Short Reviews

Book Leaves

Gretchen Giles, Liesel Hofmann, Sara Peyton, Zack Stentz, David Templeton, and Jenna Templeton (age 10).

Theresa Sheppard Alexander
Facing the Wolf: Inside the Process of Deep Feeling Therapy
New York: A Dutton Book, Penguin Group, 1996, 176 pp.; $20.95

An unusual and moving account about what actually goes on behind the therapist’s door. Over two decades ago, Occidental’s Alexander, then 20, entered an intensive three-week primal therapy program, through the generosity of Dr. Arthur Janov, the developer of the method and author of The Primal Scream. It was the beginning of a profound transformation that forever changed Alexander’s life. She returned to college, studied to become a therapist, and trained at the Primal Institute in Los Angeles. Today she practices what she calls Deep Feeling Therapy, based on many of Janov’s techniques. In her book, Alexander illuminates the therapeutic process from both the patient’s and therapist’s point of view based on her own experiences. We learn about the importance of developing a healing bond between patient and therapist. And we learn about Alexander’s childhood struggles as the daughter of an abusive father who routinely beat his kids. By the end of the book, you will applaud Alexander’s triumphs and may decide it’s time for some deep feeling work yourself.–SP

Dr. Reinhold Aman
Maledicta 12: The International Journal of Verbal Aggression
Santa Rosa: Maledicta Press, 1996, 160 pp.; $12.50

Volume 12 continues in the same iconoclastic, shock-’em-and-shake-’em vein of intellectual brain-porn that Aman established years ago with his first collection of essays dedicated to the examination of verbal aggression. There are 22 essays in all, each one illuminating a different aspect of the dirty little ways that people use words. Catch Gwen Foss’s wild glossary of Domino’s Pizza slang (pepperoni, mushroom, and sausage pizzas, with the acronym PMS, are called “Bitch Pies”; “extra blood” means extra sauce). Other notable entries include Henk Salleveldt’s discussion of graffiti left in latrines by Dutch soldiers, and Aman’s own provocatively titled essay, “Linguistic and Blasphemous Aspects of Bavarian Micturation and American Toilet Names.”–DT

Marsha Arnold
Illustrated by Lisa McCue
Quick, Quack, Quick!
New York: Random House, 1996, unpaged; $3.99

This Step into Reading book by Sebastopol author Arnold (whose Heart of a Tiger last year was an absolute keeper for kids) is short and sweet, just the way young readers like ’em. Designed for preschoolers to first-graders who are struggling out the words themselves, Quick, Quack, Quick! is the simple tale of little Quack the duckling, a dawdler whose slow ways eventually help him save his feathered family from the claws of Cat.–GG

Elizabeth Davis and Carol Leonard
The Woman’s Wheel of Life: Thirteen Archetypes of Woman at Her Fullest Power
New York: Penguin Arkana, 1996, 239 pp.; $22.95

Maiden, mother, crone. For women who run with wolves, strollers, the wind, and with high heels on, these have long been identified as the three stages of female life. Now Windsor-based midwife Elizabeth Davis and her colleague Carol Leonard have identified a fourth stage, the Matriarch. As delineated in The Woman’s Wheel of Life, the Matriarch emerges in that pre-menopausal stage of the late 30s to 40s, when children are becoming more independent, and career and creative efforts become paramount in a working woman’s life. Citing longer life spans and later menopausal onsets as reasons for the new distinction of this stage, the authors depict the phase of the Matriarch–or queen, which has a nice ring to it–as a celebratory time of strength.–GG

Eliot Fintushel
Please Don’t Hurt Me!
Glen Ellen.: Self-published, 1996, 268 pp.; $7

If the makers of Independence Day had been locked in a room for a month with nothing but pen and paper, blotter acid, and a big stack of Thomas Pynchon and Philip K. Dick novels to keep them company, they might have written Please Don’t Hurt Me! instead of the turgid scenario they ended up with. Of course, Fintushel’s bizarre story of the deranged followers of an elderly biker mama and their battle against a cult of fitness nuts led by an exercise guru and the First Lady of the United States might not have grossed $300 million at the box office, but who cares. This is a lot more fun, anyway. As absurdity piles on top of absurdity and the alien Boorfahs make their presence known by pulling the postmodernist trick of manipulating the very book in the reader’s hand, one has no choice but to give up any hope of fitting the pieces together and instead sit back and enjoy the surreal ride. Be warned, though: Please Don’t Hurt Me! isn’t one damned thing after another; it’s every damned thing you could ever think of, all at once.–ZS

Robert W. Funk
Honest to Jesus: Jesus for a New Millennium
San Francisco: HarperSan Francisco, 1996, 320 pp.; $24

Honest to Jesus, Funk’s new book about the subversive Galilean sage so exploited by theologians, presents the historical Jesus rather than the manipulated and controlled Jesus myth. Easy reading, even for unstudied secular humanists, Honest to Jesus is liberation theology for those caught short of breath by unrelenting doctrine and rigid ideology. “Everything is on the table,” writes Funk, whose annual Jesus Seminar event attracts hundreds of the nation’s top biblical scholars to its conferences. “There is nothing . . . in Christian tradition . . . that is immune to critical assessment and reformulation. We cannot put a protective shield around any part of Christian heritage if we aspire to set Jesus free.” Honest to Jesus hits the stands in November with a seven-city author tour and a new highwater mark for Funk’s rejuvenating work about a guy named Jesus.–DB

Michael E. Gerber
The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It
New York: HarperBusiness, 1996), 268 pp.; $15

Petaluma business guru Gerber says that small business needs a system. Entrepreneurs, writes Gerber, make the fatal assumption that “if you understand the technical work of a business, then you understand a business that does technical work.” Not so, he says. Complete with anecdotes, jargon, and a self-promoting plug–typical of self-help business books–The E-Myth Revisited rings true: Work on your business, not in it; create a business that is systems-dependent, not people- or expert-dependent. –DB

Jean Hegland
Into the Forest
Corvallis, Ore.: Calyx Books, 1996, 193 pp.; $13.95

Something about the California redwood forests brings out a person’s latent survivalist tendencies. My high school biology teacher up in Fort Bragg used to enthrall his students with lurid fantasies of a post-holocaust North Coast reduced to feudalism and lorded over by gun-toting rednecks like himself. Now, my deranged teacher’s dream becomes Hegland’s nightmare in her new novel, Into the Forest.

The Healdsburg writer tells the story of two home-schooled teenage girls living far from the nearest town and their efforts to survive amidst the slow collapse of civilization. Hegland’s fresh twist is to mostly ignore the details of her larger post-apocalyptic scenario and concentrate almost exclusively on the relationship between the two girls as they weather dwindling supplies, their father’s death, and interlopers both friendly and hostile. Into the Forest makes an ideal companion and counterpoint to David Brin’s The Postman (no relation to Il Postino), which also takes place in the Pacific Northwest. While liberal optimist Brin writes of society’s slow rebirth from the ruins, eco-feminist Hegland tells of learning to trust and embrace wild nature. Both visions are compelling, and which one seems most plausible probably depends on the reader’s own views on civilization and its discontents.–ZS

Jan Freeman Long
Illustrated by Kaoru Ono
The Bee and the Dream
New York: Dutton, 1996, unpaged; $15.99

There is an old Japanese saying that goes like this: “When you see a bee fly from someone’s nose, good fortune will be yours.” I kind of like that saying, and I was amused by the wonderful book that Petaluma writer Jan Freeman Long has adapted from a Japanese folk tale that begins with a bee and a nose and a curious dream. The Bee and the Dream is written in a fun way that will probably be enjoyed by everyone, not just children. The illustrations by Tokyo artist Kaoru Ono are very colorful and silly. You just might like this imaginative story of Shin, his dream of gold buried under a faraway camellia bush, and his surprising voyage to see if the dream is true. The Bee and the Dream may not be my very favorite new book, but it sure is good. I hope you like it.–JT

Megan McDonald
Illustrated by Peter Catalanotto
My House Has Stars
New York: Orchard Books, 1996, unpaged; $15.95

Local book treasure Megan McDonald (who presides over the register at Rohnert Park’s Treasure Books) follows up her Insects Are My Life with another clever and moving children’s tale. Aimed at grades kindergarten through third, My House Has Stars takes one night in the homes of eight different children situated in such vastly different areas of the world as Alaska and Mongolia. While their homes are hewn from materials as diverse as wool and wood and ice and clay can be, and while the families eat and speak disparately from one another, McDonald wisely narrows the focus down to the one home that we all share equally, the earth, and the heavenly roof of stars that shelters all of humankind.–GG

John A. McDougall, M.D.
Recipes by Mary McDougall
The McDougall Program for a Healthy Heart: A Life-Saving Approach to Preventing and Treating Heart Disease
New York: A Dutton Book, Penguin Group, 1966, 430 pp.; $24.95

Bizarre. That’s what some call Dr. McDougall’s diet. But it’s the American way of eating, he asserts, that’s bizarre, and he has the scientific and historical evidence to prove it. In his unstinting efforts to get the sludge out of the arteries of Americans and help them bypass the bypass surgery that’s rampant, Santa Rosa’s McDougall offers the rudiments of the highly successful program he uses in his clinical practice. This readable, meticulously documented book offers life-saving advice on diet, exercise, lifestyle changes, medical tests, and medications–plus over 100 great recipes.–LH

Jennie Orvino
Heart of the Peony
Rohnert Park: Piece of My Mind Publishing, 1996, 39 pp.; $10

Orvino was a winning contestant in the Independent‘s Java Jive contest last year. Now she shows up again, this time bearing that greatest bugaboo of all: a self-published poetry book. As a rule, we try to shy away from such books when we do our book roundups because quite often there is a reason the writer had to pony up the cash to self-publish it in the first place. Happily, Heart of the Peony is an exception. Toughly erotic (the title refers to female genitals), the book begins with poems to Orvino’s parents and ends with a meal’s worth of recipes, but between family fidelity and kitchen duties lie sex-stank sheets, the feel of worn place mats under the despondent elbows of a woman who’s been left behind, and more honesty than you’ll be lucky to ever get from a lover.–GG

Jim Panttaja, Mary Panttaja, and Bruce Prendergast
The Microsoft SQL Server Survival Guide
New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1996, 432 pp.; $36.95

If you’re a database programmer or developer working with Microsoft SQL Server 6 (and who isn’t these days?), then this book is The New Testament, The Iliad, and Our Bodies/Ourselves all rolled into one. Forget all that trial and error programmers typically encounter–the Survival Guide is a life preserver thrown into the digital sea, teaching you all the tricks of the trade needed to build business applications to die for. And if you’re not a programmer working with Microsoft SQL Server 6? Hell, buy the book anyway. It’s much cheaper than a Halcion prescription.–ZS

Richard Paul Papp
Bear Flag Country
Petaluma: Analecta Publishing, 1996, 220 pp.

Local entomologist Papp weaves together his twin loves of history and stamp collecting into one narrative in which he documents how old mail routes in Sonoma County were the skeleton that shaped the county’s growth and development, with the post offices themselves being the acorns from which sprang the mighty oaks of cities we now live in. Think about that the next time you complain about junk mail or late delivery.–ZS

Joan Price
Yes, You CAN Get into Shape!
Pacifica: Pacifica Press, 1996, 210 pp.; $17.95

Hey, you. Yes, you on the sofa watching Hard Copy, shoveling Pringles and malt balls into your maw, then washing them down your gullet with Diet Coke because, hey, you’re watching your calories. Sebastopol author Joan Price would like a word with you. She wants to help you get up off your well-padded buttocks and turn those plaque-clogged arteries as smooth as a Republican’s cerebellum. How?, you might ask incredulously, pausing between bites of butter-soaked pastry. By making exercise fun, and incorporating it into enjoyable, everyday activities instead of treating fitness like cod liver oil for the muscles.–ZS

Norm Ray
Smart Tax Write-Offs
Windsor: Rayve Productions, 1996, 112 pp.; $12.95

Windsor resident Norm Ray has got to be the kind of accountant with whom it’s a gas to sit up late on the bleary night of April 14, finally figuring out exactly what taxes your small business owes. Norm might lean forward and point a pencil at your purse. “Got a wallet in there?” he could ask. “Keep business credit cards in it?” If the answer is affirmative, Norm might smile slowly. “Write it off!” For in Smart Tax Write-Offs, Norm offers a whopping 600 write-offs that might not have occurred to the average business owner–from the coffee you grind, to the music you play to keep your workers from going berserk and rifling each other down in the hallways, to the aforementioned wallet and its solemn duty to hold and protect your business-aimed plastic. And there’s gotta be a way that you can deduct the cost of the book and the time you spend reading it.–GG

Rayford Clayton Reddell
Illustrated by Lourdes Livingston
Full Bloom: Thoughts from an Opinionated Gardener
New York: Harmony Books, 1996, 276 pp.; $22.50

Don’t expect any sanctimonious guff rhapsodizing about flowers from Petaluma gardener Reddell. This columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle is much too mean and funny for that. He hates gladioli, the smell of too many gardenias, and the very notion of a green thumb–precisely because he doesn’t have one. This collection of his biweekly newspaper writings is segmented into tips, musings, seasonal worries, kitchen gardening, planting for the nose, and his specialty–the care of roses. Reddell, who lives among some 6,500 different rose bushes, knows a bit about this thorny problem. Fresh and funny, Full Bloom is a gardener’s delight, a book that doesn’t make neophyte planters feel simply like vegetation murderers. –GG

Nancy Shipman
Nancy’s Candy Cookbook: How to Make Candy at Home the Easy Way
Windsor: Rayve Productions, 1996,190 pp.

Shipman, the sugar and spice lady of Nancy’s Fancy’s Santa Rosa confectionery, gives easy basics on everything from deciphering the mysteries of chocolate (temperature and the simple eye of attention) to the rotund sugary heights of balled truffles and popcorn, Shipman–who is understandably unable to escape such titles as “yummies”–offers straightforward recipes that utilize few special tools (the microwave is as high tech as it gets) and whose titles promise plenty of “foolproof” results. Hard to beat that.–GG

From the September 12-18, 1996 issue of the Sonoma Independent

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