Friday, August 22, 2008

50BC08 #19 & #20

TITLE: Standing Room Only: Strategies for Marketing the Performing Arts
AUTHORS: Philip Kotler and Anne Scheff
YEAR: 1997, Harvard Business School Press
PAGES: 560
GENRE: non-fiction, marketing, textbook, arts management
RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

Kotler and Scheff have managed to write a textbook that is relevant, well-organized AND interesting! While the style is characteristically dry, the prose is peppered with plenty of real-life case studies that help elucidate both the marketing concepts themselves and the application thereof. The chapters are helpfully broken into sub-categories which makes for easy note-taking and comprehension. I can see why this has been the Arts Marketing bible for so long. The only thing we need is an updated version with more intense focus on internet marketing, etc.

50 BOOK CHALLENGE (2008): #20
TITLE: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
AUTHORS: Mark Haddon
YEAR: 2003, Vintage Books (Random House)
PAGES: 226
GENRE: fiction
RATING 4.5 out of 5 stars

The Boston Globe called this book, "gloriously eccentric..." which is an inaccurate way to represent this story by Mark Haddon. If anything, Haddon enters the world of autism and demystifies it, making it less eccentric. We see the world through the eyes of fifteen year-old Christopher Boone, who abhors the color yellow, but calms himself by solving complicated math problems in his head. The reader learns to re-calibrate his or her own emotional responses a la Christopher, for whom things hurt according to their logical content or lack thereof.

This book has many strengths, and Christopher's father is perhaps one of the best examples of a sympathetic but highly flawed character. While Christopher is undoubtedly the book's protagonist, the non-autistic reader will more likely empathize with Christopher's father, who is capable of both great love and great destruction.

Aside from Christopher's discussions with his therapist Siobhan, the book wisely veers away from preachy explanations about autism. Even the therapy sessions are more about interpersonal connection than outlining the intricacies of autism, and it is this that helps the reader to connect to Christopher in something other than sympathy. We engage with Christopher's world, not the world of autism...and this is right as autism spectrum disorders defy generalizations or easy categories.

The end result, if anything, is that the eccentricity of general humanity is exposed. We become conscious of our everyday lack of logic. The novel is just as much about the human condition as the autistic condition.

50BC08 #18: Divine Intervention

It has been awhile. I didn't quite get through all my nun reads. I guess I hit my saturation point, so I need a break. So what could be farther from nuns than extraterrestrial machine-gods?

Divine Intervention (World Realities Series) Divine Intervention by Ken Wharton

rating: 3 of 5 stars

I will preface this review by admitting that when it comes to science-fiction, I tend to favor the fictional elements over the scientific ones. I don't mind a book that is science heavy, but I'm pretty particular about how that science is communicated. I'm not fond of the model that has two characters casually chatting about quantum physics (much in the same way I hate commercials that show women sitting around talking about their feminine supplies).

Wharton, when he does this, does manage to give it good context (most of the time), so it doesn't get tiresome. The book is reminiscent of C.S. Lewis' Space Trilogy in its attempts to address science and theology, but Wharton's aim is different. His crafting of the Randall family is really well-done, and we come to appreciate them for their individual strengths and foibles. Daddy Randall is a preacher and believes in "God" but not the "God" of his son, Drew. Drew, who is a deaf-mute and communicates through a transmitter, has regular talks with God. Mommy Randall is an atheist, but turns out to be far more-open minded than Daddy Randall.

This would be an interesting premise by itself, but Wharton successfully places the Randalls on Mandala, a long-standing colonized planet. In fact, the whole theology of Mandalans is based around a "Journal" kept by the Captain (capital "C" intentional) of the original ship that colonized the planet, the Walt Disney. But they have become their own planet, and the news that a ship containing thousands of cryogenically frozen Earthlings is on its way to Mandala isn't received as happy news by everyone.

Where the book fails, is the Epilogue. I would like to see a law against Epilogues (I'm looking at you Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows). I much prefer to leave things hanging than a quick tie-up of all loose ends in 3 to 10 pages. Wharton's Epilogue, especially after all the complex relationships he has introduced, comes off as trite.

Epilogue aside, it is a good read. The scientific reasoning is mixed with personality differences and theology which makes for much more interesting reading than your standard dialogue about semi-conductive materials.