The Cockroach Papers
A Compendium of History and Lore
Richard Schweid
(Four Walls Eight Windows)

    We wrote a review of this one. A pretty good review, we thought --- praising the book, and its author.

    Well, we sent a copy off to the publisher, as we always do, and they promptly sent back this e-mail:

    From: Kathryn Belden
    Subject: The Cockroach Papers

    Dear Sharon Worth,

    Thank you for the review of THE COCKROACH PAPERS. We certainly appreciate it.

    Unfortunately, one of the images you selected is not one that you have the right to use. Please remove the image of a cockroach crawling into someone's ear.

    Thank you.


Kathryn Belden
Four Walls Eight Windows

So there will be no misunderstanding, we have now deleted the entire review, including the offending ear.
--- The Editor

The Zen
Of Oz

Ten Spiritual Lessons
Over the Rainbow

Joey Green

    "Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore" becomes the anguished cry of a young woman catapulted by bad Karma into an endless cycle of rebirth into the next moment.

Irony, wit, and humor are fairly delicate. If one chooses to satirize both Zen and The Wizard of Oz, one has to be a master. Joey Green is no master.

He should be placed in an ashram for a few eons to contemplate his present rebirth as a bad humorist. There, he will be given access only to the great works of Zen --- The Sound of the One Hand, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, and especially Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism.

At the same time, we'll let him have access to the great works of satire (1066 and All That, A Modest Proposal, and Gamesmanship come readily to mind) and see if he will be able to concoct something better than The Zen of Oz the next time around.

On the other hand, let us be fair, the design of this book is very Zen --- an example of form outdoing function.

--- A. W. Allworthy

The Autobiography
Of Joseph Stalin

Richard Lourie

It is 1938. Stalin thoughtfully reviews a list of Enemies of the People scheduled for execution, smokes a cigar, plans the assassination of his nemesis Trotsky, tells a few jokes, organizes a new purge trial, and reminisces expansively about his past and the secrets of his success.

Profound, imaginative, spooky, chillingly funny.

--- Dr. Phage

Will Rogers
A Photo-Biography
Bryan B. Sterling and
Frances N. Sterling

(Taylor Publishing)

He was born in 1879 in what he said was a log cabin in Claremore, Oklahoma (actually, it was a fairly generous plains house). When asked for his birth certificate at the passport office,

    Well, I told her, Lady, I have no birth certificate; and as for someone here in New York that was present at my birth and can swear to it, I am afraid that will be rather difficult. You know the old-time Lady of which I am a direct descendant, they were of a rather modest and retiring nature, and being born was rather a private affair, and not a public function. You see, in the early days of the Indian Territory, where I was born, there was no such things as birth certificates. You being there was certificate enough. We generally took it for granted if you were there you must have at some time been born.

He was "9/32 Cherokee," and spent his early years not only as a cowboy, but travelling to unlikely places such as Argentina and South Africa to see their cowboys. He was a master roper, and his first stroke of luck was at The Horse Fair at Madison Square Garden in 1905, where a steer got loose and ran into the audience. Rogers roped it single-handedly, and with the resultant publicity, signed on to become a vaudeville star.

Will Rogers takes us through his career as polo player, horseman, stage star, movie star, columnist, and all the way up to his death in Alaska, in 1935. (The pilot, Wiley Post, attempted to land at Barrow in "Zero, Zero" weather --- zero ceiling, zero visibility. They didn't make it.)

Rogers certainly went everywhere and did everything, even interviewing Mussolini and seeing the Soviet experiment in Russia: "I wanted to tell them that what they needed in their government was more of a sense of humor and less of a sense of revenge."

Still, his humor seems to belong to another age. He usually poked fun at the easiest of targets --- politicians, prohibition, and "the drunken politicians voting in favor of prohibition." His interview with Mussolini was largely with making fun of the dictator's accent ("You tell 'em Mussolini, R-e-g-u-l-a-r G-u-y, Is that right Englais.") It was only at times when he went serious that he dropped the easy-going role, and gave a bite to his words. In one broadcast in 1931, he said

    The only problem that confronts this country today is at least 7,000,000 people are out of work. That's our only problem. There is no other one before us at all. It's to see that every man that wants to is able to work, is allowed to find a place to go to work, and also to arrange some way of getting more equal distribution of wealth in the country.

The Photo-Biography is a non-critical biography --- so one only gets a sanitized view of Will Rogers. It is over-laden with pictures --- two hundred or so --- many of which are merely interesting, not vital. The narrative is fairly ho-hum, and the quotes from letters are not much help understanding the man. The greatest success of the book is in giving one the feel for the times, for a man who cared greatly, a person who, in a time of deep prejudice against Native Americans, was singularly and unashamedly proud of his Cherokee heritage. He lost no chance to remind people of how shabbily America had treated his ancestors.

--- W. P. Riley

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