Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

If you are a fan of the Harry Potter series, as I am, you will either have read the book already and be anxious to discuss it, or will not have, and will be plugging your ears and singing "La La La, I can't hear you" at the top of your voice. So, no spoilers.

I find this book to be a satisfactory conclusion to a delightful tale. Ms. Rowling has rounded out the story of Harry, Ron, Hermione, et al, thoroughly and with style. Some joy, some heartache, and no looming question marks to spark ire and outrage in the fan base. Although, considering the size and fervor of the fan base, I'm certain there are ephemeral questions that, like the Crumple-Horned Snorkack, will never quite go away despite their irrelevance.

In the next year or so, I will undoubtedly read the whole series again, so I can appreciate the foreshadowing. Meanwhile, enjoy, enjoy, and hope that Ms. Rowling will eventually feel a desire to pick up where she left off.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Brown's Guide to the Good Life

without tears, fears, or boredom

David Brown, besides being 89, is a successful Hollywood producer and married for 39 years to Helen Gurley Brown, who is far more famous than he, having written Sex and the Single Girl, and was editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine for years. I expected, therefore, a warped POV from a man so nearly connected to Hollywood and to the sexual revolution of the 1960s, and was surprised to discover how often I found his perspective perceptive and valuable. For example, the sexual revolution never made it inside his front door, at his wife's insistence.

Fine, but what about the book? Mr. Brown is a top-notch raconteur, with a delightful writing style, and his book is short, comprised of 27 tiny chapters filled with excellent advice on such topics as money management, gentlemanly manners, success and failure, and avoiding the crazy people. You may find that some of it is a bit frank, as in "Chapter 10: Sex, Love, and Marriage--the Potency Myth," his language is uncensored but only occasionally, and of course you will not agree with all of his opinions. But I found it worthwhile, and since the chapters are stand-alone, you could go straight from "Chapter 9: Hollywood, Under the Tinsel" to "Chapter 11: Stress-Makers" without missing a beat.

So yes, I can recommend this, with the above mentioned caveats on frankness and language. Let me know if you learn something from the genial Mr. Brown.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Dispatches From the Edge

A Memoir of War, Disasters, and Survival

I have always thought of Anderson Cooper as a thoughtful-looking self-contained news guy, and expected this book to be a fair amount of self-promotional blather interspersed with a few biographical details. Instead, I found that Anderson Cooper, in addition to being a t-l s-c news guy, writes like one. This memoir is thoughtful, self-contained, filled with news-that-was, and surprisingly well written. (My expectations are seldom high.)

The wars are comprehensive--Bosnia, Somalia, Niger, Iraq. The disasters are earth-shattering news--Sri Lanka after the tsunami, Rwanda at the beginning of the starvation, Hurricane Katrina--and life-shattering personal tragedies--the death of his father when he was ten, and the harrowing suicide of his only brother while he was at college. The survival is his own, both personally and professionally.

Stories of his childhood and personal life are interspersed with behind-the-scenes reviews of the headline news he covered, from his first post-college foray into Thailand as a freelancer to his four-week CNN coverage of Hurricane Katrina damage from Baton Rouge to New Orleans. Cooper's knack of stringing these seemingly-disparate stories into a cohesive whole is a testament to his intelligence and skill. Add to that his ability to completely sidestep any personal life he might have had since 1991, and his skills ratchet up even higher. (You think I exaggerate? Careful reading reveals the existence of a dog, friends, and a phone call to his mother.)

So, if you think you could like this, read it. You will.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Her Royal Spyness

Rhys Bowen, who has already achieved a certain notoriety because of Evan Evans, a Welsh policeman, and Molly Murphy, an Irish immigrant, launches a new series and a new heroine with Her Royal Spyness. The lady in question is a lady indeed--Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie, thirty-fourth in line for the British throne. Georgie, as she is called by her intimates, has a position to uphold, but no income upon which to uphold it. Her family offers the unappetizing options of unpaid governess for her step-nephew, or marriage to an unattractive sprig of European royalty, so Georgie bolts to London to find her fortune. And does she? She finds old friends (Beatrice, Whiffy, and Tristram) and relations (her mum and her granddad), attractive new acquaintances--and a body in a bathtub. Oh, and a special assignment from Her Majesty...

This new series has a certain cachet--a whiff of England-between-the-Wars that has a peculiar charm--and Georgie is a delightful new character. I would rate this book PG for a irritating fixation on virginity, or lack thereof, but can still recommend for an afternoon's entertainment.