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Book Review of: The Dead Guy Interviews

Conversations with 45 of the most accomplished, notorious, and deceased personalities in history

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Review of The Dead Guy Interviews, by Michael A. Stusser (2007)

(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you want a hardcopy)

Reviewer: Mark Lamendola, author of over 6,000 articles.

Michael A. Stusser's book is creative, informative, and entertaining. Saying that Stusser is a clever an capable writer is like saying Eric Clapton is "good on the guitar." Stusser has a way with not just words but composition as well.

Stusser is also a capable and industrious researcher. As a history buff, I was already familiar with most of the people he "interviewed" for this book and quite familiar with some. Yet, I learned several new things about each one.

If you'd like to learn about some of the more influential (or simply interesting) characters in history, you will want to get this book. The format--a fictional interview--makes it much easier to read than a simple dry reciting of facts. The triple-layer wittiness of this book doesn't exactly hurt, either....

In the fictional interviews, Stusser plays the role of the sometimes stumbling interviewer. The interviewees variously insult him, make him wait, or take umbrage at a remark that wasn't intended to offend. These little riffs are funny. But so are the ones where Stusser updates some long-dead person on how we do things today. The way he carries it off makes me guffaw.

Sometimes, Stusser will pose an embarrassing question or ask the interviewee to explain some paradox, hypocrisy, or colossal blunder. The replies are in character, and you can hear this person deliver the retort. Sometimes, the replies are funny because the interviewee still doesn't get it. Sometimes, they are funny because the reply seems to go over the interviewer's head. Stusser the author lets Stusser the interviewer be clueless, sometimes. You just have to laugh.

My top three picks for "best interview" are:

  • Albert Einstein
  • Sigmund Freud
  • J. Edgar Hoover

That's not to say the other 42 are slouchers. They aren't. Some of them are real gems. The other 42 "interviews" are of:

  • Alexander the Great
  • Beethoven
  • Napoléon Bonaparte
  • Buddha
  • Julius Caesar
  • Caligula
  • George Washington
  • George Washington Carver
  • Catherine the Great
  • Winston Churchill
  • Cleopatra
  • Confucius
  • Crazy Horse
  • Salvador Dalí
  • Charles Darwin
  • Emily Dickinson
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Genghis Khan
  • Vincent van Gogh
  • Henry VIII
  • Harry Houdini
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Joan of Arc
  • Robert Johnson
  • Frida Kahlo
  • Leonardo da Vinci
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Mao Tse-tung
  • Karl Marx
  • Michelangelo
  • Montezuma
  • Mozart
  • Nostradamus
  • Edgar Allan Poe
  • William Shakespeare
  • Sun Tzu
  • Mae West
  • Oscar Wilde

If you'd like to liven up a holiday party or some other kind of get-together, here's an idea. Have people study a character from history and then be interviewed as that character (preferably by a slightly aggressive reporter).

If that seems like too much work, then just use this book as a script and do a couple of short skits from it. See if you can get the right gestures and accents to go with the snarly replies. Maybe even wear period costumes and use props (the more ridiculous, the better). You'll have a blast. And if that seems like too much work, then just read this book. You'll get some easy laughs and learn some things, too.

 

 

About these reviews

You may be wondering why the reviews here are any different from the hundreds of "reviews" posted online. Notice the quotation marks?

I've been reviewing books for sites like Amazon for many years now, and it dismays me that Amazon found it necessary to post a minimum word count for reviews. It further dismays me that it's only 20 words. If that's all you have to say about a book, why bother?

And why waste everyone else's time with such drivel? As a reader of such reviews, I feel like I am being told that I do not matter. The flippancy of people who write these terse "reviews" is insulting to the authors also, I would suspect.

This sound bite blathering taking the place of any actual communication is increasingly a problem in our mindless, blog-posting Webosphere. Sadly, Google rewards such pointlessness as "content" so we just get more if this inanity.

The reviews I do will, contrary to emerging trends, actually tell you about the book. I always got an "A" on a book review I did as a kid (that's how I remember it anyhow, and it's my story so I'm sticking to it). A book review contains certain elements and has a logical structure. It informs the reader about the book.

A book review may also tell the reader whether the reviewer liked it, but revealing a reviewer's personal taste is not necessary for an informative book review.

About your reviewer

  • Books are a passion of mine. I read dozens of them each year, plus I listen to audio books.
  • Most of my "reading diet" consists of nonfiction. I think life is too short to use your limited reading time on material that has little or not substance. That leads into my next point...
  • In 1990, I stopped watching television. I have not missed it. At all.
  • I was first published as a preteen. I wrote an essay, and my teacher submitted it to the local paper.
  • For six years, I worked as an editor for a trade publication. I left that job in 2002, and still do freelance editing and authoring for that publication (and for other publications).
  • No book has emerged from my mind onto the best-seller list. So maybe I'm presumptuous in judging the work of others. Then again, I do more describing than judging in my reviews. And I have so many articles now published that I stopped counting them at 6,000. When did I stop? Probably another 6,000 articles ago! (It's been a while).
  • I have an engineering degree undergrad and an MBA. That helps explain my methodical approach toward reviews.
  • You probably don't know anybody who has made a perfect or near perfect score on a test of Standard Written English. I have. So, a credential for whatever it's worth.

About reading style

No, I do not "speed read" through these. That said, I do read at a fast rate. But, in contrast to speed reading, I read everything when I read a book for review.

Speed reading is a specialized type of reading that requires skipping text as you go. Using this technique, I've been able to consistently "max out" a speed reading machine at 2080 words per minute with 80% comprehension. This method is great if you are out to show how fast you can read. But I didn't use it in graduate school and I don't use it now. I think it takes the joy out of reading, and that pleasure is a big part of why I read to begin with.

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