Harbingers of Horrific Plans

Bad reviews? Shoddy placement? Nope. Bruce Stockler says the biggest obstacle to publicizing a book is obituaries

The University of Michigan has launched a 20,000 volume digital collection. It uses a system similar to Amazon’s Search Inside the Book feature (minus the page limitation) and you can search through the entire collection for a specific word or phrase. But, unfortunately, there isn’t an author search. Some of the gems I’ve found include Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s Rienzi, The Last of the Roman Tribunes (with such sterling prose as “Rienzi made no reply; he did not heed or hear him — dark and stern thoughts, thoughts in which were the germ of a mighty revolution, were at his heart.”), Seward Hilter’s Sex Ethics and the Kinsey Reports (“The females of the lower educational levels, Kinsey notes, had more often been afraid that masturbation would mean physical harm and also that it was abnormal and unnatural. We should note, however, that the women of the lower educational levels tend to marry at earlier ages, and that more of them might masturbate eventually if they postponed marriage to later ages.” Oh really?), the complete works of Coleridge, Guizot’s The History of Civilization, and some Thackeray.

De Niro and Scorsese are set to write a joint memoir. The director and star report that they have a unique writing approach. Before they begin each chapter, the two of them duke it out over who gets to sit in front of the computer. So far, Scorsese reports that he’s only lost one ear and three fingers.

Slightly old news, but the FBI reports to be on the lookout for almanac carriers. Anyone carrying an Information Please may very well be plotting terrorist activities, especially if the books are “annotated in suspicious ways.”

Excerpts from Amazon’s “Abs of Steel” Reviews

“I found the tape a little dated relative to the appearance of the instructor but the excercises were just great.”

“What I like most is Tamilee. I liked Abs of Steel so much, I was inspired to get another one…by Denise Austin. Big mistake…I couldn’t stand her! It made me realize that if the trainer leading the workout is annoying, forget it! I still find Tamilee charming and interesting after having watched the tape many times.”

“I would have liked to have a warm up at the beginning on each section; it is such a pain to have to rewind the tape to warm up (if you are so inclined). Tammy lee’s cuing is great and she doesn’t have an annoying condescing tone in her voice that usually accompinies most instructors.”

“The instructor is extremely fake and over enthusiastic, but it’s worth it because the results are excellent!!!!”

“Much better than the Denise Austin Hit the Spot Abs video.”

But here’s the big question: does it come in Dolby Digital 5.1?

[3/22/04 UPDATE: I see that this was an attempt to pull a Harper’s Readings sort of thing. But it also arises because I’ve spent the past four months trying to figure out exactly how to flatten my tummy. The obvious answer is to start doing sit-ups. And the thought was that getting a video, perhaps something along the lines of Abs of Steel, would be the way to do this. But the thought of Abs of Steel being right next to my Criterion edition of Wild Strawberries was ridiculous. The 34ish waistline holds, though this may change in a few months. Or at least that is my hope.]

[8/9/04 UPDATE: The 34 waistline…uh…holds. It always holds for a man over thirty.]