“I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief.”
– Gerry Spence, How to Argue & Win Every Time
Reading Round Up
At the beginning of the month I set out to read some books.While I ended up switching out a few of my choices, I did get through my book a week goal. Here are the titles that I read and what I thought of them.
1. The Colorado Kid.
I love Stephen King and I love pulp detective stories. I went into this book expecting great things. The story didn’t live up to my expectations. Instead of embracing the genre and having fun with it, something that King is usually good at, the book tries to avoid every single classic detective trope. This is kind of like paying money to see a martial arts film only for the director to have decided that he didn’t want any fights in his movie. It might be “original,” but it’s also really boring. While there were some clever ideas in here, like a false protagonist, they just tend to fall flat. In the beginning we’re introduced to an intrepid journalist, only for him to catch a boat out-of-town and leave us with the actual protagonists who are far less exciting.
A long time ago there was a book titled The Tropic of Cancer. It’s about a dude who flees America to get drunk and have a lot of casual sex. There’s also some musing about how America is a morally bankrupt nation of cretins who don’t understand the rich complexities associated with getting wasted and banging cheap hookers. What makes the book good is the fact that it’s written by an incredibly talented author who has some impressive prose. It’s Tucker Max for people older than 13.
As a fan of Henry Miller I decided to pick up his writing guide. While it is a great read, and one that I would highly recommend, it is something of an artist’s book. There’s no “Do A to get B” formula. Instructions and passages are instead written in a very flowery manner:
“Looking back upon my career, I see myself as a person capable of undertaking almost any task, any vocation. It was the monotony and sterility of the other outlets which drove me to desperation. I demanded a realm in which I should be both master and slave at the same time: the world of art is the only such realm. I entered it without any apparent talent, a thorough novice, incapable, awkward, tongue-tied, almost paralyzed by fear and apprehensiveness. I had to lay one brick on another, set millions of words to paper before writing one real, authentic word dragged up from my own guts. The facility of speech which I possessed was a handicap; I had all the vices of the educated man. I had to learn to think, feel, and see in a totally new fashion, in an uneducated way, in my own way, which is the hardest thing in the world.”
I don’t think I’ll ever fawn over Shakespeare, but he’s not bad at all. I actually had fun reading this and really enjoyed the story once I managed to figure out what was going on. While I’m usually not a fan of summaries or reading aides, this is one of those books where it helps to get a little context as to what is going on. Some of the jokes and references were lost on me, despite their being footnotes that explained them, until I went online and did some research. After I got the hang of things I had a much easier time understanding the dialogue and catching the jokes and puns. For a book that cost me fifty cents at a thrift shop, I got a lot of entertainment value from it.
I actually find law to be a fascinating subject. While most people envision lawyers as being scum sucking monstrosities who are evil, most of the lawyers I know are actually pretty cool. They have interesting hobbies like big game hunting, writing, competitive running, and weight lifting. As a teenager I even considered majoring in law until the DA ended up talking me out of it.
Additionally, I’m one of those dorks who likes watching YouTube videos about dealing with law enforcement and various legal activities. While I’d never actually try to pull the old “I was traveling, not conducting commerce and thus don’t need a driver’s license” routine if pulled over, I still find stuff like that to be interesting. It’s fun to learn about.
Anyway, How to Argue & Win Every Time is a book by the legendary Gerry Spence. For those unfamiliar with Spence, he’s a high-profile lawyer who has never lost a single case. What I liked about this book was it’s practicality. The advice is actually useful. Persuasion requires finesse, if you’re too nice people will ignore you. If you’re too aggressive they’ll just fight back. Most books never manage to find a proper balance. This one does, their advice is easy to digest and never delves into the realms of being either a pushover or a troll. As Spence explains:
“Most speech teachers teach what the speech teacher knows – the intellectual carrying-on of those who have never made memorable speeches. What I teach you here is how to get to where the great speeches abide.”
I liked the book a lot and thought that it was 292 large print pages of gold.
I really enjoyed getting the opportunity to catch up on my reading. It was nice to sit down and thumb through a book while picking up on some new ideas. Far too often I put off reading actual books due to the fact that I’m over-saturated in blog posts and articles. It was nice to read some material with actual substance to it. I’ll have to do this challenge again in the future.