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Charlie Quimby has commented on (2) products.

Riding Lessons by Sara Gruen
Riding Lessons

Charlie Quimby, July 21, 2008

My discriminating wife and I listened to this book during a cross-country drive. Rarely would I go out of my way to diss a book this juvenile, but ...

We listened to the end only because it was all we had, and because we developed a fascination with how bad it was, wondering how the author could turn this self-centered, singularly unappealing character into someone sympathetic who grew and learned by the end.

Well, it never happened. She never grew, never became more reasonable, never took an interest in others except how they reflected back on her. In a more mature writer's hands, this might've become a powerful portrait of a totally dysfunctional, tragic character.

At some point, we lost all curiosity about how the author would redeem this character, because it was clear she wouldn't. And because she was the narrator, we never learned much of interest about any of the other characters. Eventually, it became a challenge -- could we make it to the end?

We agreed if we were reading the book, we both would've tossed it across the room long ago. But we egged each other on, taking turns predicting plot twists and laughing uproariously at the heroine's self-absorbed descriptions of her trials.

At the end, we both burst into laughter -- at relief we had made it all the way and at the author's ham-handed romance novel descriptions. Unless you like bodice rippers, learn a lesson from our experience and run, run away from this book!
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Framing the Debate: Famous Presidential Speeches and How Progressives Can Use Them to Change the Conversation (and Win Elections) by Jeffrey Feldman and George Lakoff
Framing the Debate: Famous Presidential Speeches and How Progressives Can Use Them to Change the Conversation (and Win Elections)

Charlie Quimby, May 2, 2007

I've noted in my blog that the New York Times review seems to be a deliberate misreading of the book's intent. Here's my take:

"Changing the conversation" is a modest, but important goal, as can attest any Minnesotan observing the current tug-of-war over how to talk about taxes and government spending. We don't just need magic words like "investment" to replace "tax-and-spend." We need a better way to hold a meaningful conversation about the future of the state. The Republican frame effectively forecloses that discussion.

To me the most useful part of the book is not Feldman's analysis of individual presidential speeches. (He and I might even disagree on some frames being evoked.) The real meat of the book for progressives is found in the lessons following each analysis, helping politicians, activists and citizens consider how to apply particular techniques. He charges each of us to become active and thoughtful observers of how language paints us into policy corners and suggests ways to conduct dinner table conversations that escape these traps.

The best chapter of all is titled "The Three P's of Progressive Politics," which ? far from proposing new magic words ? invites us to think deeply about what it means to be progressive and how to "develop a set of habits that structures a new experience of politics." An experience that rejects the corporatism, clericalism and conquest the conservatives have used to temporarily gain control of America.

A more extended review is at Across the Great Divide:

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(15 of 23 readers found this comment helpful)

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