where the world of books and life intersect

Name:
Location: South Amboy, New Jersey

I am deeply involved in trying to solve the discrepancy between being interested in zen and trying to acquire all the things I've been accumulating

Monday, February 28, 2005

Run Do Not Walk!

I'm sure most of you have already seen this, but if you haven't already been to this site (I learned about it from imponderables.com), run do not walk to http://everyonewhosanyone.com. This is one entertaining website! Expect to spend many hours there. Maybe longer.

Gerard Jones wrote a coming of age book set in 1960s San Francisco and in order to attract a major publisher, he sent it to "everone whos anyone" in the publishing industry. He lists all the people he's sent it too, and their responses. Amazingly, he got a lot of well known names to read it and respond and reading the responses and his responses to the responses is absolutely priceless. Jones has a lot of confidence in his book which is a good thing up to a point, but when you begin to believe that you've got the great unpublished novel in your hands, you're headed for the cliff, and it certainly shows in his comments. While most people would tread gingerly as if they are walking on glass, Jones goes back at the agents and publishers virtually full tilt and it makes for some fascinating exchanges. His style is not exactly good at winning friends and influencing people though. If every agent and publisher were courted in this manner, they'd be hunkering down in fallout proof bomb shelters.

Warning: you might have to spend a little time trying to figure out exactly what is going on at this website, but believe me it is time well spent. Before you try to figure out what is going on, I suggest you click on "United States Literary Agents." Scroll down to where the list starts with the agents for ICM and start enjoying this madness. You can go back later and read the introductory stuff. If you do it the other way, you may not stick with it long enough to get to the best part -- the responses from the agents and publishers. Note: not surprisingly, some of the respondents were none too happy that their comments were published, so beginning with his submissions to movie types, he is not publishing their responses on the website, but is publishing his responses to their responses. A wee bit disappointing, but fun nonetheless.

The author has also written something with the unlikely title of Ophra Wimsfree and the Mayonnaise Man which he is also trying to promote. I've already been to this site several times and can't believe it. I guarantee you're going to love it!!!

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Pity the Bowler

There is one professional athlete we should all feel sorry for. Mama, don't let your babies grow up to be professional bowlers! On the subsistence scale, professional bowlers rank only one little notch up from itinerant blues musicians and things don't exactly seem to be looking up for them. Although I always kind of enjoyed watching bowling on tv, my interest waned when ABC and Chris Schenkel disappeared from the telecasts. When one of the major tournaments was held in my backyard recently, I became interested again and was positively shocked that the bowlers' lot has not improved. These guys can't really even enjoy their sport because week in and week out, they're scuffling for pesos ... and very few pesos at that. They slog around the country in their mobile homes, entering upwards of thirty tournaments a year, and if they're really really lucky, they might crack $100,000 in earnings. Subtract out the cost of about $1,000 a tournament and if you're one of the lucky ones, you could net about $70,000. Of course, you could count on your fingers the bowlers that make over $100,000 a year while there were 217 golfers who passed the $100,000 mark last year. In the history of bowling, there have been very few bowlers who had $200,000 + years, and the most I ever saw one win was Walter Ray Williams who had a $400,000 plus year ($417,450 in 2002-2003). I think this may be the only year of this magnitude any bowler has ever had. If three bowlers crack the $200,000 barrier in any given year, it's nothing short of a miracle. This year alone, there were 141 golfers earning over $500,000, and I've never heard of most of them before.

On the Professional Bowlers Association website, one player I always liked, Buffalo's Tommy Baker was touted as the tour's eighteenth player to win over a million dollars. His earnings on tour totalled $1,268,882 but that was from 1976 to 2004. In fact, he had only one $100,000+ year, and this is from a guy that's in the PBA Hall of Fame! On the other hand, golf's leading moneywinner last year, Vijay Singh, pulled in almost 11 million dollars, far in excess of the PBA's purse total for the entire year.

I think I may have one book about bowling, and even that one was a publisher's proof that I bought for 97 cents. You can't even find a book about bowling in a bookstore. Of course, you could find a few on the internet (my favorite title was Bowl Better Using Self Hypnosis) but every single one of the books is about technique. There doesn't even seem to be a single book about the history of the sport and it's unlikely barring any unexpected resurgence there will ever be any lavishly illustrated history published. So, the next time the PBA tour is in your neck of the woods, adopt a bowler and take him to dinner. I'm sure he won't be expecting anything fancy.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Collyer Brothers

In this age of bloated books, how nice it is to have a book that comes in at a fighting weight, with nary an ounce of fat on its spare frame. It's books like this that diehard book addicts truly live for -- they can literally be consumed in one large bite. In this case though, therein lies a tragedy. Ever since I first discovered the legend of the Collyer Brothers, I hunted for every meager scrap about them that I could find. What minor league hoarder wouldn't be curious about the hall of fame Collyers who hold every record in the rather neglected sport of accumulation.

There is of course a bit of information about the Collyers on the internet, but hardly enough to whet your appetite. As interested as I was, it's hard to believe that it took me this long to get to Franz Lidz' Ghosty Men: The Strange But True Story of the Collyer Brothers, New York's Greatest Hoarders (Bloomsbury, 2003). This pint-sized (5.5 x 7.25 inches) book packs a real wallop but sadly the 161 pages go by all too fast. If time travel were possible and I had a lot of trips, I'd love to have been outside their Harlem brownstone when they began hauling out the 180 tons of "junk" that made them a legend. There were a lot of things in the book that I hadn't known -- that Homer and Langley's dad, Dr. Herman Collyer, a gynecologist at Bellevue, left his family in 1919 when his wife refused his request to make their townhouse into a sanitarium! The good doctor was reputed to be something of a booklover himself, with a medical library of some fifteen thousand books in the house. From little acorns, mighty oaks certainly grow.

Franz Lidz masterfully contrasts the story of the collecting Collyers with the equally heartbreaking story of his Uncle Arthur, first immortalized in Lidz' earlier classic Unstrung Heroes: My Improbable Life With Four Impossible Uncles (surely you remember the film based upon this book).

As always, there are references in the book that require further investigation. Lidz mentions Helen Worden, a reporter on the World-Telegram (one of NY's eight daily newspapers), who first broke the story of the "ghosty men" who lived in the mysterious mansion. There is a reference to Out of This World, a book she wrote in 1953 that chronicled the Collyer Brothers and other lesser New York hermits and recluses. There are ten copies of this book advertised on the internet with prices ranging from a mere $78.67 to $186.84, with five coming in at $159.95 to $160 (curious that tight grouping). The book is subtitled: A Collection of Hermits and Recluses Their Ways of Life and the Stories Behind Their Retreats. Although there are no copies of this book available in nearby libraries, I'm sure I'll stumble across it at some library (even if I have to sit there and read it right then). For now I'll content myself with planning a trip in the spring to Brooklyn's Cypress Hills Cemetery to see if I can find their gravesite.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Snot

I apologize in advance for the messy and rather disturbing nature of today's thought. The other day I spent a pleasant hour with David Feldman's latest Imponderables book, Do Elephants Jump? (Harper Collins, 2004), a book that like all books of this nature is best savored in small very satisfying bites. Anyone who can find fault with a book like this is obviously jealous because this is the kind of idea we all wish we could come up with. Feldman, a pillar of the popular culture world, is now on his tenth book and for latercomers, there is an index to all ten books in the latest volume. After I finished the entry on one of my favorite foods, Why Is Peanut Butter Sticky?, I turned to the index to see if my latest burning question was there, but alas, it is not.

Having made it to mid-February without a cold, I was mistakenly gloating about it to some people at a funeral I attended. As luck would have it, I immediately got a beauty of a head cold for my efforts and an imponderable (albeit a very squeamish one) popped into my head. Where does all that snot come from? And how can your body seemingly manufacture its own body weight in snot on a daily basis? And why can you only manage to eject about 1% of it through your nose, with the other 99% sliding uncomfortably down your throat? I have a feeling I'll be waiting for quite a while before this topic is addressed. In the meantime, you might want to check out David's interesting website which is much more than just a promotion of his books: imponderables.com

P.S. I then made the fatal mistake of looking up "snot" on my favorite search engine http://dogpile.com. I learned that there is a snot.com (don't bother), and even found an excerpt from Snot by Verlie Hutchins (can there actually be a novel about snot?). The best new information came from the website haggis-on-whey.com where the evidently esteemed Dr. Doris Haggis-on-Whey's book is featured. The book is entitled Your Disgusting Head: The Darkest, Most Offensive, and Moist Secrets of Your Ears, Nose, and Mouth (Simon and Schuster, 2004). Seeing as this book, part of the Haggis-on-Whey World of Unbelievable Brillance, is aimed at ages 9-12, I don't think they would be pulling our leg about the origin of snot and rest assured that their explanation makes a lot of sense in a cosmic sort of way. Last but not least, is the very valuable information dispensed at kidshealth.org. Snot, or mucus if you'd prefer, helps keep all those undesirable airborne contaminants out of our lungs, and also helps prevent our stomach acid from eating our stomach. Long live snot!!!

Friday, February 04, 2005

Younger Next Year

Although I don't share Bill Crider's literary ability, we do have one thing in common -- we both look quite a bit younger than we are. In my case, I can attribute this to my mother who had incredible skin and a flawless complexion even when she died at the age of 81. The woman didn't have a wrinkle or a line on her face. She did have heart disease though and had a bypass in her mid-60s. My father also had heart disease, dying at the age of 59. So, in my case, looking younger really doesn't count for too much.

With the family history in mind, I set out to learn as much as I could about heart disease because, quite frankly, I didn't want anyone sawing my chest open. Besides reading virtually every heart-related book that's published, I also read all the appropriate articles in The New England Journal of Medicine and The Journal of the American Medical Association. What I have become is a cardiologist's nightmare, knowing just enough to drive any doctor crazy.

The first time I picked up Younger Next Year: A Guide To Living Like 50 Until You're 80 and Beyond by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge, M.D. (Workman, 2004), I only glanced at the book before deciding that it didn't appear complex enough to justify a further look. The book though has a typical Workman cover which won't win any design awards but achieves its purpose quite well. I soon picked the book up again and took a little closer look at it. Even on a second look, it didn't seem like something I had to read. Soon however I did find myself reading it and I can report that it is quite remarkable and well worth your time. It has in fact made a remarkable life-altering change for me.

The book can pretty much be summed up in three words: exercise, EXERCISE,EXERCISE!! Now if you told me that, I admit I wouldn't be too eager to read it. Crowley and Lodge however have made the most compelling case imaginable for the need to exercise and the proof of their success is in the fact that a drag-your-feet exerciser like I was now finds himself in the gym every day!

The beauty of this book is that it is written by a doctor (Lodge) and his patient (Crowley) and they have beautifully laid out the science and wisdom of exercising to keep yourself young. They alternate their message, Crowley talking like somebody you've known all your life, and Lodge like the doctor who's truly interested in your well being, instead of just shuffling you in and out of his office.

If this book doesn't get you up and exercising, there's no hope for you. I can guarantee you that you'll never need to read another word to motivate you to exercise. There are of course a few other things they discuss but I'll leave them for you to discover by yourself. Although I'll never be able to bring myself to eat a donut (though sometimes I'd like to), I no longer feel the need to be as obsessive about my diet now that I'm exercising. I can eat my dark chocolate knowing that it's good for my heart and my mental well being. I am reminded though of a news story about Jack LaLaane celebrating his 90th birthday. Jack was having a great time at the party but he steadfastly refused to have a piece of his birthday cake. Now that's willpower!

Do yourself a favor and take a look at their website: youngernextyear.com and pick up this book and read it. You won't be disapponted!