Tuesday, September 22, 2015

My Review of "So, Anyway ..."

John Cleese's So Anyway ... is meant to be a memoir of Cleese's life.  But there's only one problem.  The 375 pages barely make it past Cleese's time as a student at Cambridge.  There's no Monty Python.  No Fish Called Wanda.  None of his later comic genius.  No, So Anyway ... is a brief look at Cleese's life, served up short.  While that might not be a problem for most entertainers' memoirs -- it's not unheard of to have several installments for a full story -- we have no hint of that here.  Instead, So Anyway ... claims to be something it isn't.  It claims to be the story of Cleese's life, when in reality it's the story of part of Cleese's life.

I was particularly saddened to find that Fawlty Towers -- perhaps the second-greatest Britcom ever produced -- fails to make an appearance.  Though we do find hints of that time in pictures. 

But nothing about his four wives.  Nothing about Fawlty Towers.  Nothing about Monty Python.

Only his mother, Muriel Cleese, makes an appearance -- and then she reads more like Kathy Bates' character from Misery than a genuine maternal figure in someone's life.

What's more, while Cleese is one of the 20th century's comedic geniuses, there's almost no humor here.  Cleese himself comes across as an ornery old man who never made it in showbusiness, rather than one of the great minds behind Monty Python and the Holy Grail or Life of Brian.

This book, sadly, left me wanting so much more.  I hardly doubt I'll bother keeping it to read again.  It was too great a disappointment the first time around.

I received a free copy of this book as part of the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review here.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

My Review of "Through a Man's Eyes"

Shaunti Feldhahn's Through a Man's Eyes:  Helping Women Understand the Visual Nature of Men builds on her earlier work in For Women Only:  What You Need to Know about the Inner Lives of Men.  It highlights the ways in which women might understand the simple (but complicated) truth that men and women are different -- particularly, in this case, in how they understand and process visual stimuli.  Along with her coauthor, Craig Gross, they illuminate a significant difference between men and women:  The visual nature of many men.

While the idea of that visual nature in men is contestable in certain circles, Through a Man's Eyes is a book not designed to give women ammunition against the men in their lives.  Instead, it is designed so women can understand and help equip themselves (and their men) for the sometimes overwhelming battle of living in a visually saturated age.

The most glaring weakness of the book is its failure to focus on the scientific research that exists in support of their central thesis.  While the authors cite "studies", there's no engagement (or even significant reference) to what those studies actually say.  The book as a whole has only a scant 28 footnotes.  More attention should have been paid to those facts; they would go a long way in helping women "understand" what that visual nature of men is and why it is.

That's not to undermine the gentle way in which Through a Man's Eyes is written with genuine compassion and understanding.  Men won't find an excuse for their sinful behavior here.  Nor will women find themselves scapegoated.  Their approach and suggestions for women are not only reasonable, but actually responsible and real.

Because they keep women coming back to a central question:  "Am I focusing on what God would have me do?"

It's easy to take a quick way out by providing a list of rules -- simple "dos" and "donts".  Through a Man's Eyes refuses to take that way, and instead engages in genuine spiritual discernment.  And just the FAQ at the end of the book is worth the price of the book.

This is a great book that Christian women will find a resource again and again.

I received a free copy of this book as part of the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review here.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

My Review of "Out on the Wire"

Jessica Abel's Out on the Wire is an amazing graphic novel that explore the nature of radio -- particularly of the storytelling art of the "New Masters of Radio".  Focusing on such radio shows as "This American Life" (one of my personal favorites), "Radiolab", and "Snap Judgment", Abel goes behind the mike and offers reflections on how these "new masters" employ an old medium to accomplish new feats of storytelling.

Out on the Wire is a terrific read for guys like me -- amateur storytellers who would love to explore the craft through our own podcasts.

Abel, well-known for her comic textbooks and graphic novels, brings an edge to this old medium and how we understand it.  She brings together metaphorical storylines with real-life events, and offers us some lessons on important topics:  Character and Voice, Storyline and Editing among them. 

This is nothing short of a genuine homage to radio, and in another old medium like comic, there's an air of lovingkindness that brngs the best to both media.

I received a free copy of this book as part of the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review here.