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Book Blurbs (Eloquence by Mark Forsyth)

The Elements of Eloquence: Secrets of the Perfect Turn of Phrase, as disclaimed by Forsyth,is not a dictionary of rhetoric, nor was it meant to be” (234). Instead it aims to explain and clarify a number of rhetorical figures at work in the English language, “a clarity and knowledge that has been abandoned for a couple of centuries now” (231).Eloquence

The book is made of a preface; 39 chapters that discuss different rhetorical figures; a peroration; and an epilogue concerning terminology. It reminds readers that eloquence is a quiet undercurrent of language, and that these patterns of use are only part of writing well.

As Forsyth writes, “For though we have nothing to say, we can at least say it well” (232).

 

 

Forsyth, Mark. The Elements of Eloquence. Berkley Publishing Group: New York. 2013

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Book Blurbs (Coffee: Epic of a Commodity by E. H. Jacob)

Coffee: The Epic of a Commodity by E.H. Jacob (1935), translated by Eden and Ceder Paul (1998) is an economic history of a popular product. Jacobs begins with a story about some Arab monks who observed the energized manner of goats, and from these goats discovered coffee and it’s regenerative effects. From this Islamic monastery, Jacobs traces the life of coffee as a commodity until 1931, when trade forces compelled the Brazilian government to burn vast quantities of coffee.

epic of a commodity

epic of a commodity

In the post script, Jacobs writes that, “Much that I had intended to include has slipped through the meshes of my net, because its inclusion would have confused the general impression, and because it was a refractory element. Not every interesting fact can be woven into a comprehensive survey like the present.” (pg 283).

Jacobs, E.H. Coffee: The Epic of a Commodity. 1935. Trans. Eden & Cedar Paul. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2015. Print.

Book Blurbs (Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain)

In the Preface to Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, Anthony Bourdain writes, “What I set out to do was write a book that my fellow cooks and restaurant lifers would find entertaining and true. I wanted it to sound like me talking,” (xv). Throughout, Bourdain maintains this conversational style, and takes the reader on a day trip through his experiences with food, with cooking, drug abuse, and a number of the little things that formed the Chef he grew into. Kitchen Confidential

 

Bourdain, Anthony. Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly. Updated ed. New York, NY: Harper Collins, 2007. Print.

Book Blurbs (The Sex Manual for Puritans by Vernard Eller)

“The Revolution (the Puritan Revolution) is here! It’s happening! And every revolution worth its salt must have a manifesto and a manual. This here is the manifesto, and the pages that follow are the manual. so revolt away!” (page 21, forewarned by Cotten. P. Mathers.)

Book SpineThe Sex Manual for Puritans (1971) is a short book written by Dr. [of Theology] Vernard Eller, complete with three forwards. The book discusses sex and sexuality as a most pleasurable in lifetime commitment (He calls it marriage, but observes that the official license and holy sanction doesn’t guarantee a marriage to be a marriage.).

As Eller writes: “Man’s greatest satisfaction, joy, fulfillment, and usefulness come, not in romping around this world’s playground for a few sort years, but through making the commitments that build him into his proper slot in the universe that is coming to be.” (32)

He goes through his discussion with no small quantity of humor, and finishes with a simple observation:

“To live a lifetime as a sexual being for the sake of a scattering of spasmodic boin-n-ngs hardly seems a climax worthy of the name” (69).

and closes by suggesting his readers go take a nap. A suitable undertaking after a fulfilling read.

(Published through Abingdon Press, New York.)

Book Blurbs (“Are you SURE you want to post that?” by Gail Hand)

“Are you SURE you want to post that?” by Gail Hand was published 2012 and discusses the realities of social networking and creating an online image. A mere 60 pages, it is written in a straightforward style with quips and verbal face-palms at the flubs and fails of creating an online image.

She closes with a simple idea:

The interenet doesn’t give you any do-overs. Life isn’t a dress rehearsal. This is your life, your reputation, your well-being, your safety, your career and your love-life.

–What do you want it to look like in digital form?

–You deserve to have a great online reputation.

Take the time to think before you post, you’ll be glad that you did!

For more from Gail hand check out her website http://www.gailhand.com

Book Blurbs (A Walk Across America by Peter Jenkins)

A Walk Across America (1979) is a memoir and adventure story written by Peter Jenkins (1951 – ) as he walked from Alfred, New York to New Orleans, Lousianna. His walk began October 15, 1973 but his journey started in the years before through his experiences in Woodstock, his work through college, and finally a divorce with his first wife. Then he spoke with Stu Wigent, a security guard and friend at Alfred University, and Stu tells Jenkins something that still resonates fourty years later:

“‘All this commotion that’s happening in the country? Sure, it’s all happening. You think it’s something new?’ He glared at me like a prizefight and shook his head. “No, sir! It’s been going on for thousands of years. Yeah, and a lot worse too. What you need to do, Peter, is stop believing all those slick people on the television and news and stop listening to those crazy people making that stuff they call music!’ He leaned forward and put both elbows on the desk with his hands together. “If all you college kids want to leave this country or burn it down, you better be mighty sure you know what you’re doing.’ His arms swept up and backward. ‘If you want to leave, go right ahead, but first you sure as shootin’ ought to give this country a chance!'” (15-16)

Jenkins was incredulous at first, but eventually he set out on the road and encountered America and her people. Along the way he met city folk and mountain men, experienced racism and country prejudice, church services, revivals, and cult-like farms, but from all these things he found that he lived in a country with a heart to it, and found a faith in God he was searching for. He concludes “In this book I’ve told you about the America I discovered as I traveled from Alfred, New York to New Orleans, Lousiana. There is much more to be told, and much more awaiting Barbara and me as we leave the Rockies and head for the Pacific.” (291)

Jenkins, Peter. A Walk Across America. New York: Harper Collins. 1979. Print.

Book Blurbs (Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck)

Of Mice and Men (1937) is a novella written by John Steinbeck (1902 – 1968) that tells the story of George Milton, an intelligent man with quick wit, and Lennie Small, a big man with a child’s brain. The narrative begins with the unlikely pair approaching a ranch near Soledad, California and follows their trials as George cares for Lennie. Lennie is a lot of work, the big man loves touching soft things and his appreciation of texture and monstrous strength causes him to accidentally kill soft mice and soft puppies. Though Lennie does bad things from time to time, “he never done one of ’em mean” (90). Though the pair must part ways when Lennie pays for his misdeeds, their dream of owning their own land may be comfort to Lennie as he lays in the soft dirt.

Steinbeck, John. Of Mice and Men. New York: Penguin Books. 1978. print.

Book Blurbs (The Insurrection in Dublin by James Stephens)

The Insurrection in Dublin is a non-fiction work written by James Stephens (1880 – 1950) in which he observes the confusion, violence, and aftermath of the Dublin rising between April 24 1916, and May 8 1916.  “What I have written is no more than a statement of what passed in one quarter of our city, and a gathering together of the rumour and tension which for nearly two weeks had to serve Dublin people in lieu of news” (xxvii). The narrative is written in a clear, at times strangely humorous and calm style as Stephens observes the slow destruction of part of his city. He sees families who hadn’t eaten in days, and  confused civilians get shot, and observes the actions of the English military. The reader often forgets that bullets are being fired constantly as Stephens describes the situation so calmly. “The finest part of our city has been blown to smithereens, and burned into ashes” (73) he writes; describing the final outcome of the Rebelion. He then summarizes what occurs to the Volunteers (most were tried and shot), and that “I knew nothing about the rising. I kdo not know anything about it now, and it may be years before exact information on the subject is available” (xxvii).

Stephens, James. 1916. The Insurrection in Dublin. John A. Murphy, Intro. Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe Limited, 1978. print.

Book Blurbs (Books on Fire by Lucien X. Polastron)

Books on Fire: The Destruction of Libraries throughout History (2004) is a historical overview of book burning and books written by Lucien X. Polastron (1944- ). The history begins with explanations of archaeological digsites and texts found that suggests the literary life of the ancient times in places like Alexandria, and Ninevah. The text then follows the development of books from clay tablets, to papyrus and paper and the developments of the printing press all the while maintaining a list of the destruction and censorship occuring in the various regions. Polastron concludes with a section on the modern era and poses a horrifying thought, “Based on how things have passed up to now, I would say the great electronic wave will more likely go toward intellectual simplification–meaning, mainly, the shortening of paragraphs, phrases and words. It will end with summarizing, as Photius did, the books that people do not have the time to read or the means to understand” (287-288).

Book Blurb (Frankenstein by Mary Shelly)

Frankenstein is a Gothic romance written by Mary Shelly (1797 – 1851) and published in 1818. The tale begins with letters from Captain Walton as he journeys Northward to undiscovered lands. There, in the frozen wastelands of the North, Walton encounters Victor Frankenstein and there hears the strange sequence of events that lead the poor Doctor Frankenstein to those remote reaches of the earth. The Doctor’s tale is strange indeed, and explores the limitations of human knowledge while showing, through Frankenstein’s Monster, the way in which evil is created and how knowledge we’re unprepared for can destroy us.

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