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Bostonia: The Alumni Magazine of Boston University

Spring 2009 Table of Contents

Book Reviews

Book Reviews for Spring 2009

A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity
By Bill O'Reilly (COM'75) Nonfiction (Broadway Books)

By his own admission, O’Reilly is a champion bloviator. In his latest book, the political commentator and host of The O’Reilly Factor explains where that brash style comes from, offering a look at the people and places that influenced him, including Boston University. (Among other insights, O’Reilly writes about life on Commonwealth Avenue in the 1970s and makes an impassioned defense of sobriety.) The title is based on the words of his third grade teacher at St. Brigid’s, a nun who said in exasperation, “William, you are a bold, fresh piece of humanity.” She may have meant it as a reprimand, but O’Reilly seems to have taken it as gospel. – Jessica Leving (COM’10)

By Jan Brogan (COM’79) Fiction (St. Martin’s Minotaur)

There’s a lot to learn about human nature, amusing and horrifying, from browsing online chat rooms. In Rhode Island, newspaper reporter Alie Ahern finds, whatever the purported topic, two-thirds of the chat is about sex. Looking for story material to warn parents of the dangers of the Internet, she comes across two teenaged girls in a short soft-porn scene. Are they simply unaware of the dangers of such public display, or is something sinister behind it? In her third mystery, Alie soon learns that the girls are being lured into much more than fifteen-year-old suggestive high-jinks and that the most respectable of her colleagues will abandon moral principle should it threaten self-interest. – Natalie Jacobson McCracken

What Time Devours
By A. J. Hartley (GRS’96) Fiction (Berkley Books)

Starring in his second thriller, Thomas Knight is, like his creator, a Shakespearean scholar who finds a lot of horrified amusement in the pretentious work of his peers (“I want to learn about the play... what makes it profound as literature, not about how it’s a matrix for social energies and discourses...”). Along with many scholars, both Hartley, the Distinguished Professor of Shakespeare in the department of theatre and dance at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, and Knight believe Shakespeare wrote a play he called Love’s Labour’s Found and that the script may be extant — wherein lies this mystery.

Also just out, Hartley’s fourth novel, Act of Will (Thomas Doherty Associates), features a young actor-playwright in a fictitious European kingdom, probably Elizabethan, who has just turned eighteen and is thus freed from women’s roles. Still in the long skirt of his most recent part, he makes a comic, airborne escape from the king’s men into the arms of an ominous if high-minded band of rebels. – NJM

Armchair Warriors: Private Citizens, Popular Press, and the Rise of American Power
By Joel R. Davidson (CAS’81) Nonfiction (Naval Institute Press)

Most Americans know warfare only via the press, but that doesn’t keep them from theorizing about how it should be waged or avoided. With just enough commentary to provide context, Davidson presents a few newspaper excerpts and hundreds of verbatim letters to presidents, generals, secretaries of war and defense, and the like from ordinary citizens offering advice variously sensible, charmingly naive, jingoistic, impassioned, well-written, and barely literate, all motivated by American classless self-confidence and common sense. Case in point: in 1916, when Mexico was outraged by the presence of American “peacekeeping” troops, W. B. of Cleveland wrote to the secretary of war, “. . . To overcome the irritation across the Rio Grande we want the friendly feeling of every Mexican who is not simply a bloodletting idler. The big appeal to the Mexican must be through sentiment. Find someone who will write a song, praising the Mexican man and woman, their country. Put it into the atmosphere of the Country fit to a tune suggestive of a popular Mexican air. Have a squad of soldiers learn the song, teach it to the troops in Mexico and have the troops sing it whenever near Mexican persons . . . ” – NJM

The Foreclosure of America: The Inside Story of the Rise and Fall of Countrywide Home Loans, the Mortgage Crisis, and the Default of the American Dream
By Adam Michaelson (COM’88) Nonfiction (Berkley Books)

Countrywide won the Worst Company in America Award from the well-respected blog Consumerist (since bought by Consumer Reports) for “destruction of a giant chunk of the American economy by greed and fraud.” But former senior vice president of marketing Michaelson presents a convincing portrait of executives at all levels motivated first by the belief that they were helping thousands achieve the American dream, second by their obligation to stockholders, and only seldom by greed or inappropriate personal ambition. Part memoir (from his optimistic job application through his loss of enthusiasm and then of his job), part useful, readable information (mortgages, public relations, direct mail, online savings accounts, and related topics for dummies), this timely tale with its widely diverse cast is lively proof that nothing that involves people is simple. – NJM

The B List: The National Society of Film Critics on the Low-budget Beauties, Genre-bending Mavericks, and Cult Classics We Love
By David Sterritt (CAS’67) and John Anderson, editors Nonfiction (DeCapo Press)

Renowned film critics, such as Roger Ebert, Kenneth Turan, and Peter Travers, offer short, punchy reviews of the greatest B movies of all time, from classics like The Rocky Horror Picture Show to recent blockbusters like Grindhouse, and everything in between (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, anyone?). The book is the ultimate guide to everyone’s favorite Hollywood rejects and an indispensable part of any film nerd’s collection. – JL

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