Category Archives: Book Reviews

BOOK REVIEW: How You Can Keep Fit

Several months ago, I wrote about a couple remarkable books that The March King, John Philip Sousa, wrote. Those were extraordinary finds that I stumbled upon by chance. “The Fifth String” and “The Conspirators” are admirable works to add to Sousa’s talents.

To continue: I am a big old movies devotee and an Old Hollywood fan, too. I particularly like to study filmmaking techniques from the late nineteenth century through the early 1960s. And along the way, I enjoy discovering the lives of actors and actresses, particularly to see if they did anything beyond the, “I’m ready for my close up, Mister DeMille.”

Some time ago, I read that Rudolph Valentino wrote, and that some of his books were published. My curiosity was piqued. Really? He wrote? And what did The Sheik write? I was on a mission to find them, and I discovered some of them are extant.

Unmistakably, he was a fitness leader of sorts. His “How You Can Keep Fit” book was published in 1923 and filled with pages of health and exercise tips, and of him half-dressed and posing for the exercises he advocated. He wrote that to be fit as an actor made his acting and stamina the best that could be. After all, he said it would be embarrassing to have a stand-in do what he should be able to in acting and performing stunts. Acting was a strenuous job with riding horses for hours in the hot California sun, for example. He was thinking of not only of his pride in his work, but his fans, too. He gave them what they really wanted – a man who was a man’s man.

 

Moreover, he wrote about the importance of eating only when one was hungry, to not drink icy cold water (it’s bad for the body), and to exercise every day. He wrote amusingly about his growing up years in Italy, when he was the conventional boy: running, riding horses, swimming, climbing fences and trees, and tearing his clothes, much to the consternation of his mother. He was an active boy!

As he grew older, he maintained his exercise routines, and thus, we have his fitness book, so that you, too, can be fit.

The exercises he champions can be followed by just about anyone, even today. He warns against overdoing anything ; moderation is key to a healthy life.

Finding this book was exciting for me. It gives another perspective into the life of one of Old Hollywood’s most popular actors, but more importantly, it gives a look into the psyche of the American public in the 1920s. The public ate up just about anything public figures took the time to create, and this book shows that not all of it was garbage back then.

 

 

“How You Can Keep Fit”

Author: Rudolph Valentino
Published: 1923
Publisher: MacFadden
Pages: 77

©Susan Marie Molloy, and all works within.


BOOK REVIEW: How to Live on 24 Hours a Day

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Think time management and lifestyle readjustment are relatively new phenomena? Think great-grandpa had it all together? Well, it’s time to rethink all that.

The title of this book caught my eye. A clever play on words – how many books have we seen or read where “How to Live on . . .” meant money management? – this book is not about budgeting your money, but rather, about sensibly managing your time and refocusing your lifestyle to actually live, not merely exist in a lackluster being. It was first published in 1908, and my further research shows that it was a best seller in England and the United States.

And as this year is a year of big changes for me, I was all in!

It’s a short book – the Kindle version is a mere 64 pages – and stuffed with slap-you-awake advice on how you are wasting your life and how to live each hour and not to just think about what you want to do, but doing it.

The author has many good suggestions that can apply to today’s mad-rush modern world. After all, you cannot waste tomorrow’s time in advance, unlike money and debt. He emphasizes that work (that is, work outside the home, such as at the office, factory, et cetera) should not define one’s total day. In fact, work is just a portion of one’s day where events should happen before and afterwards. There should be no thinking about what one wants to do, nor should there be such rigidity in one’s life where it hinders expanding one’s social outlets and intellectual growth.

He further recommends reading good books, particularly ones that stimulate the mind. He states that a goal of reading “X” amount of books is missing the point, but reading, reflecting upon, and intelligently discussing these books leads to a greater mind, so to speak. He also lists several books to immerse oneself in, too, which I put on my own “to read” list.

A favorite passage of mine:

“There is no magic method of beginning. If a man standing on the edge of a swimming-bath and wanting to jump into the cold water should ask you, ‘How do I begin to jump?’ you would merely reply, ‘Just jump. Take hold of your nerves and jump.'”

Though written in a somewhat stuffy style common at the turn of the 20th century, once you read a couple of pages, it flows nicely.

I recommend picking up this book; it’s available at no cost on Kindle via Amazon.


BOOK REVIEW: Life at The Dakota

If there ever was a book that has it all, a book that holds your attention, a book that makes you want to know more, this is it.

“Life at the Dakota” is a socioeconomic history of the famous New York City residential building. Yes, that one – the one where scenes from Rosemary’s Baby were filmed, the one where Jason Robards once slept overnight at the wheel of his car, the one where a resident displayed a her favorite stuffed horse, the one where John Lennon was murdered.

The Dakota was constructed between 1880 and 1884 and opened October 27, 1884. It was built by the architectural firm of Henry Janeway Hardenbergh with the design by Edward Clark, the head of the Singer Sewing Machine Company.

The Dakota was, indeed, a building well ahead of its time, with central heating, its own in-house power plant, the first elevators installed in a residential building, a gymnasium, and much more. Before it was opened for residency, all of the apartments were leased, and no vacancies existed from then until 1929.

The book begins with an in-depth history of New York and the Central Park West area, including the dichotomy of the lifestyles and economic factors between the East and West Sides. Here we learn about the Who’s Who and Who Wants to Be and Who Doesn’t Care Who’s Who.

The original apartments, dining room, gymnasium, tennis court, servants’ rooms, laundry rooms, wine cellar, et cetera were lavish or simply practical, according to function. No cost was spared. We find that over the years, even at the onset, residents took to moving and rebuilding walls and reconfiguring the space. One resident even had a sunken pool installed, only to be covered over at another time, and then rediscovered during a future remodeling project decades later.

There are numerous stories about many of the residents and the employees, their quirkiness, their practicalities, and their contributions and influence on The Dakota. There are people whose names were, or are, well-known, and those who are now shadows in history or pop culture, but intriguing nonetheless.

The building became a co-op in the early 1960s, and we learn how that occurred with all its brouhaha, and how that continues to impact its operation today – or at least until 1979 when this book was published.

This is a very tightly-written book and is, therefore, extremely interesting and difficult to put down. Each chapter is filled with so much material on the people, politics, cloak-and-dagger tomfooleries, and economic data that I want to learn more, yet it’s a shame that the book ends its account in 1979. It practically screams for an addendum to share what happened since then.

I recommend “Life at the Dakota” for anyone who likes history, architecture, mystery, intrigue, and/or entertaining ideas. Yes, it even has a trio of old cocktail recipes.

There is a book that has it all, a book that holds your attention, a book that makes you want to know more – this is it!

Life at The Dakota
By Stephen Birmingham
Published: 1979; 2015
Publisher: Open Road Media
Pages: 243

©Susan Marie Molloy, and all works within.


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