Teresa Budasi: August 2007 Archives

Cheating

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Who among the breathing hasn't looked up an ex at one time or another? No, it's not likely a smart move but impulse control is one of those things learned the hard way — as in knowing when not to eat that second or third doughnut just because it's Friday and it's there, lonely, getting more stale by the minute sitting next to the empty coffee pot in the office break room and, well, you plan on having just a salad for lunch.

In Eva Cassady's The Adultery Diet (Pocket Books, 336 pages, $14, paperback) — chosen for its alluring title and picture of fancy chocolate truffles on the cover — Eva, the fortysomething narrator of this faux-memoir...

The Adultery Diet

Up in smoke

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When I was in college, I lived in a house with four other women, all of whom smoked. I was the lone non-smoker — not that I was offended by it; I just found it unpalatable. They all had quit by the time we came back to school for spring semester and, one by one, they all started up again.

But none of them ever came close to another of our friends — let's call her Jane — whose habit was so ritualistic, so cool and so second-nature, it bordered on art form. Jane never entertained the thought of quitting. As if.

These Things Ain't Gonna Smoke Themselves (Bloomsbury, $12.95) by Emily Flake could have been subtitled...

These Things Ain't Gonna Smoke Themselves

Seeing and believing

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Today's book has a Chicago connection (also a new category on this blog), which is one of the reasons I chose it. The other reason was that I was taken by the story behind the story.

The author of The Blind Doctor: The Jacob Bolotin Story (Blue Point Books, 236 pages, $19.95, paperback), Rosalind Perlman, died at age 93 in 2004, three years before the book would be published. ...

The Blind Doctor

A tale of two Georges

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Is there anything creepier than a ventriloquist's dummy? With their rosy cheeks and knowing eyes, they really do possess a certain, let's say, humanness. From the time I read William Goldman's Magic in the late '70s, I couldn't look at my toy Charlie McCarthy doll the same way.

I recently saw a film called "The Ten," which is made up of 10 vignettes, each of which illustrates one of the 10 Commandments. In the "Thou Shalt Not Steal" story, Winona Ryder (oh, the irony) becomes so enchanted with a ventriloquist's dummy on her honeymoon that she stops at nothing to have it for herself — and by "have" I mean ... well, let's not go there. Let us just agree that no good can come from interacting with people made of wood.

But I digress. Wesley Stace — known to music fans as John Wesley Harding — has written By George (Little, Brown, 378 pages, $24.99) ...

By George

From stage to page

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In this day and age of celebrity-oriented magazines, gossip-driven Web sites and partying starlets trying to stay out of jail, we sometimes forget there are folks out there in show business — be it acting, singing, dancing, what have you — that take it seriously.

Just as an advertising executive prepares a speech and formulates ideas before presenting to a client, serious actors read scripts, research roles, memorize lines, show up for work and do their jobs.

In Actors at Work (Faber and Faber, 369 pages, $16, paperback), authors Rosemarie Tichler and Barry Jay Kaplan, interviewed 14 working actors about the ways they work.

Meryl Streep, for example...

Actors at Work

Celebrity brainiacs

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In my Aug. 14 entry, "What would Winner Cooper do?" I discussed the book Math Doesn't Suck by Danica McKellar, who most of us remember from her days playing Winnie Cooper on TV's "The Wonder Years."

McKellar took time out from acting to pursue a college education, in turn excelling as a mathematician and then writing a book to help young girls grasp difficult math concepts more easily and in plain English.

Last week, USA Today ran an interview with McKellar about her book and included a sidebar on other actors ...

Knowing who you are

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At 12 years old, I was a plaid skirt-wearing, flute-playing bookworm trying to maintain good grades while pining away for the same boy I'd had a crush on since the first grade. All in all, not a bad way to spend the tween years.

The author of today's book (a reprint from 2001), Disguised: A Wartime Memoir (Candlewick Press, 366 pages, $17.99), spent years 12, 13 and 14 living in a prisoner of war camp in Sumatra during World War II...

Disguised

Calling Raymond Carver

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Today's book was chosen first for its title. I thought it might be some kind of coming-of-age novel set at summer camp or an East Coast boarding school.

Upon close inspection of the cover, I see it's a collection of short stories. Dead Boys (Little, Brown, 256 pages, $21.99) is Richard Lange's debut, and it has garnered an impressive list of cover blurbs. Here are but a few ...

Dead Boys

Shall I compare thee to a modern poet?

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Who among us hasn't composed a few lines of poetry at one time or another? And who among us hasn't uttered a rhyming couplet and then laughed it off, saying, "I'm a poet and I didn't even know it"?

British author, comedian and actor Stephen Fry not only admits to writing poetry in The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within (Gotham, 352 pages, $15), now out in paperback, but also believes ...

The Ode Less Travelled

Spermatic fever

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This book's comic-book cover and the word "sperm" screamed so loud from me from the shelf, how could I not pick it up? And besides, it provides nice contrast to the two previous entries about nuns, don't you think?

Sperm Counts: Overcome by Man's Most Precious Fluid (New York University Press, 164 pages, $26.95) by Lisa Jean Moore ...

Sperm Counts

So many nuns, so little time

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Even though the subject is one of my lifelong fascinations, I don't plan on making a habit (no pun intended, honest) of featuring nun books; I just happened upon yesterday's entry and today's at the same time. One of the nuns featured in yesterday's book, Scary Nuns, was Teresa of Avila, founder of the Discalced Carmelite order, "who liked to whip herself when feeling bad."

Barbara Mujica, in her historical novel, Sister Teresa: The Woman Who Became Saint Teresa of Avila (Overlook, 336 pages, $24.95), tells us quite a bit more about the 16th century sister from Avila, Spain:

"Teresa Sanchez de Cepeda y Ahumada was a heartbreaker....

Sister Teresa

It's just a habit

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I have a fascination with nuns. I suppose it can be traced back to Catholic school, where they hovered over us for years, chalk and rulers in hand, teaching us about grammar and God. Our nuns were Dominicans. They wore all white with black veils. Some were sweet and grandmotherly, some were stern but fair, others mean and nasty. In short, they were human, even if we didn't know it at the time.

Today's book, Scary Nuns: Sisters at Work and at Play (HarperCollins, 128 pages, $14.95) is a small volume filled with photographs of what nuns are doing ...

Scary Nuns

Since we're on the subject of dogs ...

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Continuing with yesterday's theme, I bring you Dog Spelled Backwards: Soulful Writing by Literary Dog Lovers (St. Martin's Press, 279 pages, $23.95) by Mordecai Siegal, president emeritus ...

Dog Spelled Backwards

I love the title of today's book: Shaggy Muses. If not for the sepia-toned cover photo of Virginia Woolf gazing upon her beloved spaniel Pinka, the book's title conjures all manner of images.

I asked a co-worker what came to mind upon hearing the title and she replied: "Um, long-haired, unshaven hippie girls who were muses for artists/authors in the '60s?"

Good answer....

Shaggy Muses

Tea in the time of insurgency

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Books about war have never interested me. Reading about battle strategy and political conflict will send my eyeballs spinning toward the back of my head and knock me out cold.

It's not that I'm not interested in the subject matter; I just don't want to read about it. I'd much rather see a documentary or even a feature film dramatizing specific events. It humanizes war for me, which helps me to better understand the overall cause and effects of such drastic actions, especially these days as our troops are still fighting a questionable war in the Middle East.

The human element evident in High Tea in Mosul: The True Story of Two Englishwomen in War-torn Iraq (Cyan Books, 207 pages, $21.95) ...

High Tea in Mosul

What would Winnie Cooper do?

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There she is, Winnie Cooper — Kevin Arnold's first kiss on "The Wonder Years" — all grown up and an internationally recognized mathematician? Whaaat?? Wasn't she working in "The West Wing" White House a couple of seasons ago?

Clearly she — and when I say "she" I mean Danica McKellar, the girl who played Winnie Cooper on TV — found time to go to college, graduate with honors, and pen the excellently titled, Math Doesn't Suck: How To Survive Middle School Math Without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail (Hudson Street Press, 294 pages, $23.95). Sounds.... practical.

Math Doesn't Suck

All women possess an inner "bad girl." If you don't believe me, check out Bad Girls: 26 Writers Misbehave (Norton, 304 pages, $24.95), edited by Ellen Sussman.

Sussman enlisted 25 other women writers to tell their own personal bad-girl stories for this provocative book of essays. Though there is a sexual element to many of the stories, each author has her own distinct idea of what being a bad girl means.

Bad Girls

Welcome to The Book Room!

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As I mentioned in my column in Sunday's Sun-Times Books section, I am starting a Book of the Day Club, where I’ll take one book a day off the shelves of the actual book room — where we store all the new books being published — and I’ll post some thoughts about it online.

For our inaugural entry I’ve chosen American Band: Music, Dreams, and Coming of Age in the Heartland (Gotham Books, 324 pages, $26) by Kristen Laine. I had never heard of the author or the book; I was drawn to it by the photo of uniformed marching band members on the book cover.

American Band