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Thursday, July 31

Nobody loves a cynic

"Is that your house?" I turned and saw our vice president looking admiringly at my computer screen. "Boss, I wish...! Then, despite author Rick Bayan's claim, I probably would love a cynic the way his dog sighs in tolerance of his acid at life." I smiled at the veteran MBA as he exited the office.

From the first moments I skimmed The Cynic's Dictionary I thought it was too interesting to gather dust in a flea market pile. I took it home and carried it in my purse at work. Here's a list I made to remember this book by -

1.  First off, Rick Bayan assures would-be readers that he is not a cynic of the hard-boiled school, but actually a disgruntled idealist.  The cynicism that crackles throughout his dictionary is a 'romantic's disgust over wanting life to be a melodious waltz but times have given us rap instead.'

2.  The Cynic's Dictionary contains bile, spleen and other dark, unwholesome humors

3.  The book targets an age that -
  • scoffs at virtue and nobility
  • makes culture heroes out of strutting rock musicians
  • prizes the ugly and obscure in art
  • turns men and women into carping adversaries, and bright collegians into undifferentiated corporate bureaucrats
  • rewards greed and glibness
  • tells us through the dictates of "political correctness" what we are allowed to think and say
4.  A word on the book's predecessor, The Devil's Dictionary
  • has been brilliantly warming the chilly hearts of cynics, and naturally an underappreciated book at least among mainstream readers and critics
  • author Ambrose Bierce took on all of humankind as the target of his wrath 
5.  The author's (Bayan) intentions are
  • to snipe at the gods and toss brickbats at human nature
  • take up arms against sacred cows, unholy terrors and irritating little gremlins of the modern era
6.  What the author tried to accomplish
  •  to distill the essence of the offending phenomenon into a few well-chosen words, and to give those words an ironic twist that will leave you chortling inwardly with satisfaction
7.  The author maligns
  • endless arrays of special-interest factions
  • corporate henchmen
  • jargoneering professionals
  • teenage barbarians
  • media tastemakers
  • smug connoisseurs
  • mobsters
  • new-age mountebanks
  • turncoat humanities professors
  • politically ostentatious celebrities
8.  Again and again the author:
  • goads the obnoxious
  • defends the defenseless
  • attacks bullies from the incomparable safety of the printed page
9.  The author amuses himself by:
  • skewering ghoulies, ghosties and long-legged betes noires
  • playing with words after a long day's work
  • aiming a righteous barb at something vile
10.  If anything in the book offends you - please bear in mind that Bayan crafted his definitions 'the way a caricaturists sketches a face with an eye to the possibilities for whimsical exaggerations.'

11.  If you wonder how could the author be so unrelentingly negative, Bayan assures you that The Cynic's Dictionary is 'as much an elegy for old-fashioned virtues and pleasures as it is a diatribe against decadence'.

12.  Bayan's word to other aspiring scribes, daunted perhaps by the slim odds of finding a sympathetic publisher, "Write it anyway!"

13. And here are samples on which I started chuckling at first and then burst out laughing
  • cynic: an idealist whose rose-colored glasses have been removed, snapped in two and stomped into the ground, immediately improving his vision
  • denial: how an optimist keeps from becoming a pessimist
  • author: a writer with connections in the publishing industry
  • academia (my world, lol): a chronic disease characterized by a compulsion to write lengthy specialized treatises in unintelligible vocabularies for the purpose of rising in the esteem of those similarly afflicted 

Thanks to our hosts: Blue Monday  * Thursday Thirteen

Monday, July 21

The Client

"From now on, you'll do nothing but read books." 
- Dianne Sway to her eleven-year old son Mark on The Client by John Grisham 

It's never blue, it it? I mean blueberry pies. I had a slice for brunch today as I finished reading a legal thriller. At least there was a pretty decoupage napkin to go with it and a good ending to a riveting story. But then I paused and decided that it's too pretty for the crumbs. Here's what I'm talking about -

With this post I begin to document books I have read, or something to remember a book by. I wish I did this for those many other books I read in the past but well, it's never too late and I hope to catch up. So without further ado here are 13 random things about THE CLIENT by John Grisham.

  • It's amazing how lies grow. You start with a small one that seems easy to cover, then you get boxed in and tell another one. Then another. People believe you at first, and they act upon your lies, and you catch yourself wishing you simply told the truth.
  • Children are not to be interviewed without first talking to the parents.
  • A person who knows something about a crime, and withholds this information from the FBI or the police may be found guilty of obstruction of justice.
  • Every citizen owes to society the duty of giving testimony to aid in the enforcement of the law.
  • The most effective defense lawyers are those who keep fighting away from the issues.
  • Cameras and reporters attract lawyers like blood attracts sharks.
2. What I learned:
  • Knowing or not knowing a dangerous information can spell the difference between life and death.
  • Technically, a client is supposed to pay a lawyer something as a retainer.  Once it is done, they go from there. A single dollar is fine.
  • Lawyers pick for details by asking pointed questions and they skillfully and fearfully dance around delicate information.
  • Time is critical so you move fast because evidence disappears and memories fade. Big corporations move slow.
  • A doctor can put off the press or order the FBI out of a patient's room.
  • The attorney-client privilege is almost sacred.
  • The Juvenile Court is the unwanted stepchild of the judicial system
  • allegations are based partly on facts and partly on assumptions
  • an attorney trying a case cannot participate in the same trial as a witness
  • there's no law against dodging subpoenas.
3. My is-that-so moment:
  • People from New Orleans speak with a clipped drawl.
  • Amber and Alexis happen to be two of the most popular names among strippers and whores in the French Quarter.
  • assistant prosecutor in New Orleans; fifteen thousand bucks a year in 1975 
4. What made me chuckle:
  • Lawyers just get in the way.  You have to pay them money, and they object to everything.
  • Lawyers are a pain in the ass
  • "What kind of lawyer is she?" "Mean as hell. Shrewd as the devil."
  • The press is going to ruin this country.
  • Her figure was obscene - tiny waist, healthy breasts, slender legs.
  • Research was to be done by egghead scholars.
  • Half the lawyers on television were laboring away on cases they wouldn't get paid for. The other half were sleeping with beautiful women and eating in fancy restaurants.
  • She's a lawyer and she doesn't want money?
5. What I want to read more about:
  • "I'm not hired. I'm retained."
  • "Indict me."
  • Miranda Rights
  • innuendo
  • Civitans
6. Food and drink mentioned
doughnuts, tomato juice, black coffee, beer, sprite, lasagna, oats, sandwiches, spaghetti, ice cream, hot cocoa, shrimp remoulade, roast beef, horseradish and pickles, onion rings, peach cobbler, tea, wine, corn on the cob, sweet potato sticks, cinnamon rolls, chocolate milk, diet cola, Snickers bar, apple Danish, "cheesecake at Cafe Expresso in The Peabody"

7. Phrases / lines I like:
  • ...was on the floor between two shelves of books with his shoes off...
  • reading financial statements by candlelight and waiting for dinner
  • fishing in the mountains
  • It was a big house of English Tudor design, with dark wood and dark brick and ivy covering all of one side....
  • buried deep in law books 
  • She would take the first sip like a wine connoisseur, smack her lips like a rabbit, then pass judgment on the coffee.
  • A soft wind gently rustled the leaves of the huge black oaks between the porch and the street.
  • Reggie flipped through a thick book under a lamp. It was midnight.
  • she curled under a quilt and sipped tea while reading a book titled Reluctant Witnesses
8. Media and product brands: Virginia Slims, The Godfather, LA Law, M*A*S*H, Escape from Alcatraz, Lear and Citation jets

9. What I remember from childhood: the Bic pen 

10. Oh my love for things old!
  • "Senator Dauvin, an antebellum relic from the Civil War"
  • A large family portrait hung above the sofa. It was an old photograph of the Love Family, matted and framed by thick, curly wood.
11. I rather relate: 
  • In high school I had this teacher who was like a drill sergeant. We hated her, but she made us learn.
  • He was a good boy when he was little, but then his father got him and just ruined him.  This was after the divorce.
12. My ex-husband would be familiar with this: "Strippers. Get them a job, then an apartment, buy some clothes, feed them nice dinners, and then they get culture and start making demands."

13. This is just me: I get the impression that John Grisham doesn't like Ronald Reagan.

Thanks to our hosts: Thursday Thirteen / Favorite Things / Blue Monday
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