Monthly Archives: April 2017

Putting one’s life on the line . . . of ruled paper

Look Beyond the Mirror: A Creative and Simple Approach to Discover and Write the Story of Your Life, by Penny Lauer. Privately published via the CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform . 156 pages. Trade paperback $15.00.

The seeds for this highly effective guide to memoir writing, at once practical and motivational, is a course the author gave at the Renaissance Academy (continuing education division) of Florida Gulf Coast University. She approaches the project as first of all an exercise in self-discovery, a process without which the finished product would be of little use to readers – even if they are primarily family and friends. 

Ms. Lauer breaks the seemingly overwhelming task into a series of manageable steps, explaining the necessity of each step and offering, with examples, a preferred way of managing that step. Anticipating the inexperience and insecurity of her reader-students, she reaches out in a sympathetic, supportive voice.

The author provides detailed advice on how to develop a flow of memories unblocked by self-censorship. Memoir writers have to seek the emotional truths in the experiences they recall, then explore and fashion those experiences for their readers. Penny Lauer insists on the necessity of pushing ahead, generating as much material as possible, before grouping the material and editing.

Lauer

The steps in the book organize the novice writer’s working life. Ms. Lauer insists on handwritten manuscripts (pardon the redundancy) on ruled paper in notebooks from which the pages can be removed and rearranged. And she explains how and why this method works. She also explains the need for a protected place for the writing to get done.

I agree that her system can work and produce exceptional results. I also feel that as people mature as writers, they need to explore a variety of processes. Changing your habits is a good way of waking up your perceptions and your writing. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the April 19, 2017 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the April 20 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte, and Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Look Beyond the Mirror

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“The Weapon Wizards” by Yaakov Katz and Amir Bohbot

 The Weapon Wizards: How Israel Became a High-Tech Superpower, by Yaakov Katz and Amir Bohbot. St. Martin’s Press, 304 pages. Hardcover $17.99

 Review by Philip K. Jason  

A dazzling “feel-good” book in the tradition of Start-Up Nation and Let There Be Water, Yaakov Katz and Amir Bohbot’s analysis of Israel’s rise to prominence as major inventor and manufacturer of sophisticated weapons and weapon systems has a dark side. It is one thing to protect your own nation, another to be fully invested exporter in the arms business. Yet the billions of dollars in income from arms deals are a protective shield for this tiny nation, and mass production lowers the costs of the weapons for Israel’s own arsenals.

The authors’ exciting and surprising narrative is loosely chronological, following the path of Israel’s advances in technology while bringing into play the political and military crises that provoked accelerated research, invention, and even improvisation. One constant theme is that Israelis cannot relax: they always need to be pushing to gain the upper hand, creating a safe distance between themselves and those that threaten them.

Katz

From early on the mantra has been that quality would prevail over quantity. The best planning, the best minds, the best manufacturing, the best training, and the highest level of civilian and military cooperation would prevail over greater numbers of weapons and enemy combatants.

Bohbot

The chapters focus on specific weapons, detailing both offensive and defensive technologies: drones, armor, satellites, rockets and missiles, “intelligent machines,” and cyber viruses. However, while the history of Israel’s military ascent is largely technical, the methods of reaching and moving readers are quite varied. . . .

To read the entire Jewish Book Council review, click here:  The Weapon Wizards: JBC

Stay tuned for interview with Yaakov Katz. Coming in early May.

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Applauding the discovered truths of successful people from many walks of life

Show Me, by Randall Kenneth Jones. Smart Business Books. 376 pages. Hardcover $24.95.

This thoroughly entertaining and highly unusual self-help book is not embarrassed to carry the subtitle “Celebrities, Business Tycoons, Rock Stars, Journalists, Humanitarians, Attack Bunnies & More!” That’s truth in packaging from a marketing and public relations guru turned business practices columnist. SW Florida readers will know him from his “Business Class” column in the Naples Daily News and from his local stage appearances. The profiles and life lessons (business and otherwise) in this book grow out of that column – or, more accurately – the relationships built with the people Mr. Jones interviewed.  

Be prepared. A manic joy is in the air.

With so much material from which to choose, Randy Jones has organized his chapters by putting together delightful commentary on people whose natures or accomplishments just seem to make them good company. Some groupings are obvious – sports figures, professional communicators, and entertainers. Others are more intuitive: people with shared or overlapping visions of how to conduct one’s self effectively, honestly, and ethically in a complex world.  The many resting places the plan provides are welcome, as there is abundant wisdom in each vignette that needs to be absorbed.

The author simplifies the task in two ways. He begins each major section with material from his own life, especially the lessons of his early years in the Show-Me State. These memories thrum like a tuning fork, its vibrations setting in motion the mini-profiles of his admired interviewees.

 

Jones

The second way Mr. Jones focuses a theme is by offering quotations from his subjects that underscore that theme. Some are indeed pithy. From columnist Heloise we learn that “Housework is genderless,” a bit of wisdom with powerful social implications. From Hall of Fame quarterback Sonny Jurgensen we learn to “Make sure everyone on your team is given the chance to play to their strengths.” The sports metaphor rings true in life’s many arenas. Carly Fiorina asserts that “one woman can change the world because one woman changes the lives of everyone around her.”

Throughout the book, Randy Jones treats serious issues like a man on a tightrope hovering between extreme delicacy and laugh-out-loud astonishment. He positions himself as a fellow who can’t quite believe he has managed to find himself in the company – and with the friendship – of the many leaders whose contributions to the “can do” part of our culture he celebrates. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the April 12, 2017 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the April 13 Naples, Palm Beach, and Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Show Me

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“The Orphan’s Tale,” by Pam Jenoff

Jenoff

Can you imagine a Holocaust-related story that features circus performers? Can you imagine the Nazi regime, as it spreads across Europe, tolerating these vagabond entertainers? Historical facts support Jenoff’s imaginative story of hidden Jews, vulnerable women, younger and older lovers, twisting loyalties, and valiant spirits in The Orphan’s Tale, a colorful and moving dual narrative.

 

Jenoff tells her tale through two alternating characters whose similarities and differences bring out the best and the worst in each. Noa is a troubled teenager whose pregnancy leads to her parents casting her out. She seeks a means to support herself, and longs for the child she is forced to give up. Noa looks the perfect Aryan, but her baby does not. Her journey leads to the discovery of a boxcar filled with infants. One of the babies seems familiar to her. She takes him in her arms and can’t let go of it. After she discovers that the tiny boy is circumcised, Noa finds a hiding place in a milk delivery truck and takes the baby with her. . . .

To read the entire Jewish Book Council Review, click here: The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff | Jewish Book Council

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Touring with young Elvis: the making of a phenom

Elvis Ignited: The Rise of an Icon in Florida, by Bob Kealing. University Press of Florida.  280 pages. Hardcover $28.00.

Bob Kealing makes the case that the best Elvis is the earliest Elvis and that the managerial strategies of Tom Parker kept a great American original from reaching his full potential. By focusing on the emergence of Elvis during his Florida tours in 1955 and 1956, Mr. Kealing can handle in lavish detail the months of a young, unschooled performer’s leap from total unknown in May of 1955 to – by August of 1956 – a celebrated icon of a burgeoning culture without a name. A hillbilly rocker with a sexy performance style, Elvis had the girls swooning, their parents fuming, and the music industry paying close attention. 

Tom Parker helped shape the Elvis who caught fire, but his dominating and generally conservative decisions about girlfriends, songs, and – only too soon – insipid movie rolls, repressed rather than released Elvis’s unique talents. Parker shielded Elvis from other influences and demanded total loyalty.

Packaged in road tours to Daytona Beach, Tampa, Fort Myers, Ocala, Orlando, Jacksonville, and elsewhere, Elvis and the two musicians who accompanied him nurtured a distinctive sound blending various musical and cultural traditions. They learned by doing. They didn’t begin as headliners, but in a remarkably short time ascended to top billing. They moved from smaller venues to more prestigious ones and attracted both critical and supportive journalists who helped shape expectations.

Bob Kealing has the details. Ransacking print coverage of the young troubadour, interviewing scores of people who met him along the way, following the one-lane paths of those early tours, the author captures the spirit of time and place as a new kind of music made its way up of the charts. Mr. Kealing must have tracked down almost every young woman still alive with whom Elvis flirted in about a year and a half of performances. No longer young, they have great memories to share.

Kealing

 

As have other biographers and music historians, Mr. Kealing pays attention to the nurturing of Elvis by the genial owner of Sun Records in Memphis. When Parker pushed for the big time by switching Elvis over to the giant, less edgy RCA, something was already lost.

West Palm Beach, Sarasota, Pensacola, Miami, Lakeland, (Waycross Georgia), St. Petersburg – and then on to the greater stages of big cities, television, and movies. It’s as if once out of the Florida orbit, Elvis lost his essential self, smothered under packaging that distorted his true nature and gift. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the April 5, 2017 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the April 6 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte, and Palm Beach editons, click here: Florida Weekly – Elvis Ignited

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