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Culture and Arts

Culture Watch




Most of you who check into SWW’s “Culture Watch” section are looking for reviews which will lead you to interesting fiction or non-fiction.


 Lately, however, our reviewers have been deluged by a great many self-help books sent in search of press coverage. When the subjects are pertinent for Senior Women, we have granted brief reviews in order to keep our readers abreast of what’s available in the non-fiction/self help world. That is why we are introducing a new sub-section that will briefly cover such matters. We’re calling it:


The Self-Help Shelf


THE FIRST 30 DAYS — Your guide to any change (and loving your life more)

by Ariane de Bonvoisin, © 2008

Harper Collins, publisher; hardback, 220 pp

This little handbook aims to provide anyone enduring any sort of change with a number of strategies that will make transition a positive event. The author, who has herself undergone an amazing number of life changes, seeks to share the methods she has developed to cope with upheavals, large or small.

As pop-psychology, this isn’t a bad effort. The initial premise instructs us to “Change your view of change” (presuming that our views are negative and we will need to reverse them). The author’s relentlessly upbeat message continues unabated for the ensuing chapters, titled with such feel-good phrases as “The Change Guarantee (Something Good Will Come)” and “The Change Muscle (You’re Stronger Than You Think).”

If you are in the midst of a life-crisis event and in need of support, this book may help. I would hesitate, however, to hand it on to anyone else unless you know that they will appreciate receiving advice based on undiluted (and at times simplistic) optimism.

(Ms. de Bonvoisin operates, and promotes it throughout the book.)



(Big Question, Little Book, Answer Within)

by Maria Shriver, © 2008

Publisher Hyperion Press; hardback, 91 pp

It is interesting to see Maria Shriver, she of Kennedy/NBC/Schwarzenegger fame, dealing with a mid-life crisis just like so many others. I’m not sure her struggles deserve a book of their own (would any publisher give this kind of opportunity to anyone less famous?), but the celebrity magnet makes even skeptics like me curious about what she has to say.

She does say it with winning good humor, and her observations about living in the public eye are refreshingly honest. As a Kennedy, Shriver has experienced a life of great privilege as well as horrific tragedies. It is to her great credit that she has somehow managed to keep her feet planted firmly on the ground.

Her inspiration for this book began when she found herself dealing with some classic putdowns delivered by her teenage children: a son refers to her “a housewife,” and a daughter tells her that her life is no longer a matter of becoming someone, because that part is so over. Shriver then sets out to think about who IS the true Maria.

In that quest, she develops a set of questions and goals for herself. She decides to speak about her voyage of self-discovery when asked to deliver a graduation speech, and puts her thoughts into a long, rap-type “poem” that goes on and on for something like 74 metrically challenged quatrains of forced and iffy rhyming. It may have flown in verbal delivery (she is, after all, extremely charming) but it’s not a good choice for print.

She ends her short book with a 10- part pledge that she has made in an effort to remain true to the self she has discovered, and then presents blank pages for the reader to write in her or his own pledge — in pencil, we are instructed, because life is full of changes.

None of the above represents startling news.


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©2008 Julia Sneden for

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