Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Three Rs of Narrative Non-Fiction

Three R’s of Narrative Nonfiction

Draft is a series about the art and craft of writing.
Late on a Friday in Montreal, 1974, Art Williams, a National League umpire, is pacing the floor of his hotel room, sleepless and worried. During a game that evening, a player had pushed him, and Mr. Williams had pushed back — inappropriate behavior for those charged with enforcing the rules. It was personally troublesome for Mr. Williams, who, as the first black umpire in the National League, felt extra pressure to perform.
Mr. Williams worries through the night, repeatedly trying to compose the right words to explain the incident to the National League president, Chub Feeney, to whom he is obliged to report. After an early breakfast, Mr. Williams dials Mr. Feeney’s number. When the umpire identifies himself, the president does not sound happy.
“Well, what do you want?”
“I wanted to explain to you, I mean, I wanted to tell you about what happened in last night’s game.”
“Do you know what time it is?” Feeney demanded.
Williams glanced at his watch and, at the same time, felt a sinking, queasy, bottomless feeling in his stomach. “Why, it is nine o’clock, Chub.”
“It may be 9:00 in Montreal, young man,” said Feeney loudly, “but in California it is still the middle of the night!”
This scene is recounted in one of my first books, “The Best Seat in Baseball, But You Have to Stand: The Game as Umpires See It.” This is a nonfiction book, but obviously, I wasn’t pacing behind the umpire on that anxiety-filled evening. So how could I describe the phone call or, for that matter, detail what Mr. Williams was thinking with any kind of authority? This is a legitimate question, one narrative or creative nonfiction writers must be prepared to answer when readers and editors want reassurance about scenes we’ve reconstructed. In our fervor to be cinematic and provide readers with compelling characters, how do we avoid crossing the murky line between fact and fiction?
Nonfiction means that our stories are as true and accurate as possible. Readers expect — demand — diligence. I won’t say that nonfiction writers don’t on occasion make mistakes or even knowingly make stuff up, as for example Jonah Lehrer did in his recent book, “Imagine,” or James Frey did in his memoir, “A Million Little Pieces.” (Yes, truth in memoir is often a matter of memory and perception, but that doesn’t mean that the writer shouldn’t strive for accuracy at every opportunity, even when ideas and information are presented in scenes, as in the Williams-Feeney encounter.) As I explained in my previous article for Draft, all creative or narrative nonfiction books or articles are fundamentally collections of scenes that together make one big story.
But to reconstruct stories and scenes, nonfiction writers must conduct vigorous and responsible research. In fact, narrative requires more research than traditional reportage, for writers cannot simply tell what they learn and know; rather, they must show it. When I talk with my students, I introduce a process of work I call the three R’s: First comes research, then real world exploration and finally and perhaps most important, a fact-checking review of all that has been written.
Sabine Dowek
In a recent interview in Creative Nonfiction, the magazine I edit, the writer Erik Larson explained his approach to portraying characters’ inner states of mind. “I will only propose what somebody is thinking or not thinking if I have something concrete in hand that makes that clear,” he says in the interview. “But you absolutely cannot make that stuff up out of whole cloth because then you pass into another realm entirely.” That realm is fiction.
Most writers separate research into two interwoven phases. They begin with archival information, meaning what’s already been written or collected. The Internet may be a starting point, but it’s important to then go to direct sources. Letters, diaries, papers, interview transcripts will often reveal defining and intimate details of your subject. Story lines you had never imagined may also present themselves. In researching “In the Garden of Beasts,” Mr. Larson searched documents, letters and writings related to his primary character, Martha Dodd, the daughter of the American ambassador to Hitler’s Germany. Among the files were two locks of hair from the poet Carl Sandburg, with whom Martha had had an affair.
After the archives comes real-world research. Interview the people involved in the scenes — not just the primary characters, but the bystanders, as well, who may provide different perspectives. Visit the places where the action occurred and seek telling details, like the locks of Sandburg’s hair, that will surprise readers. This is the stuff that stands out and makes your work unique, memorable and three-dimensional.
More often than not, the responsible writer combines both methods of research not just to make scenes enticing, but also to assure accuracy. Nailing down the facts and maintaining dramatic impact is a process that requires patience, persistence and a commitment to not cut corners. Examples of how to do it right can be found in Rebecca Skloot’s excellent book, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.” In one scene, Stanley Gartler, a relatively unknown geneticist, speaks at a conference of more than 700 academics and industry leaders in Bedford, Penn., in 1966. He steps up to the podium, leans into the microphone and begins a talk that disrupts the entire field of study related to the culturing of cells. When Gartler finished, “the room sat silent, dumbfounded,” Ms. Skloot writes, until T.C. Hsu, the chairman of the conference session, spoke: “So I am happy about the paper by Dr. Gartler and am also sure he has made many people unhappy.”
Ms. Skloot then recounts the ensuing dialogue in the meeting, as well as the heated debate that flows into other sessions and continues through informal lunches — and six pages of the book.
Ms. Skloot was able to describe and document the debate so thoroughly because she unearthed a detailed transcript of the proceedings, which included the discussions that followed presentations. But what about the narrative details: how Dr. Gartler stood at the podium and leaned into the microphone — and then the deafening silence following his talk? Ms. Skloot tracked down and interviewed people who were there, she explained in an e-mail to me. She located letters about the conference written by participants who’d since died. She also examined photographs from the sessions.
As a final step, a writer must conduct a fact-checking review, the final ‘R’ in this equation. This is important, even when the story is based on archival material and reinforced through personal conversations.
In an ideal situation, research, real world and review all come together perfectly. But of course, this isn’t always the case. When I was reconstructing Mr. Williams’s nervous night and his embarrassing phone call to Mr. Feeney, no written documentation existed. In piecing together the story, I interviewed both Mr. Williams and Mr. Feeney, as well as two of the umpires that Mr. Williams had been working with who had heard the story from both men. I confirmed it all with Mr. Williams before the book went to press.
In the end, thorough research and real world exploration followed by fact-checking review shapes and sharpens the story, ensures writer credibility and allows for fair and equitable treatment of the characters involved. And by carefully following the three R process, writers of nonfiction will be prepared to answer the inevitable question: “How do you know?”

Lee Gutkind
Lee Gutkind is founder and editor of Creative Nonfiction Magazine. He is Distinguished Writer-in-Residence in the Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes at Arizona State University and a professor in the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication. His new book is “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: The Complete Guide to Writing Creative Nonfiction from Memoir to Literary Journalism to Everything in Between.”

(from: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/17/three-rs-of-narrative-nonfiction/?hp)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Self-Publishers Need to Be Self-Marketers

The Three “Audiences” Crucial to Your Exponential Business Success

How do you turn your customers – whether they are patrons, employees, managers, partners, media, investors or any other stakeholders - into raving fans evangelizing your product, service or even yourself to others?
Having engaged listeners in diverse businesses spanning entertainment, new media, sports, publishing and education, and energized them into passionate advocates of my very different offerings, I have identified the three “audiences” crucial to creating my exponential business success which I want to share with you.
The first “audience” is you to you.
You are your first litmus test. Are you genuinely and authentically “sold” on your offering? Are you demonstrating your congruence – that your heart, tongue, feet and wallet all going in the same direction? If that does not shine through from the outset, it will be a tough slog trying to move anyone else to action. Be warned – you can’t fake it to make it.
A childhood friend of mine, George E. Marcus, who is now Professor of Political Science at Williams College and has extensively studied and written about the latest research in neuroscience, shared with me that the initial communication between a teller and their “audience” begins before the first word is spoken, and individuals who ignore this basic truth tend to fail. That’s because the brain functions as a constant surveillance system telling us as soon as we set eyes on another person, whether that individual is friend or foe, authentic or fake, trustworthy or dangerous. If we sense the other person is not authentic or distracted, we’ll automatically put up our defenses, either by tuning out entirely or listening with suspicion. You must establish and bring this authenticity into the room with you. Don’t leave your authenticity at the door! Whether you’re a CEO, sales person, volunteer organizer or small business owner, your listeners will never fully connect to you, buy into your proposition, or join your parade unless they feel your belief in the offering.
With your authenticity in place, you’re ready to convince your second “audience.”
The second “audience” is you to them
How do you get and hold your customers’ attention, whether one or many, in a noisy world? You will never succeed in moving “audiences” without first capturing their attention. You must disrupt the cacophony of noise running rampant in everyone’s heads and redirect theirattention before you ignite their intention to buy your product, give you a raise, join your company or invest in your proposition.
After 533 interviews and six years on television I finally learned that the key to successfully capture attention is by first focusing on the “what’s in it for them?” Don’t focus just on features, but the benefits to your customers/audiences and the emotional reward that it offers. The key is that this engagement must be an experience where your customer not just listens, but participates in the process. You must make it a dialog, not a monolog.
The third “audience” is them to them
With the third and final customers, you must surrender control, giving your viral advocates the tools they need to share their experiences you created for them with others exponentially creating more and more raving fans. It is essential that you surrender control over your offering or the way it’s told. It’s their voice and their authenticity that must pay their experience with you and your product forward. This powerful “word of mouth” is what ignites audiences into evangelizing products and services in the most elegant, economic and effective fashion.
Why? Because the product or service then owns the audiences’ hearts, not just their wallets. This explains the phenomena that leaves many business folks scratching their heads– which is that the products with the best physical attributes doesn’t always win. The product or service that owns their “audiences” emotions usually triumphs.

(From http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20121213190652-101213441-the-three-audiences-crucial-to-your-exponential-business-success?ref=email)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Why Book Publishers Hate Authors

by Michael Levin
New York Times best-selling author Michael Levin runs BusinessGhost.com and blogsHERE. He has written with Baseball Hall of Famer Dave Winfield, football broadcasting legend Pat Summerall, FBI undercover agent Joaquin Garcia, and E-Myth creator Michael Gerber. In addition, he has contributed articles the New York Times,The Wall Street Journal, CBS News, the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, and many other top outlets.You can ‘like’ him on Facebook HERE.

It seems so…unliterary.  But publishing houses despise authors and are doing everything they can to make their lives miserable.  Here’s why.

Authors are admittedly a strange lot.  There’s something antisocial about retreating from life for months or years at a time, to perform the solitary act of writing a book.  

On top of that, authors are flaky.  They promise to deliver a manuscript in April and it doesn’t come in until October.  Or the following April.Or the April after that.  This leaves publishers with several options, all of them bad:  revise publishing schedules at the last minute; demand that authors turn in projects on time, regardless of quality; cancel books altogether; or sue the authors (as Penguin has begun to do) for undelivered or poor quality work.

Authors are also prickly about their work.  There are few jobs on the planet in which people are utterly free to ignore the guidance, or even mandates, from their bosses.  Yet book authors are notoriously dismissive of their editors’ advice.  When I was writing novels for Simon & Schuster back in the late 1980s, my editor, Bob Asahina, used to tell me, “You’re the only writer who ever lets me do my job.”

Also, annoyingly, writers expect to be paid.  Maybe not much, but something.  The Authors Guild produced a survey in the 1970s indicating that writers earned only slightly more, on an hourly basis, than did the fry cooks at McDonald’s.  Publishers were still responsible for paying advances to authors, hoping that the authors would turn in a publishable manuscript – which doesn’t happen all of the time.

So it’s understandable that publishers might feel churlish and uncharitable toward authors, on whom their entire publishing model depends.  But since the 2008 economic meltdown hit Publishers’ Row, the enmity has turned into outright warfare.

The three R’s of the publishing industry, the strategy for survival, quickly became, “Reduce royalties and returns.”  Returns are books that come back unsold from bookstores.  Printing fewer copies typically ensures fewer returns.  Reducing advances and royalties—money publishers pay writers—was the other main cost that publishers sought to slash.

And slash they did.  More and more publishers moved to a minimal or even zero advance business model.  They said to authors, “We’ll give you more of a back end on the book, and we’ll promote the heck out of your book.  We’ll be partners.”

Some partners.  Zero advance combined with zero marketing to produce…that’s right.  Zero sales.

Today, any time an agent or acquisitions editor considers a manuscript or book proposal from an author, the first place they go is BookScan.com to get sales figures.  These numbers used to be proprietary to the house that had published the book; now they’re out in the open for all to see.  And if an author’s sales numbers are poor, no one thinks to blame the house for failing to market the book.  The author’s career is essentially over.  One and done.  Next contestant, please.And then who caught the blame for the book’s failure?  Not the publisher.  The author.  

It’s completely unfair, but destroying the options of a writer actually has some benefits for publishers.  Which leads me to think that maybe publishers are actually happy when authors fail.
As authors gains traction in the marketplace, their fees go up.  They can charge a publisher more money for their next book.  The problem is that there’s no guarantee that the next book will sell well enough to justify the higher advance the publisher had to pay the author.  So if publishers can turn writing into a fungible commodity, they no longer have to worry about paying more, or potentially over-paying for a book.

If publishers can commoditize writing, they’re no longer at the mercy of unruly, unmanageable, and unpredictable writers.  They can lower their costs, they can guarantee that their schedules will be adhered to, and they can keep the trains running on time.

The problem is that they destroy the uniqueness and creativity that readers expect when they buy a book.  As the quality of books diminishes, book buyers are less likely to turn to books the next time they need to get information about a given topic.  They’ll go to Wikipedia, they’ll do a Google search, they’ll phone a friend.  But they won’t buy another book.

Publishers have begun to hate authors.  But seeking to squeeze out the individuality and admittedly the eccentricity of authors is just one more reason why book publishing as we know it is going over the cliff.

Reprinted from: Bookpleasures (http://www.bookpleasures.com/websitepublisher/articles/5673/1/--Why-Book-Publishers-Hate-Authors-Contributed-To-Bookpleasurescom-By-Michael-Levin/Page1.html#.UMqZ5m-ckkQ)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

New Interview with the author of The Accidental Anarchist

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Simon & Schuster Steps Into Self-Publishing.

November 27, 2012

Simon & Schuster is testing the water in the booming self-publishing market.

The publishing company announced Tuesday that it was teaming up with Author Solutions, based in Bloomington, Ind., to create a separate house called Archway Publishing, which would be available for authors wanting to self-publish fiction, nonfiction, business or children’s books.

Self-publishing is a rapidly growing sector of the book industry, but big publishers have been tentative about entering the market, partly for fear of tarnishing their brand by allowing content they have not reviewed to be published under their name.

Simon & Schuster believes it has gotten around that problem by teaming with Author Solutions, which already has a robust self-publishing business, including partnerships with Harlequin, which specializes in romance books, and Thomas Nelson, which focuses on Christian books.

Simon & Schuster hopes to distinguish Archway from other self-publishing options by positioning it as a premium service, at a premium cost to the authors. In addition to the standard editorial, design and distribution services normally offered by Author Solutions, Archway will offer a new options created in consultation with Simon.

Authors can buy packages ranging from $1,599 for the least expensive children’s package, to $24,999 for the most expensive business book package.

In return, authors will get a range of services, like having access to a speaker’s bureau that will help find speaking opportunities and a video production department that creates and distributes book trailers.

Kevin Weiss, the chief executive of Author Solutions, hailed the deal as a step forward for self-publishing markets. “This is the largest non-niche publisher that we have established a partnership with to date,” he said in an interview. While the venture offers the expertise of a major publishing house, it will be operated and staffed by Author Solutions. With no Simon & Schuster personnel involved, and without the Simon & Schuster name attached in any way to the final product, Archway’s prices — significantly higher than the competition — could be a hard sell.

But Adam Rothberg, vice president of corporate communication for Simon & Schuster, said that another attraction of Archway was that Simon & Schuster would be carefully monitoring sales of books completed through the new venture and would use it as a way to spot authors it might want to sign to a contract.

One odd twist of the deal is that Author Solutions was purchased by the British publishing giant Pearson in July. Pearson has made Author Solutions part of Penguin, a Simon & Schuster competitor. But since Simon & Schuster was already far along in the planning with Author Solutions for the new brand, it decided to go forward anyway, Mr. Rothberg said.

A version of this article appeared in print on 11/28/2012, on page B7 of the NewYork edition with the headline: Simon & Schuster Steps Into Self-Publishing.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Authors vs. Google

The Google Appeal: Is There a Class? James Grimmelmann -- November 23rd, 2012 The Google Books lawsuit—seven years old and counting—grinds on. In May, Judge Denny Chin certified it as a class action, with three individual authors representing all authors with books scanned by Google. This Summer, Google appealed Chin’s decision, and that appeal is now being considered. On November 9, Google filed its opening brief, and it was supported by a group of library associations and by well over a hundred academics led by Berkeley’s tireless Pamela Samuelson. Electronic Arts, Pinterest, and Yahoo! also indicated they would like to file a brief, but didn’t get their act together in time and have asked for an extension. Looking down the road, the issue of class certification is a procedural sideshow. The question everyone cares about—is it legal to scan books en masse?—almost certainly won’t be settled this year, and quite possibly not in 2013 either. Meanwhile, as the Google lawsuit plods along, the book industry bounds into digital. Google Books has gone from front-of-store to the backlist, and the publishers have already remaindered their own suit against Google. And, the Guild was soundly trounced in the parallel HathiTrust suit against Google’s library partners. Unless that resounding holding in favor of fair use is reversed on appeal, it may not much matter what happens to the original class action against Google. Still, it’s worth unpacking the issues now before the Second Circuit in the Google Appeal. So, what exactly is at stake in Google’s current appeal? Google’s first and most fundamental objection to the class action is that the central legal issue—fair use—is simply too book-specific to be resolved in one fell swoop. A three-line snippet is a much larger fraction of a 50-page children’s book than a 500-page memoir; a snippet of a mathematical table may not show any original expression whatsoever. Popular biographies, medical textbooks, scholarly monographs, science fiction novellas, joke books, and teen paranormal romances are all printed on paper and bound, but the similarities stop there. On the other hand, judges intent on making sense out of fair use have been able to draw reasonably clear lines in a reasonably honest way. The judge in the Georgia State e-reserves lawsuit, for example, came up with some straightforward tests: is the book being licensed digitally, did the library make more than one chapter available, and so on. (Of course, that verdict is also being appealed). Google points to the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Wal-Mart Stores v. Dukes in arguing that it’s entitled to present individual fair use defenses. In the WalMart case, statistical studies showed that female Wal-Mart employees earned less and were promoted less often than male ones. Wal-Mart had no uniform national policy on pay and promotions, so the plaintiffs wanted to argue that the lack of an official policy was itself a de facto policy of allowing local managers to discriminate against women. No dice, said the Supreme Court: those individual decisions by individual managers need to be litigated individually. But Google—unlike Wal-Mart—does have a uniform policy. It scans books, and it does essentially the same thing with each book it scans. It seems highly unlikely that Google itself considered fair use individually for each book it chose to scan; it seems anomalous to say that wholesale scanning can only be challenged on a retail basis. A second set of objections to the class action focuses on ownership. Only the “legal or beneficial owner” of a copyright can sue for infringement. For authors of books, this language typically means either that the rights have reverted to the author (legal ownership) or that the author receives royalties (beneficial ownership). In Google’s eyes, proving ownership will require a mini-trial for each book: checking how it was written and what the publishing contract says about digital uses, if anything. The factually ugly issue of who actually owns which rights in which books has been a storm cloud hanging over the publishing industry’s digital transition. Judge Chin’s opinion on the point was cursory; other courts who have faced the issue have found it to be anything but simple. But matters may not be quite so dire here. The reason is that ownership is a binary threshold issue: either an author is a copyright owner in a book (and thus a class member) or she isn’t. It’s not as though Google has treated authors differently based on what their publishing contracts say. Thus, rather than first compiling a list of all book copyright owners and then asking whether Google has infringed their rights, it would be feasible to flip the order. First ask whether Google has infringed the copyrights of those authors who own their books’ copyrights (we know that there are some); if it has, then figure out which authors are and are not copyright holders. But courts do that all the time in class actions: it’s called a claims process. If you’re part of a class that was injured because you were exposed to a toxic substance, you’ll need medical documentation before they cut you a check. It seems plausible that the court here could make some simplifying presumptions that are generally likely to be true—such as that a book’s author really is the person named in its copyright registration—while still allowing Google to object to claims where it has specific evidence that the presumptions are wrong. Google’s argument is that even this kind of streamlined process would quickly degenerate into a welter of ambiguous contract terms. A class action simply may not be capable of cleaning up the mess that decades of deal-making have created. A third set of objections challenge the right of the three named author-plaintiffs—Betty Miles, Joseph Goulden, and Jim Bouton—to represent all authors. In theory, representativeness objections are fixable: just name a more diverse set of lead plaintiffs. But in practice, the Authors Guild has gone to war with the plaintiffs it had. It is not at this late date about to invite Pamela Samuelson to sit down and join the lets-all-sue-Google party. If the class action goes down because the lead plaintiffs aren’t adequate representatives, it’s unlikely to rise again. Google’s version of this objection is to argue that many authors support Google Books: it helps them with their research, and it helps them market their books. The academic authors’ version is even sharper: academics benefit from having their books widely findable and accessible, wholly independently of whether those books sell more copies. Google has a survey showing that 58% of authors approve of having their books in snippet view; the academics’ brief is signed by dozens and dozens of book authors who would prefer Google to win on the merits. The question here is simple but profound: who speaks for authors? In one sense, the answer is easy: every author who speaks up speaks for herself. Tell Google to take your book out of Google Books and it will (or so it promises); tell Google to include your book and it will. Neither group needs the clanking machinery of a class action to make itself heard. It’s the great middle—those authors who have neither opted-in nor opted-out—for whom the class action really matters. All of which means, therefore, that the struggle over class certification is a struggle about defaults. Should J. Random Author be presumed to approve of Google Books or to disapprove of it? If the ayes have it, the class should be de-certified, and those exceptional authors who dislike Google Books should be required to bring suit on their own. If the nays have it, then the class should be certified, and those exceptional authors who like Google Books should be required to tell Google to please use their books. There is another reason that this conflict within the class matters: crafting remedies. That so many authors (heart) Google Books is a powerful reason for the court to steer clear of an injunction that would have the effect of shutting the whole thing down. Copyright generally recognizes that different authors prioritize different goals: some want artistic control, some want sales, and some want their ideas to be heard. The academics have a point when they argue that the class as currently constituted threatens their interests as authors.

Friday, November 16, 2012

I haven't posted anything here for a while, but I received the most remarkable letter recently, and just got permission to share it. The letter is from Bel Kaufman, perhaps best known as the author of "Up the Down Staircase," but she is also the granddaughter of Sholem Aleichem, a "leading Yiddish author and playwright" (Wikipedia), one of whose stories was adapted into "Fiddler on the Roof." He was widely celebrated for writing about Eastern European shtetl life (with which most of us are familiar only through "Fiddler on the Roof") and his sense of humor, which led him to be compared with Mark Twain.
Several months ago, while visiting my mother in L.A., I was going through some of the old Jewish books that my father collected -- not for the purpose of making money on them, but because when he saw Jewish books in a second-hand store, whether in Germany before the war or in the U.S., he always bought them, just to make sure that the books weren't destroyed. One of the books I came across was a 1927 Yiddish comic dictionary by Sholem Aleichem (who had passed away before that date). Knowing who his granddaughter was, I wrote to her and told her about the book, which I couldn't translate, though my brother could translate enough of it to let me know what it was. We began a correspondence, and I told her about my book, which I sent her. Here is an excerpt from her thank you note for the book: "[I] was about to write you a thank you note, then decided to wait until I head rread a few pages. A few pages? It immediately swallowed me up, sucked me in, so that I could not stop reading it until 4:30 in the morning. Up at 8 AM, I skipped brushing my teeth, skipped breakfast, grabbed your book, and continued to read without a stop: I could, simply couldn't put it down." "In my 101 years of age I have read countless books. But I do not remember ever before being so inside a book, living the story. It's a remarkable story of a remarkable character by a remarkable writer." It gets a little more personal from there, and almost makes me cry when I read it, knowing that the book connected with her in such a strong way. She invited me to lunch in NY, and I'll have to schedule a trip to take her up on it.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Just Happened to Spot This Review on Amazon.co.UK

5.0 out of 5 stars Reads like a novel, 21 May 2012 By The Kindle Book Review - See all my reviews (TOP 1000 REVIEWER) This review is from: The Accidental Anarchist (Kindle Edition) " The Accidental Anarchist," by Bryna Kranzler, tells the real-life story of Jacob Marateck, who happened to be the author's grandfather--but more importantly for the reader, lived a life that puts many a novel to shame when it comes to action and excitement. To give you an idea: Marateck was a Jew born into Czarist Russia, participated in the Revolution, and was sentenced to death three times. The book is based on Marateck's diaries, but surely the fact that it makes such compelling reading is due in large measure to Kranzler's gift for storytelling. Marateck emerges as an essentially ordinary, matter-of-fact man who was happy by nature, despite surviving extraordinary circumstances. In other words, a real-life hero with a remarkable capacity to stand up to whatever Fate was dishing out. And judging by this story, Fate took a particular interest in Jacob Marateck. This book works on many levels. It's an exciting story that, despite the harsh life experiences depicted, leaves the reader feeling good about life. If you like exciting stories but feel like trying something new, this book is for you. It also has scholarly value for those interested in Russian history, Judaism, politics, and cognitive strategies for survival. Though I must add that the writing is never dull or dry. In other words, it could be a book that students actually enjoy reading. It seems to me this book is everything the author hoped it would be. Besides no doubt being an object of pride in her family, this is a book that would make any author proud. Jon P. Bloch (The Kindle Book Review)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

This Makes Me Want to Meet Me