A worthy series of upbeat, empowering meditations organized as dictionary entries.




A glossary offers philosophical observations on life.

Garcia begins his nonfiction debut by declaring two suppositions up front: that humans are “infinitely greater than the sum” of their genetics and that there’s much more at work in their lives than their intellects can perceive. But even readers who disagree with one or both of those assertions may very well be tempted to closely examine his book, which is structured along the lines of Ambrose Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary. General words are defined and examined for their deeper ramifications, allowing Garcia to expand on a wide variety of concepts, from desire and creativity to death and despair. Running through many of these elaborated definitions is a recurrent reminder to delve beneath the surface of things. In the section on “Disability,” for instance, the author asserts that the whole concept wrongly centers on physicality: “The body is nothing more than a tool and a vessel that is abled or disabled in accordance with the growth needs of the soul.” In the same vein is the entry on “Problems”: “If every problem has a solution, then every solution is buried within the problem itself.” Although his optimism can sometimes lead to overstatements, the tone of energetic positivity he maintains will appeal to readers regardless of their philosophical dispositions. Garcia’s ruminations are suffused with a convincingly nondenominational spirituality. “God is not something you can quantify or put into a formula and come up with a result,” he writes in the section on the deity. “You can’t think God, you can only feel God; thus, God is an experience that remains unprovable to the purely scientific perspective.” But some of the author’s definitions verge on being decidedly odd. He writes, for instance, that feeling guilty about anything is just self-sabotage even though some concerns are obviously justified. Along the same lines, his section on “Confusion” begins: “Confusion is nothing more than being humble and teachable.” Yet most readers will have met at least a few people who are very bewildered without being humble or teachable. Still, his insistence that the audience thoroughly inspect his categories from all angles comes to his rescue time after time, filling his writings with a kind of low-key wisdom. For example, he reminds his readers that addiction is at least as much about an inner lack as it is a particular chemical. And he delivers a long, illuminating section on sex. His choice of structuring the book as a dictionary necessarily makes straightforward, linear reading a disjointed experience—the volume is ideal for random browsing. But his cheerful and forgiving humanism is present everywhere, which helps to bolster the work. “When you place yourself in a humble state of receptivity,” Garcia writes in what might stand as the book’s motto, “you will be astounded to realize that you are not—nor were you ever—alone in this adventure called life.”

A worthy series of upbeat, empowering meditations organized as dictionary entries.

Pub Date: July 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-73201-359-9

Page Count: 168

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2019

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Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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