Author: Daniel, Bert

Book Report

While many of the rest of you were enjoying the Great 48 Hour Jam in Bakersfield recently, I was spending some required family time in Las Vegas. It almost broke my heart to drive right past "our" hotel in Bakersfield, where I had had so much fun last January. I passed the hotel both coming and going. It's right on your way from northern California, especially if you want to swing by Costco along the way.

We had a great visit in Las Vegas with my wife's aging father, her brother and his family. My brother in law Johnny scored us some complimentary tickets to Cirque du Soleil and my kids liked cruising the "strip" at night and hanging out with their cousins. The food was great and I got to ride my bike in the desert. In between these activities, there was a little down time and I managed to finish reading my first book of the year. You may have heard of this book. It's called: Why I never Lie and 19 Other Mostly True Stories. And the author is our very own Rick Cornish.

I will now attempt to write a book report for the benefit of those of you who might be thinking of reading Rick's book too. But first, a disclaimer. I've never been very good at book reports. It all goes back to my student years. We'd be handed a list of recommended books and then we'd have to write a book report. Everybody figured that this was just a way to prove to your teacher that you actually had read the assigned book, (even though you had lots of better things to do with your time). One of my darkest secrets is that I once read a mere six pages of Harold Lamb's lengthy biography of Genghis Khan. But the book report was due in a few days, so I just faked the book report by plagiarizing a World Book Encyclopedia article on Genghis Khan. I got an A.

Over the years, my book report guilt ate away at my soul. I decided to take action and redeem myself if I could. I resolved that no matter how busy I was, I would manage to read an average of at least one book per month. I started with a list of classics that my literature teacher had passed out long ago for our summer reading. Somehow I'd never managed to read any books on the list. When I finally did read them, I found to my delight that books like the Count of Monte Cristo, Two Years Before the Mast and Tom Sawyer were actually a whole lot of fun to read. Now I was making up for lost time and burying tons of cultural guilt that I had in my heart for being a math and science geek rather than the Renaissance man that I was truly born to be! I became very fond of strolling through book stores and smelling freshly printed books in search of my next good read. Sometimes I'd pick up a book simply because I liked the cover illustration. One good read could inspire me to seek out other books on an exciting new theme or other works by a certain favored author.

How many New Year's resolutions have you let slide already this year? That one I made to explore literature I've kept now for over thirty years. That simple idea has made my life so much richer and so much more interesting! I've read all kinds of stuff, good and bad, from some of the best authors ever to put pen to paper. Suffice it to say, I know a good book when I see one.

Which brings me back to Rick's book. I absolutely loved it! Of course, I love the guy. But I wasn't absolutely sure I'd like his book until I actually read it. Okay I was pretty sure. I have been a diehard reader of this welcome column for years. Those years extend back to a time when Rick wrote practically all of the columns himself. So if you like Rick's best welcome columns, you'll like this book. In fact I recognized a half dozen of the short stories from my vivid memories of some of Rick's past CBA welcome columns.

Given that, it was quite surprising to me how little bluegrass content there is in the book. I don't think it would be possible for Rick Cornish to write a couple of hundred pages of autobiographical material without at least some mention of the music which has been such a huge part of his life. But this is definitely a book for general audiences. The stories are presented in a humorous, self-effacing style that conjure up some of the authors and stories I've read over the years during my book a month challenge and enjoyed the most. For example, I'm reminded of William Saroyan working as a telegraph boy, Frank McCourt growing up in a hardscrabble neighborhood and Richard Feynman describing his boyhood tinkering and high jinx.

I did have a few problems with the book. The very first sentence of the preface to Why I Never Lie and 19 Other Mostly True Stories contains a bald faced lie! And the second sentence reinforces the lie by claiming that Thanksgiving Day fell on November 12 in the year 1956. (it would have fallen on the 29th that year instead of the actual 22nd, had not Roosevelt fixed the fourth Thursday of November as the American standard a few years earlier).

That inaccuracy may have been a typo or it could have been by design, I don't know. But I was taken aback at first and briefly wondered if the book was going to be worth it. I'm glad I stuck with it. Rick had me in stitches most of the way through and I finished the whole book in three days. It reminded me of that book I read about antigravity (I just couldn't put it down).

The biggest disappointment I have about Rick's book is that the rat didn't sign it for me, even though I ordered it directly from the author! Oh well, at least he didn't charge me postage. But now I'll probably have to stand in a long line at a book signing or something. He'll probably act like he doesn't even know me. You might just want to order yours from or Barnes and Noble.
Posted:  1/31/2012

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