Monrovia, California, United States | Member Since 2012
Sheryl Sandberg had me at, “I gained 70 lbs!”
I had heard a lot about this book, but I really wasn’t sure that I could relate to this woman. At all. I expected a book by a carefully made up, wealthy, privileged woman with an excellent education in a token leadership position. I expected someone with a lot of help who could “do it all”, with little – if any – credit to the people who helped her do it.
I, on the other hand, joined the Army for the college benefits, and I put myself through law school. I don’t aspire to manage a corporation. In fact, indirectly, I work for one of the people she mentions in her book. I am an attorney, and I want to be the best litigator I can be. I am also the proud mother of two teenagers, and I worry that I shouldn’t have worked outside of the home – but that wasn’t a choice I had.
I was wrong about Sandberg. Like me, and the rest of us, she is real. Sandberg’s a sociologist, a critic, a coach, a realist. Sandberg gives props to important leaders from Warren Buffet to Betty Freidan, and to her administrative assistant and her friends. Bravo! Sandberg, get out your pom-poms - Tip O’Neil is calling from the grave.
Sandberg doesn’t mention “Games Mother Never Taught You” by Betty Lehan Harrigan (1987), but that is analogous to some of the tactics she recommends. Yes, it would be better if we (women) didn’t have to bend to the (male) rules, but we do. Harrigan’s book is a guidebook, and as helpful as Freidan’s “The Feminine Mystique” in some ways.
There is a hysterically funny tale involving an eBay corporate jet and an itchy child’s head, but for real fun, skip to Chapter 6 (7 on audible) and listen to the first minute. Sandberg reminds us even while we should do what we would do if we weren't afraid, motherhood keeps us grounded.
Oh, and did I mention – Sandberg is the COO of Facebook – and she really does know what she’s doing?
This book is fantastic. Lean In!
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I'm not really sure what Marissa Walsh's "Girl With Glasses: My Optic History" (2006) was. An autobiography? Not really, I don't know where Walsh went to college except that it was probably one of the Seven Sisters, Is Walsh trying to do for glasses what Lisa Birnbach did for dock siders sans socks and polo shirts in "The Official Preppy Handbook" (1980)? Probably not - it wasn't advice l about which glasses work well with plaid skirts and blue blazers.
I've decided that no matter how Audible or Barnes & Noble categorizes GWG (Walsh's nickname for the type), it's a mildly amusing memoir framed by half a dozen pairs of glasses, interspersed with occasional forays into contact lenses. Walsh, in contacts, is literally a different person. She's aimlessly striving, uncomfortable in her own skin, annoyingly uncertain about clothes, and doesn't fit in no matter where she is. Wearing glasses, Walsh is a clever observer; wry and charmingly self deprecating; becomes a New York hipster; and doesn't care about blending . Walsh writing about being in contacts is forgettable; in glasses, she's got super powers.
I'm not sure what the text version looked like, but I suspect it has lots of lists, bolding, bullet points and italics. If that's the case, the narration worked fine. GWG was an okay enough way to pass a three hour traffic jam on the 405 South.
The joke is that prostitution is the world's oldest profession, and there's a debate about the second. Is it politics? Ronald Reagan joked at a business conference in Los Angeles on March 2, 1977, that "Politics is supposed to be the second-oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first." Is it motherhood, as Erma Bombeck claimed in "Motherhood: The Second Oldest Profession" (1983)? Or is it spying - as both Phillip Knightley says in his 1986 book, "The Second Oldest Profession: Spies and Spying in the 20th Century" - and Professor Vejas
Gabriel Liulevicius in this Great Courses lecture series "Espionage and Covert Operations: A Global History" (2011)?
Whenever spying started, it is the world's most versatile profession. Liulevicius points out that a spy can be anyone. A 13th Century merchant on the Silk Road might be gathering intelligence for Genghis Khan's Mongol Hoards. A highly respected but deeply in debt American Revolutionary War general, feeling slighted by being passed over for promotion, might sell secrets to the British - as Benedict Arnold and his wife did. An arrogant Southern Confederate Army Command might believe the propaganda that Blacks were subhuman and could not pass on military plans to the forces fighting to free them, and speak improvidently in front of a 15 year old black girl serving dinner. A politically idealistic and unrealistic group of young men might agree to spy for the communists, and rise high in a democratic government before being discovered, but after betraying hundreds (Kim Philby and the Cambridge 5). Spies can be soldiers, mothers (Valerie Plame), prostitutes (Mata Hari, arguably), friends and enemies.
Liulevicius does discuss the reasons people become spies - including idealism (Jonathan Pollard, a Naval Intelligence Analyst who spied for Israel); money (Aldrich Ames, CIA, for the USSR/Russia), the desire to "get one over" on people who underestimated him (Robert Hanssen, FBI, also for USSR/Russia).
Liulevicius lectures are fascinating, and emphasize the development of the tools of the profession - the tradecraft - over the last two millennia. He also discusses how tradecraft failures lead to the discovery of spies. Liulevicius doesn't throughly discuss the reasons for the failures, but the situations he mentions appear arise from a combination of hubris, laziness and arrogance of spies themselves and handlers, rather than a lack of technical resources or expertise. That psychology alone warrants another lecture.
Liulevicius does not discuss the morals and ethics of spying, other than to mention the oft repeated maxim that "Gentlemen don't read each other's mail" which is credited to Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Secretary of War, Henry Stimson, who disbanded the OSS (Office of Special Services) at the end of World War II. The OSS was reconstituted in fairly short order as the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency).
Liulevicius mentions Pvt Chelsea Manning (formerly PFC Bradley Manning), an intelligence analyst who stole hundreds of classified communications and gave them to Julian Assange and Wikileaks. Former NSA (National Security Agency) contractor Edwin Snowden's intelligence leaks didn't become public until 2013, two years after this Great Course was published. Liulevicius didn't argue that Manning was a spy, and I'm sure he'd agree Snowden wasn't one either. Both men used brute force spy techniques (they were present with the intelligence and copied it), but neither were employed by any outside entity when they acquired the intelligence. Both sold the information to the "highest bidder", although the goal wasn't money for either man. It was an expression of moral belief, a desire fame, or both.
In light of these recent revelations, it would be great to hear Liulevicius talk about whether the US government's intrusion into the privacy of its citizens - its spying - is a reflection of paranoid politicians, an insular society, or just business as usual - made unusually transparent. Perhaps an updated course, Audible/Great Courses?
This is a good course, but like all Audible versions of Great Courses, there's no accompanying course material. I'm fine with that - I wouldn't have read a book along with it anyway. A true Table of Contents would have been nice, and that's available at the Great Courses website.
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I downloaded Mark Hanson's "The Nerd's Guide to Being Confident" (2013) right before heading off for a day trip to Mt. Baldy. By the time I realized I was so totally NOT the target audience for this book, I had no signal and couldn't download a different book for the drive - so I listened anyway.
I'm not a recent male college grad with self esteem issues on my second or third real job, trying to get laid by a woman in 3 dates or less, as cheaply as possible. I am a straight woman, and I've dated more than one man who has (intuitively) followed Hanson's advice. Dated them once, and definitely no sex. Maybe a polite peck on the cheek.
Not that some of Hanson's advice isn't really good, because it is. Have varied interests. Don't compromise ethical or moral beliefs to date a woman. Don't use time worrying about why someone doesn't want to spend time with you or trying to get them interested - find someone who doesn't waste your time. Adjust your language so you don't mistake your (often temporary) feelings for what you are. Good hygiene is a necessity.
What doesn't work that Hanson advises is being a c**** a** that only talks about himself and his interests. Unless you happen to do something really, really, interesting (maybe you've discovered a brand new energy source that will also solve the drought? You work for JPL/CalTech and just discovered life on another planet?), there has to be give and take. Quite frankly, any girl that doesn't want to share at least a few things about herself is just shining you on to get the date over with, doesn't want you to know anything about her, and will never return your calls; or she has serious self esteem issues of her own. And if some girl does go to bed with you, worry about what she wants, not just what you are going to get out of it. Have some pride in what you do.
According to Hanson, "Some people think I'm an idiot" (from his website). I don't think he's a COMPLETE idiot, just a partial one.
Valentine's Day was rough, and not only because I'm not dating right now. I do have a long term, significant relationship with The 57 North. It's steady, reliable, and has very few surprises, good or bad. In fact, sometimes it's delightfully smooth.
I've tried going out with other freeways, but those evenings usually end in spectacular disaster. The 5 North to The 605 North always promises a wonderful time on Waze (the GPS equivalent of OKCupid - Garmin is more like the staid, conservative Match), but those hopes are usually dashed by a 3 car accident not quite pulled out of the right lane of traffic of the very narrow 5 as it enters Los Angeles County, or a semi tanker carrying something flammable on broken down on a transition.
This Valentine's Day, every freeway and surface street in OC and LA conspired to make my trip home as drawn out and excruciating as all of Brian Donavan's 100+ internet dates rolled into one. I was so glad to have "Not a Match: My True Tales of Online Dating Disasters" (2013) to laugh at. Donavan's an observant and funny writer, and Ax Norman was a great voice for the story. Turned my Eco-friendly Insight into a little comedy club for a couple of hours and made Valentine's Day memorable - in a good way.
I spent the first decade of my life in a small city in the Midwest that is so average it's held as the arbiter of all things middle class. I lived in a not-so-expensive neighborhood walking distance to a small university, and the neighbors included large working class families and professors just starting out who already had a kid or two before the age of 26. Everyone was married, and everyone's mother was a stay-at-home mom, and moms maybe sold Tupperware or Avon for a little extra cash. Kids delivered papers, mowed lawns, and shoveled snow for spending money.
Sounds like a neat little slice of mid-20th century America, but I'm not that old and things weren't that great. Title IX and organized sports for girls was just a dream, which was good because most families only had one car and Dad took it to work. Every mother ironed, and having the ironing board out in the kitchen during the day was a source of pride. Mothers that actually boiled clothes in starch, hung them up to dry, and then ironed - well, that was the gold standard of housekeeping. Expensive vacations were out of the question - wherever you went, it had to be drivable. Who could afford to fly 2 or 6 or 8 kids to Disneyland?
Things have changed drastically for middle class parents since then, as Jennifer Senior explains in "All Joy and No Fun" (2014). Over 64% of mothers with children under the age of 18 work now. Conversely, Moms and Dads actually spend a lot more time parenting - 30% at least - than parents did more than a quarter century ago. There are less white shirt boiling and ironing, and more soccer practice, piano lessons, and Chinese classes.
Senior discusses a lot of statistical, peer reviewed studies on parents and parenting, including the idea that as parents, we are happier than our own parents were as a whole. That is the "Joy" part of the title. Personally, I don't find being a housekeeper fun, which seems to be a lot of being a parent. (Don't believe me? Try sending your 4th grader to school wearing dirty jeans more than once . . .)
I do enjoy - and find joy - in my kids. I'll remember them them in my arms as babies long after I forget my own name. My parents enjoyed me, but their joy was tempered with an early 20's nervousness. I was 10 years older as a first time parent, and I was more sure about what I was doing. I had Velcro diaper fasteners and car seats, not large pins and a swaddled kid in my lap. That's another important point Senior makes: we are older and more educated than our parents were, and overall, life is a lot safer for everyone - kids included.
Senior takes the Malcolm Gladwell ("David and Goliath" 2013; "Outliers" 2008) approach to sociology: she collects groups of related research; gives it a name; and presents it in a coherent, cohesive way that resonates with 'the public'. Senior, like Gladwell, starts an important conversation - but, like Gladwell, she doesn't condescend by pretending to know all the answers.
Senior does the narration herself, and she's got a bit of a Demi Moore/"St. Elmo's Fire" (1985) huskiness going on.
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Lake Eden, Minnesota is the most murderous small town since Cabot Cove, Maine. Mystery writer and detective Jessica Fletcher lived in Cabot Cove, solving crimes week after week in the series "Murder, She Wrote" (1984-1996). At least 2% of the population of Cabot Cove succumbed to blows to the head, gunshot wounds, stranglings and poisonings.
The creative killings spread to small town Minnesota. Lake Eden resident Hannah Swensen owns the 'The Cookie Jar', a popular coffee shop and bakery in the middle of 'downtown'. Hannah bakes and solves mysteries with the help of her business partner, two sisters, her widowed mother, and two beaus, Norman, the town dentist; and Sheriff Mike. That's a good thing: the town's homicide rate isn't as high as Cabot Cove's (yet!) but percentage-wise, it's 100 times higher than New York City's 2013 statistics.
Hannah's in her late 20's? Early 30's? She's a little behind on technology (would any of us explore the scene of an accident without a cell phone in hand?) but that's an author/editor issue: Joanne Fluke is two generations older than her fictional Hannah. Fluke could have set her mysteries all in the same general time, as Sue Grafton does with her Kinsey Millhone mysteries (A is for Alibi, 1982 - present), but since Fluke's books really are 'jumpable' (you can go from #1 to #15 to #7, etc. without a problem), readers in a couple of years won't even notice the problem.
Hannah Swensen mysteries aren't terribly difficult to solve, but complicated plots aren't the point here. Okay-to-good dialogue and really great recipes are. I've tried several from some of Joanne Fluke's earlier books (Cream Puff Murder, 2009; and Cherry Cheesecake Murder, 2006) and they were yummy. I'm planning on making the title confection from "Red Velvet Cupcake Murder" (2013) . . and the pancakes later in the book sound great.
One thing I won't be making is the Chicken Tetrazzini Hot Dish that appears in the book. Translation for those of you who weren't raised in the Land of 10,000 Lakes and 1,000,000,000 Mosquitos: a Hot Dish is a called a casserole most other places, and it almost always involves Cream-of-Mushroom soup, grated cheese and chicken, and is cooked at 350 degrees for an hour. Fluke includes an honest to goodness Hot Dish recipe, complete with the nod to Campbell's best selling soup.
The narration was done in almost over the top Minnesotan, and yes, the Frozen Chosen do have an accent. Remember the Coen Brother's 1996 movie "Fargo"? Frances McDormand, playing Marge Gunderson, got it right.
Recommendation: if you are new to the series, pick the book with the desert you'd most like to make.
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In Afghanistan, the fighting season starts in the spring and lasts until the winter snows freezes the land. The Taliban stages firefights, tries to assassinate its enemies, lays Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), and sends suicide bombers to crowded marketplaces. US Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates' fighting season started on December 18, 2006, with George W. Bush as his Commander-in-Chief, and ended, at Gates' firm insistence, with his long planned retirement from the cabinet of President Barack Obama on July 1, 2011.
Bush 43 (as Gates referred to in his book, to distinguish him from his father, George H.W. Bush, Bush 41) was the 7th president Gates worked for. Bush 43 dragged Gates from his well loved job as president of Texas A&M, convincing Gates his duty to the country he loves was not finished. Gates was there for the wars in Iraq (2003-2011) and Afghanistan (2001-present); the January 12, 2010 Haitian Earthquake relief effort; the July 2010 Pakistan floods; and the Arab Spring, which began December 18, 2010. These events, and so many others that occurred during his tenure were tumultuous and Gates had to carefully balance resources to succeed with demanding missions.
Gates was also fighting other battles, particularly against a Congress that was, and remains, indifferent, muddled and sometimes hostile to military needs. Yes, it's great to fund all of those cargo planes that the Air Force didn't ask for and can't even find a place to put, but what the troops really needed in 2007 was Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPs). Gates pushed that through, and they saved countless lives. And how about decent hospitals and care for wounded warriors? Canceling boondoggle projects and investing the money to help them heal should been something Congress leapt at, but Gates had to jump so many hurdles he could have qualified for an Olympic track team.
Gates had a particular dislike for some people he dealt with on a regular basis. I think he would have been grateful if Nancy Pelosi retired and took a vow of silence. He is a firm supporter of Israel, but Benjamin Netanyahu really bugs the hell out of him. George Newbern, the narrator, conveys Gates' unwritten glee when Obama, apparently no fan either, left Netanyahu cooling his heels in the White House while Obama had dinner with his family. Afghan president Hamid Karzai was another issue. Gates didn't particularly like him, but he understood him better than anyone else in either the Bush or Obama administrations.
Although Gates never had a winter break from his wars, he had strong allies, ardent supporters, and dedicated support from military and civilian Department of Defense employees. His relationship with then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was remarkable. They did not always agree, but he admired and respected her statesmanship, and she changed his mind from time to time.
Gates gratefully acknowledges the Washington Post for exposing deplorable conditions at Walter Reed Army Hospital that he fought hard to start to fix. He also mentions many, many people, from enlisted soldiers to heads of state, that made what he did possible. "Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War" (2014) was a "Yes, I was in charge, but hundreds of people were key and this is who they are and what they did" book, not an ego trip.
Gates has Bachelor's, Master's and Doctoral Degrees in History, and "Memoirs of a Secretary at War" (2014) was written with a historian's eye for complex detail and accuracy. The differences between Bush 43 and Obama as president are stark. Gates got along better with Bush 43, whose previous military service - although limited - made him innately comfortable with the military mindset. Taking an oath to protect and defend your country, knowing that your oath may lead to your death, and then learning how to accomplish that duty in extensive military training fundamentally changes a person, in part, because you learn you must trust your noncommissioned and commissioned officers with your life. Obama is not a veteran, and inherently distrusts senior military officers. Both men are decisive and made decisions Gates didn't always agree with. Obama is analytical and deliberative, where Bush 43 shot from the hip and was too easily influenced by his advisors, including a hawkish Dick Cheney. Obama considers other opinions, but isn't unreasonably swayed by them - which, considering Joe Biden's unique way of seeing the world, is a good thing. Gates opposed Obama's decision to send Navy SEALs to kill Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, but applauded both the courageous decision and its results, comparing it to some of the hardest and loneliest decisions made by Abraham Lincoln.
Gates memoir isn't remotely introspective, but it is clear that by the time he was at the end of his service, he was about to lose it. He cared more personally for the troops than perhaps anyone in a similar position since Abraham Lincoln's Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton. Writing this memoir expressed the frustration and anguish he felt, but couldn't say, as SecDef.
"Memoirs of a Secretary at War" is 600 pages long, and almost overwhelming in scope. Gates writing style, after 40 years in government, is dry. He jumps from topic to topic, but to be fair, Gates was always jumping from crises to crises. The audio narration was good at differentiating the change in topics. This is a book that I wouldn't have had time to read on text for a very long time, and I'm glad it was available on Audible.
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Until I listened to The Great Course's "The Myths of Nutrition and Fitness" (2011), I hadn't had a class on nutrition since a one week course, part of a required high school health class, more than 30 years ago. Since then, I've been getting my eating and exercise info from the popular press, like Cosmopolitan and The Huffington Post.
Anthony A. Goodman, MD's series of lectures convinced me those articles on diet and exercise - well, disgusting juice fasts and enemas (gross!) aren't going to work; cutting all carbohydrates out of a diet is really going to do a number on your health; and the best way to exercise and stay fit is to find things that make you happy to do, and keep doing it on a regular basis.
I found the discussion of simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates really helpful: I'd spent years thinking my preference for a slice of good whole grain bread sans butter as a snack was somehow the dietary equivalent of having a candy bar. That's probably what some article in People Magazine said 20 years ago, and I never realized science had long since discarded that silliness.
The section about kids, exercise, and diet (meaning what they eat, not a weight loss program) was really helpful: I've got a three sport teenager that sometimes works out or plays 6 hours a day. I've been worried about how to make sure she's eating enough, and what kind of rest she needs to make sure she doesn't get hurt and she gets what she needs from a workout. Goodman makes it clear that when training, muscles need rest to build. He also talks about distinguishing good pain from bad pain, and when it's a horrible idea to 'work through the pain' that signals a nasty injury.
Goodman is relying on published, peer reviewed studies on nutrition, exercise, illness, and injury in his lectures, and he often cites the specific author and paper. Where information and conclusions in studies needs more research, he says so. There are a few anecdotes drawn from actual case studies that support data, but by no means is this a "I knew this one guy who lost weight by/Follow this one weird tip Oprah recommends" listen.
There's a quick Easter egg in the last section on extremely athletes: he met Mountaineer Tenzing Norgay (1914-1986), who was one of the two people on the first successful summit of Everest. They discussed endurance and mountain climbing. Goodman was convinced a successful climb to the top of Everest required supplemental oxygen. Norgay thought it could be done without, as long as the climber was very quick. Norgay was right.
Goodman's narration was lively, although he had a little bit of a nasally thing going on.
[For anyone interested in reading published, peer reviewed studies on nutrition and exercise, the National Institutes of Health's PubMed database aggregates and indexes papers. There are, for example, 72,616 papers mentioning body mass index (BMI) in the abstract; 20,627 are free.]
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The New York Times runs a regular feature called Bookends. On September 24, 2013, writers Mohsin Hamad and Zoë Heller discussed "Are We Too Concerned that Characters be 'Likable'?" I thought of that article as I listened to this book.
I didn't like a single character in A.S.A Harrison's "The Silent Wife" (2013). I was indifferent to some; disliked a few, like Cliff, the contractor; and I spent most of the book hoping for a murder suicide to put an end to Jodi and Todd, the couple at the center of this tale, but that isn't what happened. "The Silent Wife" is a book without a protagonist.
"The Silent Wife" is compared to Gillian Flynn's "Gone Girl" (2012), for good reason. Both novels are written predominantly in the present tense, fairly new in popular books. Both have alternating wife/husband chapters, which works exceptionally well in Audible format. Both are marketed as 'psychological thrillers', but that's not very accurate. "Gone Girl" is a mindf*** (sorry for the vulgarity, but I couldn't find a better word - that term means 'To intentionally destabilize, confuse or manipulate the mind of another person.'). "The Silent Wife" uses classic Adlerian psychology as a framework for a fictional story. Explainer: Alfred Adler (1870-1937), a psychotherapist colleague of Sigmund Freud, coined the term 'inferiority complex.'
Do I have to like the characters in a book to like the book? I didn't like Jay Gatsby of F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby" (1925) - or, for that matter, his beloved Daisy Buchanan - but I kept listening, and Gatsby stuck with me. I kept listening to "The Silent Wife" for the same reason - I had to know why other people were reading it so voraciously. Harrison isn't Fitzgerald by any means, but to be fair, Fitzgerald's lush, evocative writing would not have worked in the present tense.
There was a neat little twist at the end, so it is worth listening all the way through.
The title of this review is a nod to Edward Albee's play about a famously dysfunctional marriage, "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf?" (1962).
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Tuesday nights were a really big deal when I was a kid growing up in the Midwest. We just HAD to be home at 7 pm - prime time starts early there - to watch Happy Days on ABC, one of only five channels. The kid that missed the show had to swallow pride and risk ostracism by those in the know to find out what The Fonz was up to. Laverne & Shirley, a spin-off, aired at 7:30 pm. I liked that even better. I can still do the arm and arm "schlemiel, schlimazel, Hasssnpeffer, Incorporated" song and dance.
Penny Marshall (Laverne) went on to produce and direct films, including "A League of their Own" (1992), a favorite of mine. I sometimes wondered how one family produced her and her brother, Garry Marshall, an actor, director, writer, and producer; how she ended up married to Rob Reiner, and then divorced; why she is such famous friends with Hollywood scion Carrie Fisher, a really funny writer who has acted in a film or two . . .
"My Mother was Nuts"(2012) answers these questions, and so many more. It's a fun romp through post WWII New York, and Hollywood from the 1970's to the present. Marshall seems to know everyone, and she likes them. If there's a falling out, she makes the first move to patch things up. She actually got (Paul) Simon & (Art) Garfunkel back on singing terms for a while. The only 'dirt' she dished in this book was on herself.
There is something missing, though: there's a complete lack of introspection about herself, and speculation about why other people do things. I don't know if that is just the way Marshall is, or if that was the way she wrote the memoir. Since a memoir is not an autobiography, that lack of analysis may have been intentional.
This is a new genre for me - I don't think I've ever read or listened to a Hollywood memoir. The closest I've come is Richard Rhodes "Hedy's Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World" (2011). Lamarr was an actress who happened to invent and patent the technology cell phones rely on today. I got a great Audible deal on ""My Mother was Nuts", and I knew I could return it if I didn't like it, so I gave it a whirl. It was an enjoyable way to make the weekend chores bearable.
As to the narration - well, a Bronx accent can be grating, but there's no one else I would have rather listened to narrate "My Mother was Nuts".
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