The blog of Chicago-based freelance writer David Johnsen.
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
Imaginary People and Black People
The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived by Allan Lazar, Dan Karlan & Jeremy Salter - This book looks at the power of fictional characters in society and culture. The authors draw from 17 categories ranging from mythology to literature to television to propaganda. Unfortunately, I think the concept is better than the execution. For starters, I would prefer a list based on something more than the opinions of three American guys and their friends, especially when it comes to ranking the characters from 1 to 101-- it's just too arbitrary. Worse, it is painfully clear that the essays were written by three authors because the tone from essay to essay is jarringly inconsistent (a better editor might have smoothed over those differences in writing style). Their attempts at humor often fall flat or just feel out of place. Plus, most of the essays spend more time telling who the characters are rather than what their influence is, even though most readers should already know most of them. Bottom line: it's an intriguing idea but a disappointing book.
Making Friends With Black People by Nick Adams - Black comedian Adams starts with advice for whites interacting with blacks, but eventually this book develops into a platform for his opinions about race relations, pop culture, and politics. He maintains a humorous and sarcastic tone throughout. I particularly enjoy his lists such as ethnic food "delicacies" and Tom Cruise's variations on Top Gun (e.g., Cocktail is Top Gun in a bar, Days of Thunder is Top Gun on a racetrack). I still don't have any black friends, but this book is pretty funny and often thought-provoking.
Current tally: 92 books finished, 83 books acquired