Dayton Daily News from Dayton, Ohio on April 3, 2005 · 73
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Dayton Daily News from Dayton, Ohio · 73

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Sunday, April 3, 2005
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-DAYTON DAILY NEWS I F7 READING Briefly Hamilton gets turn in spotlight Vick Mickunas BOOK NOOK nr uju SUNDAY, APRIL 3, 2005 1 r Jr""'' ( r ' Tf, Ami i J ... 3) JW When we studied the American Revolution we learned about the founders of our nation: George Wash ington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. The historian David McCullough drew our attention to the fact that there are others who played significant roles in the creation of these United States. His recent biography of John Adams revived the reputation of one more of our "founding fathers." There are others. Ron Chernow thinks that Alexander Hamilton got a bad rap. When that list of American heroes was being recited in classrooms across America, Hamilton's name was usually omitted. Chernow's biography Alexander Hamilton (Penguin) goes a long way toward restoring this patriot's tarnished reputation. Now available in paperback, we have the result of five years of writing and research, a history of the friendships and feuds that defined the short life of this extremely effective, but deeply misunderstood, man. We have a tendency to look back at that period of our history as a kind of golden era. It wasn't. There have always been political battles and squabbles, even then. Chernow explains: "There was certainly much greater depth in political discourse. It was no less nasty, or personal, or brutal, than it is today." Hamilton got involved in a sex scandal that seems starkly modern. Chernow drew this comparison: "Hamilton and Clinton were very charismatic and talented politicians, both aJ with a touch pf narcissism. They -achieved a level of success that ' made them feel invincible. Both enjoyed courting danger and would have been intensely aware of the consequences of exposure." Chernow says that "to follow Hamilton's life is to follow 30 years of American political history where all the fundamental ideas and institutions are being forged. With amazing consistency, he is right smack in the middle of everything. "Hamilton, and hence, his biographer has the good fortune of always being there when all those formative moments in American history are occurring. . Between the time of the Boston Tea Party and Jefferson's second inaugural, there's very little that happens in American political life where Hamilton isn't involved in some central way." So what happened? Why did this key figure in our national story languish at the fringe of recognition? For one thing, Hamilton made powerful enemies. Four future presidents, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe disliked him. Fortunately for Hamilton, he had a mostly wonderful relationship with George Washington. During the Revolution he was a key aide to the general. As Washington's secretary of the treasury, Hamilton "most importantly, took a country that was bankrupted by Revolutionary War debt and restored American credit." Alexander Hamilton has garnered Chernow a nomination for the National Book Critic's Circle Award. Hamilton's reputation seems to be rising while Thomas Jefferson's is in decline. Chernow sees an irony there: "Hamilton and Jefferson are always on opposite sides of this political seesaw. Whenever one reputation goes down the other seems to rise." Jefferson didn't appreciate this consumate technocrat; "Hamilton seems the more prophetic figure. He had won the intellectual argument but had lost the reputational argument to Jefferson." Hamilton was killed in a duel with Aaron Burr. Chernow visits Books and Co, in Kettering at 7 p.m. Monday. Contact book reviewer Vlck Mlckunas t vlckjvlckmlckunas.com. Phyllis Diller put the scare into comedic career, By Jeff Daniel St. Louis Post-Dispatch You want irony? Give this a whirl: In her new autobiography, Phyllis Diller refuses to put on a false face. No cosmetic nips and tucks. No prettying things up. Simply take a peek at the book's brief forward: "It is not my intention to offend anyone, yet in the interest of truth I do, at times, overstep the bounds of good taste. For this I apologize, but if you smell, you smell. ... Every person in this book, no matter how harshly treated, comes under my overall umbrella of love. Read it at your own risk." If candor is indeed refreshing, then Diller is a heaping helping of invigorating oxygen. Or, as the Lima native puts it: "You know, that's the way I am and always have been. I'm honest." "Come on, when people do their autobiography they always write and rewrite it they clean it up," she says. "I just didn't think that would be a very good idea." You can say that again. Like a Lampshade in a Whorehouse: My Life in Comedy comes out swinging from the start. Before the reader has a chance to even settle in, Diller details a near-rape, a traumatically dismal nightclub performance and a tale of how her parents, who never really wanted to become parents in the first place, received the false diagnosis that little Phyllis was "a tumor." Chapter titles include "The Funeral of the Month Club," "Stepping in Manure," "The Bottom of the Barrel" and "Like an Execution Without a Blindfold." 1 ; "Everybody has problems," Diller adds,' "But boy, I had 'em all." , LilA'5 , , biiuips'lKsac Vbltt4'ou?e ; t MmhU j No yeas for latest 'Ya-Ya' installment There's a whole lot of nothing going on in this sequel By Rheta Grimsley Johnson ' . Cox News Soviet Readers care deeply about Vivi Abbott Walker and her lifelong buddies, the Ya-Yas. Oh, we care. If we didn't, no reader in her right mind would finish this disjointed, uneven outtake of a new novel that shamelessly exploits Ya-Ya enthusiasts everywhere. Every single soul who has read the first two perfectly delightful Ya-Ya books, Little Altars Everywhere and Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, will plunk down the money for the newest installment, Ya-Yas in Bloom. Such is the power of Rebecca Wells' fiction, which makes this new book, well, an abuse of power. This is a sweep-the-kitchen approach to storytelling in a book that will not stand alone. Imagine if Margaret Mitchell had lived to write a prequel that gave details about Frank Kennedy's poverty-stricken boyhood, Ashley Wilkes' aborted attempt to enter the priesthood and Scarlett's Savannah hairdresser. The publisher would tell Mitchell BEST SELLERS fiction L THE RISING by Tim UHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, $25.99 1 HONEYMOON by Jamet Patterson, $27.95 S. THE DA VINCI CODE by Dan Brown, $24.95 4. THE BROKER by John Orlsham, $27.95 5. IMPOSSIBLE by Danielle Steel. $27.95 8. WITH NO ONE AS WITNESS by Elizabeth George, $26.95 7. COLO SERVICE by Robert B. Parker, $24.95 8. THE riVE PEOPLE VOU MEET IN HEAVEN by Mitch Albom, $19.95 B VANISHING ACTS by Jodl Plcoult, $25 10. PREP by Curtis Slttenfeld. $21.95 NONFWTION 1. A DEADLY SAME by Catherine Crier with Cole Thompson, $27.95 X BLINK by Malcolm Gladwell, $25.95 I. BLOOO BROTHER by Anne Bird, $25.95 4 CONSPIRACY OP POOLS by Kurt Eichenwald, $26 B, PLAN B by Anne Lamott $24.95 6. JUICED by Jose Canseco, $25.95 7. AMERICA (THE BOOK) by Jon Stewart Ben Karlln, $24.95 S. MEN IN BLACK by Mark R. Levin. $27.95 B. COLLAPSE by Jared Diamond, $29.95 10. ON BULL by Harry a Frankfurt $9.95 Nkw Yokk Tina -3 J Even at age 87, she maintains that explosive cackle of a laugh, the first example of which she unleashes as an exclamation mark to the above sentence. But back to those problems. Diller's parents were exceptionally unemotional "A family of handshakers ... there was no clutching or kissing," while her first husband, Sherwood, was what the comedian describes as an emotional wreck. Although the couple was married for more than two decades and had five children together, Diller pegs Sherwood as equal parts depressed, delusional, LIKE A LAMPSHADE IN A WHOREHOUSE: MY LIFE IN COMEDY By Phyllis Diller with Richard Buskin, TarcherPenguin, 288 pages $24.95 IEY1EW:I multiphobic and downright dysfunctional. (Diller points out that, contrary to popular lore, the husband mentioned in her comedy routines, Fang, was a fictional composite and not a nickname for Sherwood.) "When I lived with Sherwood Diller, I had no idea he was nuts," she recalls. "But he was a completely hopeless person. I never did understand his behavior. It never made any sense. Ever." Until recently, that is. Diller says she now looks back at her first marriage and fully comprehends what she went through. (Such as: The Dillers' move into a Webster Groves, Mo., house in 1962 coincided with Sherwood's decision to stop bathing.) Then there was husband No. 2, Warde Donovan Tatum, a tall and handsome actor who loved Diller but, unfortunately, also loved that the reading public is so hungry for more of Scarlett's saga that it will buy whatever she types. That's how Ya-Yas in Bloom reads, as if somebody greedy is pushing a fine word-smith for a fans' quick fix. Flashbacks, plot twists that lead nowhere and the fleshing out of peripheral characters are the hallmark of this latest book. Maybe it's not a total loss. We learn, for instance, a whole lot more about Sidda's little brother, Baylor, pretty much neglected in the other two books: "Baylor whistled almost all the time, except when he was eating. ... The afternoon Vivi found out Big Shep went to New Orleans with Sue Ann Morelli, Baylor whistled so loud his face turned blue, and Sidda went over and started to rub his forehead. Vivi threatened to burn the cotton fields that afternoon." And the writing, taken a sentence at a time, is as good as even "Most of all, I remember the Ya-Yas singing. ... They did not sing traditional lullabies. They preferred adapting their favorite songs and singing them in a combination between torch and choir. I'm sure that the rest of the Petites Ya-Ya, like PAPERBACK BEST SELLERS 11. j: ,!: (.L.7 FICTION L THE CALHOUNSi SUZANNA AND MEGAN by Nora Roberts, $7.99 X MURDER LIST by Julie Garwood, $7.99 S. BLOWOUT by Catherine Coulter, $7.99 4. THE KfTE RUNNER by Khaled Hosselnl, $14 S DIVINE EVIL by Nora Roberts, $7.99 8. THE LAST JUROR by John Orlsham, $7.99 7. THE narrows by Michael Connelly, $7.99 5. DEEP FREEZE by Ilia Jackson. $7.99 8. CHILD OF DARKNESS by V.C. Andrews, $7.99 10. THE BOURNE LEGACY by Eric Van Lustbader, $7.99 NONFICTION L THE TIPPING POINT by Malcolm Qladwell, $14.95 1. READING LOUTA IN TEHRAN by Azar Naflsl, $13.95 1 THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY by Erik Larson. $14.95 4 THE FABRIC OF THE COSMOS by Brian Oreene. $15.95 B. GUN, GERMS. AND STEEL by Jared Diamond, $16.95 4 A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING by Bill Bryson. $15.95 7. TUESDAYS WITH MORRIC by Mitch Albom, $11.95 4 LEAP OF FAITH by Queen Noor, $13.95 a. running WITH SCISSORS by Augesten Burroughs, $14 14 DREAMS FROM MY FATHER by Barack Obama. $13.95 Atnr Yim TImtj and came out laughing booze and those of the same sex. As for her children, Diller missed many of their childhood moments because of her career, but she also had to contend with mental and emotional problems that plagued a son and a daughter. But if it appears that this autobiography is beginning to resemble the unrelenting downer of, say, Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, then put that thought on hold. After reading a motivational book titled The Magic of Believing, Diller, a housewife in her mid-30s at the time, suddenly transformed into a walking, talking and did we mention funny? archetype of the power of positive thinking. "I just got busy, just started taking over and handling everything," she says. Above all, that meant trading in her old self-consciousness for a new self-confidence. Diller worked her way into the San Francisco night-life scene in the mid-1950s, steadily establishing herself as a female stand-up in comedy's old-boys' club. Some of those in the testosterone network resented the intrusion, but a few key players saw the young comedian's potential. They just happened to be named Jack Paar and Bob Hope. By the early '60s, Diller was making comedy and social history as a nationally known jokester, her routine filled with self-deprecating and insightful takes on marriage, domesticity and appearance. Familiar now was the trademark fright wig and boldly patterned wardrobe. The plastic surgery, 15 operations in all, would soon follow. Her book is already on its way to movie form (with Patricia Clarkson as the lead). "It's fireworks, I tell you," she says excitedly in that familiar voice, the one that brings back images of feather boas, paisley mini-dresses, knobby knees and that ridiculously long cigarette holder. "Everything's bursting in the air for me, and it's all happening at once." YA-YA IN BLOOM By Rebecca Wells, HarperCollins, 272 pages, $24 me, thought that Smoke Gets in Your Eyes was a nursery song." WeVe grown to expect lots of sadness within the dysfunctional Walker clan, but this latest installment mostly steers away from the darkness and angst that marked the first two books. This is a hodgepodge of happy endings, successful outings, merry Christmases and aborted kidnappings. Ultimately, though, nothing happens. Vivi doesn't drop her basket, Big Shep doesn't drink too much and Sidda doesn't whine. This is Baylor, talking to Sidda long-distance, standing on the patio as a soft snow gives Louisiana a white Christmas: "I am in heaven. Right here in Thornton, Louisiana. Right here with my family and the crazy Ya-Ya tribe and the one hundred and fifty wild daffodil bulbs I planted, which are cozy underneath the earth, all safe till they bloom in spring." See what I mean? If Vivi didn't back her T-bird into the Infant Jesus of Prague statue, there wouldn't even be a decent crying jag in this book. What's the Ya-Ya world coming to? BOOK SIGNINGS Homer Hlckam, author of the Keeper's Son will Introduce his second book In that World War II series. The Ambatsador' Son, 1:30-2:30 p.m. today. Books A Co., 350 E. Stroop Road, Kettering. 298-6540 or 297-6365. Ron Chernow, author of Alexander Hamilton, 7-8 p.m. Monday, Books A Co. Sarah Strohmeyer, author of Bubble Betrothed, 7-8 p.m. Tuesday, Books A Co. Pearl Cleage, author of Babylon Sister. 7 8 p.m. Wednesday, Books A Co. Shelley Sommer, author of the children's book John f. Kennedy: Hit Lite and Legacy. 7-8 p.m. Thursday, Books A Co. FAT GIRL A TRUE ST08Y , By Judith Moore Hudson Street Press, $21.95 Judith Moore is fat. u That seems unkind, but that's , ' how Fat Girl starts. "I am not so fat that I can't fasten the seat belt on the plane," she writes. "But, ? fat I am. I wanted to write about what it was and is like for me, ' being fat." In the memoir, Moore, also author of 1998's Never Eat Your Heart Out, writes about what it was like to grow up as an obese child, unloved and unwanted by . her divorced parents. As painful as Fat Girl is to read, it's also difficult to put ' down. Moore's memories are sharp . and her description powerful. The honesty with which she writes about her lonely childhood " search for love and acceptance is often heartbreaking. Jennifer Arend' Dallas Morning News Evtnithinr Shi Thoueht 4 Sht Winttd K, . it ELIZABETH BUCHAN EVERYTHING SHE THOUGHT SHE WANTED ,1 By Elizabeth Buchan Viking, $23.95 ; Despite being a woman, and maybe even having once been 1 , a chick, I hate women's lit and .. ; chick lit. Usually. But I don't want to go there now. Instead, I want to report, happily, that Elizabeth Buchan . . writes books and that she has , ' a new one. Everything She ' Thought She Wanted. All about ' ', women and sometimes chicks, , not weepy, not glib. '; There are two stories in , the book, sort of like buy-one, I get-one-free, but more clever. ! One story is a counterpoint to the other. ' Elizabeth Buchan needs to '., write more books, as quickly 1, as possible. I can't face that you-know-what-lit shelf alone. MartaSalu Knight Ridder News Service 1 LUCKIEST MAN : By Jonathan Aig - Simon a Schuster, $26 ; Dozens of baseball books are issued every April, but one stand-: out is Jonathan Aig's Luckiest ; Man: The Life and Death of Lou j Gehrig, a sterling biography. ; Luckiest Man offers some : j fascinating letters from Gehrig : to his doctors and also goes into ; great detail about the onset of Gehrig's amyotrophic lateral sclerosis during the 1938 season, which accounts for his batting : only .295. It's not as poetically driven ; a book as Ray Robinson's Iron Horse, my favorite work about Gehrig, but it has new informa- tion that only Increases respect j for the great Yankee. J Scorr Eymam Cox News Service 7.5,

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