Everybody thinks they have a book in them

May 20, 2008

Bobz Book Reviews

It must be part of modern culture that everyone who ever received a B+ or better on a high school essay has a gut feeling that they could write a book someday.

Whether prompted by illusions of penning the great American novel, delusions that a lot of other people will care about your life story or sincere conviction that others will benefit by knowing your take on a topic, the urge to write can be overwhelming.

Also overwhelmed, in turn, are book reviewers.

Write a few reviews and the hopeful of the literary world beat a path to your in box.

That’s okay, though. Keep ’em coming.

As I crack the spines of new deliveries that appear with the request for reviews, a question that regularly comes to mind is this: Who does the person who wrote this think will be interested in this?

That may be a valid question, but others, and a better ones are: Might there be people out there who would get something out of reading this? Are there gems in here that make this worthwhile?
Let me give you a couple of examples.

Ready for your coffee table?

Judy McCabe, who lives in Minnetonka, put together some of her thoughts of home with photos — some good, some just ordinary — to create a well-design, coffee table book titled, um, “Thoughts of Home.”

McCabe, a member of St. Patrick in Edina, has moved around the country, and she wrote, “What I really want to do with the book is open a dialog for people who are relocated or transferred.” Could viewing scene of normal, every-day life around homes of various kinds inspire fond memories and help people appreciate home life?

To be perfectly honest — and I told McCabe this — the book didn’t do anything for me. I did like the book’s design, and I think it works as a coffee table book to browse through. The ordinariness of the home life she describes, though, doesn’t compel me to give a ringing endorsement of “Thoughts of Home,” but McCabe deserves at the very least a pat on the back for not letting her creative urge lie inert.
Find out more about McCabe and her work at http://www.thoughtsofhome-judymccabe.com/.

Life story of interest?

Then there’s Bill Mori. Mori is a member of St. Paul in Ham Lake who pulled together his memories of growing up in Fort Dodge, Iowa, during the 1950s.
“East End Italian” is a series of brief chapters that, for the most part, aren’t unique. Life in Fort Dodge and at Holy Rosary Parish there isn’t much different from life elsewhere in the country that I could see. Yet….

There are slices of small town life that Mori has preserved by being willing to try this authorship thing. My favorite concerns his job at the local mom-and-pop grocers, a holdout to the supermarkets of the day. Customers came in to Brechwald’s with a list of items, and schoolboys like Mori ran through the aisles to “fetch” them, as he writes. Never heard of that before.

Mori’s got some funny, funny anecdotes. There’s a great story about being fascinated with airplanes, writing away to obtain photos from the manufacturers like Lockheed, Boeing and McDonald Douglas, only to have the government agents show up at their door, wanting to question a certain William Mori who was so curious about the latest military aircraft.

If you want to know more, contact the author at bmori@comcast.net.

Spiritual poetry, anyone?

Margaret Peterson has been rhyming for years, and now her poems are collected in her first book, “The Pearl of Great Price: Spiritual Poetry to Life the Soul.”

My guess is that poetry experts might judge her work as syrupy, Pollyannish maybe, and definitely old fashioned, as if that’s a crime. But I liked it. It wore on me.

Yeah, it’s a bit on the sweet side, but I’m going to bet Peterson is sweet, too. This is a lady who has taught 4th grade faith formation at her parish, St. Bonaventure in Bloomington, for more than 20 years, and just loves doing it, we hear.

There is surely simplicity in some of her poems, but others carry wisdom — and do so with great economy. Two samples:

Mirrors
A mirror reflects
Whatever it views
We reflect
The paths we choose.
The Pearl of Great Price
God is the pearl
In the ocean of life;
Will we love Him or cast Him aside…
And spend our lives searching
For something unknown
To ease the longing inside?
Find out more by looking her up at http://www.margaretpetersonpoetry.com.

Courage counts

These are just three examples of local people who have yielded to the urge and tried their hand at the book world. Their work may or may not be your cup of tea or may have value for just a small number of readers.

But if wholesale endorsement of a work isn’t in the cards, anyone with the courage to work hard at getting a book out of their system deserves applause for at least that effort. And who know when the next author of bestsellers might be one of those folks brave enough to put words on paper. — bz

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About Bob Zyskowski

Bob is the Client Products Manager for the Communications Office of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. A 42-year veteran of the Catholic Press, he is the former Associate Publisher of The Catholic Spirit. You can follow him on twitter or email him at zyskowskir@archspm.org.

View all posts by Bob Zyskowski
  • Christina

    What a fascinating look at some of the books locals are penning. I hope you write future posts like this one; it’s fun to get a sampling of what’s out there, with your take on it.