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Bibliolatry: opinions from a very
independent
bookseller
No. 30: 

The 2002 B-TOY Awards

Featured Titles

Editors' note:
Carlisle may be annoying, but he isn't a fascist. Though he pretends otherwise, he actually loves whistle-blowers — who doesn't? — so please don't take him too seriously. We don't. Better yet, skip the whole mess and head straight for one of the following titles from our list of best biographies of the past year.


The Skeptic
The Skeptic: A Life of H. L. Mencken
by Terry Teachout


"[Mencken's] life is worth recounting and is here expertly and fairly summarized....An important book." Paul Johnson, author of Modern Times

List Price: $29.95
(New - Hardcover)
check for other copies

The Culture of Narcissism
Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston
by Valerie Boyd


"[A] definitive biography...Brings one of the most pivotal figures in 20th-century literature brilliantly to life." Kirkus Reviews

List Price: $30.00
(New - Hardcover)
check for other copies

Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy
Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy
by Jane Leavy


"Well-conceived and sharply drawn, a thinking fan's biography." Kirkus Reviews

List Price: $23.95
(New - Hardcover)
check for other copies

Master of the Senate
Master of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnson
by Robert A. Caro


"Probably the best book ever written about the U.S. Senate. A terrific study of power politics." Steve Neal, Chicago Sun-Times

List Price: $35.00
(New - Hardcover)
check for other copies

Savage Beauty
Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay
by Nancy Milford


"Nancy Milford has done it again. One seldom sees this level of brilliant, hands-on research in contemporary literary biography." Toni Morrison

List Price: $14.95
(New - Trade Paper)
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Theodore Rex
Theodore Rex
by Edmund Morris


"[Morris] writes with a breezy verve that makes the pages fly, and that perfectly suits his subject." Richard Brookhiser, New York Times Book Review

List Price: $16.95
(New - Trade Paper)
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Dancer
Dancer
by Colum McCann


"[This] tour de force about the Russian ballet star/international celebrity Rudolf Nureyev is so good...that it's guaranteed to send multitudes of lesser writers into fits of hand-wringing 'I Can't Do That!' despair." Adrienne Miller, Esquire

List Price: $26.00
(New - Hardcover)
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A fter the shock of September 11th, 2001, George W. Bush, struggling to navigate the murky implications of the terrible event, intuited that the tragedy had given us "a renewed appreciation of the character of America....We have shown in difficult times that we're not just a world power, that we're a good and kind and courageous people." In fact, "our nation is the greatest force for good in world history....And I hope, I hope all Americans will help us show those principles to the entire world."

I'm guessing that Time magazine is run by a bunch of Democrats. Last week they published their annual Man...er, Person of the Year Award. They did not, however, choose to honor someone who over the last year showed the world what a good and kind people we are. No. They chose to honor three "whistle-blowers": Cynthia Cooper of WorldCom, Coleen Rowley of the FBI, and Sherron Watkins of Enron. During the past year, each of these women ratted out their superiors and in doing so proved to the world that our institutions are incompetent and our corporations corrupt. What next? Put everyone involved in shady corporate accounting in jail? We'd have to incarcerate own vice president.

This is what we've come to, a nation that celebrates tattletales? Ignorant citizens from lesser countries around the world see Americans as dimwitted bullies with big appetites and bigger teeth, and we support their impressions by glorifying Americans who drag our image through the mud? It makes no sense. We shouldn't be rewarding slander; we should be doing damage control. We should be putting our best foot forward, preferably in an envy-inspiring Nike shoe. We're the good guys, right? Why not flaunt it?

That's why I've decided to inaugurate an alternative to Time's tired award. I call it the Bibliolatry Trio of the Year. The "B-TOY" celebrates the three people who over the past year best embodied the American character, dedicated individuals who demonstrated to the world what the citizens of the greatest country in the world are really all about.

B-TOY No. 1
Americans are a generous people. Over the centuries, we've welcomed millions of the world's tired, poor, huddled, and future Mafioso masses. In the forties, we sucked it up and bailed Europe out of the über-mess of WWII. And each and every year we give and give and give — and give — to wretched poor people all over the world, despite the fact that we rarely receive a simple thank you. But we don't complain. Americans understand that the reward is in the giving itself, so we continue to open our hearts and wallets and litter the world with strings-free handouts.

So, to highlight America's giving nature, I'm awarding the very first B-TOY to Ms. Jennifer Lopez . J. Lois a model of American munificence. Her extraordinary generosity challenges the rest of us to give of ourselves freely, just as she has.

In all honesty, I initially planned to give the award to Lopez's current "baby" Ben Affleck, whose legendary largesse has impressed millions — and captured headlines — around the world. There was the white chinchilla fur coat he got J. Lo when she was feeling low, the $250,000 blue Bentley convertible he got her for her birthday, and, of course, the Rock, a pink beach ball-sized diamond ring he gave her to celebrate their love.

But when you consider what she gave him, I realized that Affleck's generosity, while impressive, pales in comparison. Lopez's greatest possession, her greatest assett, is worth a wopping $1,000,000, and yet she didn't hesitate to give it away. Make that "doesn't." It's hard to believe, but Lopez has given it away so many times we're beginning to lose count.

B-TOY No. 2
The United States is the most diverse country in the world, so Americans have learned to see through the superficial differences — race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. — that separate people in lesser countries, and have decided to embrace our common humanity. We care.

And never has America been more dedicated to the bedrock American principle that all human beings are created equal than we were in 2002. When neighborhoods banded together in the months following September 11th to stand by their muslim neighbors, we demonstrated that Americans are truly inclusive. When the Academy decided that Halle Berry and Denzel Washington were the two best actors of the year, we expressed our deep desire to create a truly color blind society. When we embraced Rosie O'Donnell as a lesbian mother, we put our tolerance where our mouth is.

However, during the past year no one has expressed the fundamental compassion of the American people better than senator Trent Lott. He proclaimed with singular passion and eloquence his desire to give 110 percent to the fight for racial justice. His love for Martin Luther King, his commitment to affirmative action, and his obsession with the Hughleys were infectious. Despite a stirring plea for "just one...more...chance," senator Lott failed to retain his position. No matter, he accomplished something far more important. This year Lott entered the ranks of true American ambassadors. He revealed a corner of our character we'd forgotten about and showed it to the world. And even though he's bowed out of the center ring, we can't get him out of our minds.

B-TOY No. 3
As Saddam Hussein will soon find out, the United States is not a country to mess with. We have more grit than a turkey gizzard, more heart than "Touched by an Angel." So with my final B-TOY, I decided to celebrate that nebulous, but undeniable, American quality: pluck.

With so many excellent candidates, it was far more difficult than I had anticipated to choose the one American who best exemplifies our courageous spirit. But the moment I thought of the following nonpareil individual, the choice became obvious.

For years, Liza Minnelli has claimed to be the world's biggest Tolkien fan. In a world mad for Middle-earth, that's saying a great deal. And frankly, most fans attributed her outrageous claim to an overly generous helping of mummies little helpers. However, Liza shocked the International Dungeons and Dragons Convention when she announced that she would soon be the first human to marry an orc. Of course, every Tolkien fanatic has, at one time or another, fantasized about hooking up with an orc, but none to date had actually mustered the courage of their convictions. Until now. With Michael "Gollum" Jackson as their best man, Liza and her new groom were married in March.

What's more, Ms. Minnelli didn't choose the standard beer-guzzling, Raiders-loving, crotch-scratching orc. She chose one of the most terrifying of Middle-earth's monsters: the gay orc. True, Liza's "sophisticated" new groom just loves her to death. But every day she faces a new terror. When she's not hiding her Lady Gillette (so he can't use it to shave his forehead), she's fighting a losing battle to keep his scaly feet out of her shoes. When I tried to imagine any of the other nominees withstanding these horrors, I knew I'd found my final B-TOY winner.

÷ ÷ ÷

In these trying times, countless Americans have stepped up to the plate to remind the world, "Hey, we're better than you." This is important work. With the institution of the Bibliolatry Trio of the Year Award, I am proud to be doing my part to show the world who we really are.

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