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Randy Keehn (Williston, ND United States)
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Outside Books Points Unknown
Outside Books Points Unknown
by David Roberts
Edition: Hardcover
30 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars an interesting collection, March 15 2003
This book is an interesting concept; a collection of excerpts from explorer's accounts of their journeys. The categories of adventure that fit within these 607 pages are almost as numerous as the 43 different excerpts. Mountain climbing seems to be the most prevelent form of exploring but there is also (Ant)Arctic treks, desert journeys, jungle adventures, white water canoeing, solo sea voyages, wilderness explorations, hunting, aviation, cave exploration, surviving a plain crash in the mountains, etc.. The editors confined their anthology to 20th Century accounts and quality of writing was an obvious consideration in their choices. They also did a good job of excerpting some very exciting moments in the chronicles of man versus nature. This is a good introduction of some great accounts of true adventure. Many a reader will want to go out and read some of the books these excerpts come from.
I felt this book was more a 4.5 than a 4 but I didn't want to give it too high of a rating. I felt the shortcoming was that there was a fair amount of technical jargon to weed through(especially in the area of mountain-climbimg). The editors did do a decent job of footnoting the more technical items but I would have preferred less mountain-climbing and more "in search of lost civilizations". However, that is MY preference and I could easily be in the minority. I was a little surprized at the quality of the hardbound edition. The paper used was the same as that used in magazines which gave it a somewhat "cheap" appearance. There is nothing "cheap", however, in its' content. Whether you read it cover to cover or savor each adventure in its' own time, you will find a lot of excitement and enjoyment in this book.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding [Import]
My Big Fat Greek Wedding [Import]
VHS
7 used & new from CDN$ 1.00

3.0 out of 5 stars Over-rated, March 9 2003
Sometimes too much hype ruins an otherwise decent movie. That's what happened for me with "My Big Fat Greek Wedding". I was a little suspicious when I found so many available copies on the video rental store shelves late on a Saturday night. There are good moments in this movie but it comes across as a good nightclub routine dragged into a two-hour movie. I believe it would have worked better if the movie were about the father with the daughter's wedding as a segment of the story. I would recommend that you rent, not buy, this video. I'm sure you will enjoy it but I'm not sure you will want to see it a second time.

Elmer Gantry
Elmer Gantry
by Sinclair Lewis
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
37 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars a brilliant, though one-sided, view, March 1 2003
"Elmer Gantry" is certainly one of Sinclair Lewis's best works (although I found it a notch below "Main Street"). In it he examines the rise of a young man in the world of religion. We are introduced to him as an easy-going, not too deep, likeable (but not loveable) guy. He has an incidental opportunity to give testimony at a classmate's street preaching. He loves the thrill of speaking in front of an audience and his appetite is whet. We follow the lives of two men actually, the other being another classmate named Frank Shallard. Elmer Gantry is a man who uses religion to advance his career. He focusses on sin because it is what he knows best. Frank Shallard is a deeper thinker who struggles to reconcile his doubts with his faith. The author uses the compaison of these two ministers to great effect.
We eaily come to view Elmer Gantry as a hypocrite because he practices what he preaches against. Conversely, he preaches love but (except for a brief, real love affair) he seems only to love himself. He is able to shed most of his sins but he still readily gives in to lust and avarice. The reader sees all of his successes in his ministry as calculated moves designed to help his own self-promotion. If, on the way up, it is necessary to knock others down, then so be it.
Frank Shallard rises to no great heights but he is fairly well situated with a well-to-do congregation and could easily coast on his moderate skills as a minister. His search for the truth, however, leads him to reject most, if not all, of his faith. As we are witnessing the escallation of Rev. Gantry's career, we catch, out of the corner of our eye, the decline of Rev. Shallard's career. The author's implication seems to be that sincere soul-searching has no place in the world of big-time religion.
Certainly there is ample opportunity for the reader to reflect on numerous similarities in today's society. However, despite the author's repeated examination of the Christian faith, he misses many a point. First of all, he, as do many people today, overlook the fact that Chritians acknowledge their sinfullness not as something that is discarded with a loud AMEN! but as something that is confronted on a daily basis. When a Christian falls, he/she gets up and resumes the struggle. Rev. Gantry is rather singular in his calculated and unreppentant sinful nature. His only remorse is in getting caught. Rev. Shallard seemed to miss this point as well. Secondly, the parishioners of Rev. Gantry are portrayed either as self-centered businessmen or not portrayed at all. They seem an amorphous mass blindly following while shouting "Hallelujah!" While many people attend church for lesser reasons, presumeably many others are made better having heard the proper Christian message.
Sinclair Lewis has written an excellent novel that rightfully examines how even the unsacred can succeed in the most sacred of professions. Those who scoff at Chritianity will love this book. However, the examination of these two men and the many theological discussions in the book will give everyone something to enjoy.

Go West
Go West
VHS
2 used & new from CDN$ 3.36

2.0 out of 5 stars a disappoinment, Feb. 25 2003
This review is from: Go West (VHS Tape)
I write this review with a sense of guilt. The Marx Brothers have, over the years, provided the world with some of the best cinematic comedy moments ever. To me there is no question that they are the greatest comic group of all time. I read much about their career and I noticed that their later movies were made, according to Groucho, to help pay off Chico's gambling debts. I had, on tape, a couple of their older movies that I was saving for a rainy day. Well, when it rains it pours and my day was ruined watching the brothers stumble and fall trying to save this hopeless picture. The comedy routines are drawn out too long and the timing seems to be off. However, the main problem is that the writing is bad. There is only so much that even the best can do with jokes that aren't funny. There is a routine with some Indians that bombed particularly bad. The story line itself (never a major part of any Marx Brothers movie) makes no sense. The movie ends in a race between a train and the bad guys in a carriage. I could never tell why there was a race on in the first place. I was in the right frame of mind to laugh but I never got anything to laugh at. If you must watch one of their final movies, save your money and get "At the Circus".

Great Escape
Great Escape
VHS
4 used & new from CDN$ 13.91

5.0 out of 5 stars The Great Escapade, Feb. 25 2003
This review is from: Great Escape (VHS Tape)
This blockbuster has retained it status as one of the great war movies of all times despite the passage of 40 years or so. There are a number of reasons for this. Let's start with the acting. Steve McQueen was just emerging as a star and this vehicle helped jump-start him even further. The essence of McQueen is "cool" and he is all of that in "The Great Escape". He seems quite capable of handling everything that comes his way and wait til he gets on a motorcycle! James Garner is excellent as the scavenging expert who comes up with all the impossible ingredients to pull the escape off. Richard Attenborough excels as the brains of the operation. He was relatively unknown at the time and has picked his movies carefully ever since. Charles Bronson and James Coburn give their characters a quiet strength that captivates most viewers. The supporting cast all do their jobs well.
The story is a compelling one of courage in the face of overwelming odds. It helps the viewer that he/she is advised from the beginning that this story actually happened. I know that it worked for me. Although I was still in elementary school, I went out and bought (and read) the book the movie is based on. The movie pays respect to the accomplishments of these men by taking care to show the complexities of the planning and execution of their escape. Even so, the movie moves along at a quick pace. The suspense of the actual escape is properly drawn out without over-doing it. The suspense continues with the breakout as we follow the various characters in their attempts to reach freedom. There actually is a success story or two but the movie ends with the realization that something tragic has happened. Thus we are left with an even greater appreciation of what these men did.
The other apects of the movie; music, costumes, sets, and scenery, are all excellently done as it the screenplay adapted from the book (of the same name) by Paul Brickhill. I recall one of the screenwriters was the famed James Clavell.
In "The Great Escape", Hollywood found an excellent vehicle for a dramatic action-packed blockbuster. To his credit, the director (Sturgis) has put together an unforgettable movie that entertains while honoring the deeds and sacrifices of the men whose lives (and deaths) the movie portrays.

A Moment of War: A Memoir of the Spanish Civil War
A Moment of War: A Memoir of the Spanish Civil War
by Laurie Lee
Edition: Paperback
16 used & new from CDN$ 12.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A Moment of Luck, Feb. 23 2003
I do not know much else about the author, Larie Lee, but in "A Moment of War" he certainly led a charmed life. Those who have studied the Spanish Civil War know that the level of hatred, distrust, brutality, and revenge was excessive in this conflict. Indeed, they mirrored that of Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia which, not coincidently, exemplify the two main factions in this civil war.
Right from the beginning the author steps into the middle of this tension. He is held in suspicion by the very side he has come to fight for. The "in and out of favor" status that he holds gives this book an even greater flavor of the conflict he writes of.
The book is brief, in part because the authors's tenure in Spain was brief. However, through his experiences and observations, we are able to understand much about this microcism of Twentieth Century European politics. It is a memoir written with a poetic style which allows the author to say so much in so few pages. As an account of the Spanish Civil War, it ranks up there with Orwell's "Homage to Catalonia".

Penguin Lives Crazy Horse
Penguin Lives Crazy Horse
by Larry Mcmurtry
Edition: Hardcover
30 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars brief encounter, Feb. 12 2003
I have not previously read a Penguin Lives book so I don't have a point of reference on how much to expect from one of these biographies. I have noted that none of the volumes seem to be any thicker than McMurtry's "Crazy Horse". I will assume that the purpose of this series is that the reader gets a brief overview of the highlights in the lives of an important historical person. That sounds like a nice idea but the question I have regarding "Crazy Horse" is this; Does it half to be THIS brief?
I was inclined to accept McMurtry's observation that little factual information exists on Crazy Horse. In fact, I think he's soured me somewhat on reading Mari Sandoz's much lengthier biography. However, this book goes in some strange directions dealing with this paucity of information. For example, in trying to describe the great gathering of Indians at the Ft. Laramie Council of 1851, McMurtry inexplicably quotes Wilfred Thesiger's account of an Ethiopian gathering of African tribesmen. Shortly thereafter, he describes the tribal warfare of the Sioux by quoting Peter Matthiessen's description of tribal warfare in New Guinea in the early 1960's. Well, the primary resources on Native Americans may be limited but not so much that we must wander to other continents for our facts. (On second thought, maybe I WILL read Sandoz's book). McMurtry suggests at one point that it would be "hubris" to think that we can read Crazy Horse's mind. He momentarily passes on speculation of Crazy Horse's thoughts and motives and then spends much of the remainder of the book doing just that. So much of these 141 pages are devoted to events that happened during the time of Crazy Horse that little space is left to the man himself. As a biography of facts this work seems more along the lines of Charlie Browns Christmas vacation book report.
However, Larry McMurtry's talent is spinning a tale rather than reporting the facts. This is the saving grace of "Crazy Horse". It reads like a well-written short novel and will leave the reader exasperated but sensing nonetheless that he has just read a good story.

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter
The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter
by Carson McCullers
Edition: Paperback
44 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Maybe it's not a wonderful life, Feb. 11 2003
Imagine George Bailey plunging to his death as "It's a Wonderful Life" comes to a premature end. In a sense, that's what we see in this compelling novel by Carson McCullers. We see what one man means to others but he is never given his Clarence to find that out himself.
It's hard to say just who is the main character in this book but I go with the idea that it is John Singer, a deaf mute who becomes the conscience of the community's troubled souls. There are certainly other characters who take their repeated turns on the main stage. There is an alcoholic labor agitator who can't seem to understand that complex new ideas are best delivered in simple, small doses. There is a black doctor who has risen to to a height of respectability due his profession that is denied him due to his color. There is the owner of a diner who is an observer of his community but apparently not a participant. There is a young girl who becomes a woman way too soon. All these people gravitate to Mr. Singer who can't speak but does a great job of listening (he is able to read lips). While they unload their cares, they assume that their listener has no cares of his own. The reader gradually realizes otherwise although Mr. Singer's solution to his own problems still comes as a shock. In the end, the others move on and we are left with a glimpse of into life in a rural town in the Deep South circa 1939 (quite similar to "To Kill a Mockingbird").
There are ample coices of themes in this book. What I took away with me was the interdependence people have on each other. Certainly there was plenty of discord shown on these pages. However, each character needed to have someone to talk to in order to deal with their inner turmoils. Mr. Singer was the ideal listener and people kept coming back to him because of this tonic that he offered. In contrast, Singer had no one to talk to about his turmoils. He did originally but that contact was withdrawn from him and ultimately lost to him altogether. I'm sure others who read this book found other insights. This is a very readable novel with something for everyone. Read it and discover your own messages.

Fateless
Fateless
by Imre Kertesz
Edition: Paperback
31 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Huck Finn in Buchenwald, Jan. 22 2003
This review is from: Fateless (Paperback)
I like to use the Nobel Prize for Laterature as a means of discovering new authors. I have had a number of disappointments (Claude Simon and Nadine Gordimer come quickly to mind). I have also had a number of welcome surprizes (Isaac B. Singer, Franz Sillanpaa, and Grazia DeLadda are a few). I checked out Irme Kertesz as soon as I heard of his award last October. I understand that "Fateless" is his best work and it is indeed a good one. It is a Holocaust tale as told through the eyes of a 14 year old boy. Given the author's similar experiences at that age, this would seem to be an autobiographical novel.
This book works well because of the very detached way that all of this shocking story is presented. We get a helpful preview of this detachment as the story teller relates about events and conversations involving his mother and father (who are divorced). His father is going to be "sent away" by the authorities and there is what the boy perceives to be a going away party. His total lack of concern regarding the possible fate awaiting his father and his apparent indifference to whether he is to live with mother or step-mother sets that tone for his discriptions of increasingly macabre scenes. His focus tends to avoid the brutal and center on the entertaining. We, of course, see what he seems to miss but he presents things we would never conceive of. His non-judgemental approach contrasts with our very judgemental perspective challenging us to try and understand his point of view. The author is not attempting to be funny but some may read this book with a sense that it is all in very bad taste. This would be a mistake. This is a story of survival by adaptation. We know the scope of the tragedy but have not lived it. The narrator knows how to live it without understanding the scope of the tragedy. When it is all over, he knows something bad has happened but he prefers to go on surviving.
I have found that the best Holocaust literature is that which leaves us confused; there are no simple explanations to what has happened. This book is a unique approach that leaves us wondering what has happened.

The Night in Lisbon: A Novel
The Night in Lisbon: A Novel
by Erich Maria Remarque
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 18.00
27 used & new from CDN$ 9.83

4.0 out of 5 stars a cross between "Casablanca", "Lord Jim" & "The Death Ship", Jan. 9 2003
This is a very good book by a very good author. It contains elements of suspense, mystery, intrigue, and romance. It is one of the best novels I've read about the plight of regugees at the outbreak of WWII (with similarities with the first part of Traven's "The Death Ship"). It is the tale told by one refugee to another over the course of a night in Lisbon (hence the title). The narrator is the listener and the story he is told builds into a very good romance that reminded me a lot of the movie "Casablanca". While an endless and exciting series of arrests, escapes and near-misses is going on, we discover a special kind of love between a man who returns to his wife after a number of years of exile. In the topsy-turvy world of Europe at the outbreak of WWII, the standards for conventional romance and fidelity are lost in the need for something more flexible. The reader may question many aspects of the love that is expressed in these pages but not the love itself. I was impressed as I have been with other books by this author. Remarque portrays the chaos of life during WWI as well as Heinrich Boll portrays it in post-war Germany. This is a novel with terrific insight to the times in which it takes place and the capacity for love to prevail against overwelming odds. I'd rate it a 4.5.

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