September 27, 2011 04:06
Not About Madonna: My Little Pre-Icon Roommate and Other Memoirs by Whit Hill makes good on the title’s promise. The beautifully written memoir made me laugh and cry. It held my interest and made me think twice — or more. And, along the way, Whit presented a more real, likeable and vulnerable aspect of Madonna than we tend to see in media.
Back "in the day" Whit — or Anne, as I knew her — was one of the ‘perfect’ girls in 4th and 5th grade: she was upbeat, mature, resilient (“not in math,” she now claims) while I was the “artist” and jester. Our P.S. 59 class reconnected on Facebook decades later. I had no idea that a wonderful and unique book was going to come of it. Please check it out and let us know your response, on this blog or on our Facebook page for Not About Madonna. I promise it will be time well spent.
July 6, 2010 02:33
A recent edition of The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin published by Vook under ordinary circumstances would not merit a review since publishers have kept the autobiography on the market for well over 200 years. In addition to being the grandfather of the self-help, do-it-yourself industry — so much a part of the American ethos — Franklin was an inventor and printer. How fitting then that Vook, innovators of book production, have made The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin available for purchase online in a new form of enriched ebook.
With this technology readers may access features such as video and animation that help to introduce the classical material. The vook format also allows readers to connect directly through social media with friends or fellow students, all without switching platforms.
Yet, trying to review a vook book makes me decidedly uncomfortable, all too aware of my limited computer skills. I think of myself as a third or fourth grader rather than as a postgraduate student. What I have to fall back on is my subjective response to this new form of reading. Clearly I’m no expert. It’s the first time I’ve read and witnessed a vook. With those caveats, here is my subjective summation.
The supplementary information presented in the videos was illuminating. I enjoyed the live commentary of experts. For example, I learned about Franklin’s relationship with his wife and his flirtations with French women after her death. The flesh-and-blood Benjamin Franklin that emerged complements his portrait on the $100 bill.
I would have appreciated more variety in the prints and paintings selected to enhance the text. The videographers need not have limited themselves to the few existing portraits of Franklin, and might have shown more scenes and artifacts of life in the Philadelphia of his time.
Excitingly, there is room for Vook to grow and innovate further, to creatively extend this new format. I plan to return to the site for additional purchases. My guess is that Franklin would approve of this invention — and be pleased to be part of its timely debut.
June 13, 2010 05:13
The name and reputation of Henry Luce, born 112 years ago, has shrunk from the heyday of his media empire (TIME, LIFE and FORTUNE magazines) in the forties and fifties. Today, the circulation of TIME has declined, and LIFE has ceased publication.
But growing up in Detroit in the forties, before TV and the Internet affected the availability of news stories, I remember depending on TIME and LIFE to tell me what was happening in the big world. For a young college student eager to keep up with the news, Luce’s magazines were required reading, an assignment I looked forward to completing each week. I wasn’t the only one hooked on LIFE. Based on polling data of Americans, George Gallup reported that the biggest break a movie could get was a two-page layout of still photographs in LIFE. Publicity of this kind was more useful than a page-one story in all newspapers published in the United States.
Living in Detroit was like living in a remote province, away from important news being made in Washington and London, far from theater openings on Broadway and new books being published in New York. To me Henry R. Luce was a “macher,” a big shot charting the future goals of America. For example, the “American Century” referenced in the subtitle of Brinkley’s new Luce biography was the title of an essay Luce wrote in the February 7, 1941 issue of LIFE. This messianic view of Americans civilization harkened back to the missionary work of his father, a Presbyterian minister laboring in China, where Luce was born, to spread the word of Christianity. According to son Henry, “It now becomes our time to be the powerhouse from which the ideals spread throughout the world and do their mysterious work of lifting the life of mankind from the level of the beasts to what the Psalmists called a little lower than the angels.”
Henry Luce was also a figure of envy, having married the beautiful, beguiling, Claire Booth, author of the successful Broadway show and movie, THE WOMEN, elected to the U. S. Congress and later appointed ambassador to Italy. Subsequent biographies of Claire Booth Luce show that this second marriage was one of Henry’s ventures that turned sour.
I don’t plan to read Brinkley’s biography any more than I plan to read a biography of other American journalists such as Horace Greeley, Joseph Pulitzer or William Randolph Hearst. The Australian Rupert Murdoch? Well, that sounds like a tempting read.