Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die: James Dean’s Final Hours by Keith Elliot Greenberg (Applause Theater & Cinema Books, $24.99, 286 pages)
“Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today.” James Dean
Some will be tempted to buy this book based on the subtitle, James Dean’s Final Hours. It’s not so much a minute-by-minute account of Dean’s last day as it is a short biography. The subtitle is a hook to draw the reader in.
If you’re interested in Dean, but not so much that you would want to read a 400, 500 or 600 page bio, this may serve your purposes. Yes, it does cover the circumstances and details of the actor’s death in September of 1955, but it’s told in a style that bounces all over, around and about Dean’s life. The reader who appreciates a chronological telling of a true story may find this somewhat frustrating.
Also frustrating is a high amount of repetition. For example, more times than I could count the writer makes a statement to the effect that, “Much of Jimmy’s inner torment came from the early demise of his mother.” Stating this once would have been sufficient. Greenberg is fixated with the notion that those close to Dean all died under untimely and strange circumstances. And like many Hollywood biographers, he’s a bit too caught up in his subject’s sex life.
A fascinating story told in a less than captivating manner.
A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book was released on September 15, 2015.
Dataclysm: Who We Are* (*When We Think No One’s Looking) by Christian Rudder (Crown, $28.00, 272 pages)
Dataclysm – an unprecedented deluge of digital information reshaping our view of the world.
Christian Rudder is a co-founder and the analytics team leader of the dating site OkCupid. Rudder has made use of the massive amount of data collected by his website. He ventures beyond the two basic and common data use perceptions – government spying and commercial manipulation to encourage purchases. Rather, he has added a third use – an unprecedented look into the nature of human beings.
The OkCupid site data yields not only the responses to its in depth questionnaires but also the transactions and/or communications between the site’s users. Much is revealed regarding our prejudices and preferences through text and graphic depictions.
Data geeks and everyone else will benefit from reading this fascinating mainstream science book. It is definitely not a pop science product. Rudder’s smooth writing style is quite surprising for a data person. Perhaps his Harvard education included writing classes or he has the benefit of an excellent editor. The comfortable sentence structure provides a balance of tech data and human warmth.
This is a book that should appeal to those readers interested in how often humans act like pack animals, versus how often they act independently. It’s only fair to add that Dataclysm requires an attentive reader who has a true commitment to the subject matter. The payoff is well worth the effort.
A review copy was provided by the publisher.
Photograph of Christian Rudder by Victor G. Jeffreys II.
A review of Dataclysm: Who We Are* (*When We Think No One’s Looking) by Christian Rudder.
Mean Business on Ganson Street: A Novel by S. Craig Zahler (Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press, $25.99, 304 pages)
An opening chapter filled with violence is standard fare for writers such as Lisa Unger, Deborah Crombie and Lee Child. Thereafter, the story settles into an exploration of the characters and their motivations that eventually link back to that initial shock. The reader is provided red herring possibilities for the solution to the mystery – who dunnit?
Author S. Craig Zahler has penned a “novel” that is, in fact, a snuff movie on paper. Sadly, the Warner Brothers studio has optioned the book and the author is working on the screen adaptation. His vision may spring to life. My hope is that it will be X rated. Anything less will mean that the gore and violence splattered on most of its pages has been insinuated and a younger audience will be admitted for viewing.
The contrasts set up between Detective Jules Bettinger, formerly of Arizona, and the sworn officers in Victory, Missouri are punctuated by crude epithets hurled every which way. Bettinger is exiled after being less than helpful when the former son-in-law of the mayor comes to the police station to secure assistance in locating his missing would-be bride.
Bettinger is alternatively a well-spoken man with an education, a loving husband and father and a guy out for revenge. Regardless of his role, he’s only marginally likeable. Zahler is sadly lacking in his female character development. Each of the women in his tale is one-dimensional. Even Bettinger’s wife fails to experience authentic feelings.
If trash talk and gory, sadistic and gratuitous violence are your preferred criterion for selecting a book, have at it. Everyone else should steer clear! To be clear, this book is not recommended; far from it.
A review copy was provided by the publisher.
A preview-review of Mean Business on North Ganson Street: A Novel by S. Craig Zahler, which will be released on September 30, 2014.