Reggie Reads: November 2017
Illinois State is proud to be able to acknowledge the work of graduates who are successful authors.
If you’ve written a book that has been released by a publishing house within the past decade, submit it for review by Professor Emerita of English JoAnna Stephens Mink ’73, M.S. ’75, D.A. ’85.
All books authored by alums will be added to a collection of work by other graduates on display in the Alumni Center. Autographed copies are especially appreciated.
Please send your book to Illinois State editor Susan Blystone at Illinois State Alumni Center, 1101 N. Main Street, Normal, IL 61790. Inquiries can be sent to sjblyst@IllinoisState.edu.
Bob Kiser. 2016. 127pp.
Summary: Kiser wrote his first book, Create the Life of Your Dreams, to help his clients “let go of fear to embody who they really want to be” (126). The advice and worksheets in his self-published book are based on the motivational workshops and presentations he gives to national and international audiences.
Create the Life of Your Dreams is divided into six chapters: Committing to change; Discovering what you really want; The “why”; Getting into action; Obstacles: What could get in your way?; and The rest of the story. He defines his topic in the first chapter: “People are living their dream lives every day. They are successful. They are peaceful. They are happy. Who are these people? They are those who embrace their dreams and won’t settle for anything less. They look at life as one big adventure. Taking risks excites them. They feel the fear and create their success in spite of it” (9).
How does one approach, to say nothing of achieve, these lofty statements? Chapter 2 provides exercises and worksheets to help readers write down their goals in terms of career, home/living arrangements, relationships, fun and enjoyment, personal development, and spirituality. Another worksheet asks people to circle from a long list those values that mean the most to them.
Subsequent chapters include exercises, such as dividing a task into steps, with Kiser’s motivational comments.
In the final chapter, Kiser assures the reader that he has “partnered with a lot of clients on creating the life of their dreams. Using the process you have just learned, I have seen incredible transformations” (100). His final comment: “Life is simple, it’s just not easy”—Author Unknown. Create the Life of Your Dreams is easy to read and work through the exercises, with large type font and margins.
About the Author: Bob Kiser ’93 is a certified mediator and executive coach. He also serves as associate director of the Graham Clinical Performance Center in the Department of Medical Education at the University of Illinois-Chicago.
William H. Koenecke. 2017. 244+pp.
Summary: William Koenecke bemoans that public schools quit teaching grammar in the 1970s because correct grammar and spelling did not matter. That thinking “is still in vogue in many public schools today,” he claims. To address this concern he authored his first book, Write Well Right Now, which is a self-published aid for the professional and for future teachers. “It’s a simple book for anyone who wishes to improve his/her grammar, punctuation, and written communication skills,” explains Koenecke. “It’s not written for people who are proficient in these areas; however, I believe this book will and can be of benefit to all people of any age and occupation.”
With a career in education, but not teaching English courses, Koenecke’s approach is somewhat different from the plethora of grammar and writing books already available. Write Well Right Now is easy to read and find the appropriate advice, with large type font and margins. In addition, the auxiliary sections of glossary, answer keys, end notes, selected bibliography, useful and helpful websites, and index allow easy reference to the appropriate section.
The book is divided into five chapters which include elementary information about English grammar: 1—Parts of speech, 2—Introduction to grammar, 3—Punctuation and capitalization. Chapter 4 outlines basic writing advice, such as developing the five-paragraph essay. Mastering homonyms and confusing words is covered in Chapter 5. Because the advice is so basic, Write Well Right Now could be used by middle school students, as well as the professionals who are in Koenecke’s target audience.
About the Author: William H. Koenecke, M.S. ’98, completed a master’s in industrial technology and training development. He is a retired university professor from Murray State University in Kentucky. His 44-year career in education includes teaching high school chemistry, serving as a grade school principal and school superintendent, as well as teaching at three universities. He and his wife live in Murray.
Drew Schroeder. 2017. 216pp.
Summary: Taking Chances is Drew Schroeder’s novel, narrated in the first person, about a young man engaged in his first major job. “When Ryan Septon took a summer job at a prestigious Chicago law firm after his third year of college, he expected to make some money for school. What he didn’t expect, was that he would meet the woman of his dreams. Lorraine Lancaster is a beautiful, young, and talented law student who Ryan first talks to at the company donation project. After getting the guts to ask her out, she accepts his invitation. But there is something that stands in the way. Ryan must go back to school in Arizona and Lorraine has work in Chicago. Lorraine has been holding back from Ryan. Ryan returns to school at the end of the summer after not hearing from her. He cannot stop thinking about her and is wondering if he’s made the correct decision in returning to Arizona. Ryan must make the decision to stay away at school or take the chance of going back home to the woman of his dreams, if she’d have him” (back cover).
The storyline of Schroeder’s self-published novel moves quickly through Ryan’s challenges. For instance: “I slowly started to put the files away according to their order in the stacks. It’s all numerical, but there were several misplaced files in the stacks along with file numbers that didn’t exist, so I do the best I can. Then, I took a seat at the kid-sized desk in the corner of the room to get off my feet” (12). At times the intrusion of present tense verbs into the past tense narrative is somewhat jarring. The author provides minutia of details. For example: “I walked over to the kitchen and grabbed coffee grounds and a filter. I turned the machine on and stood idly by as the dark liquid dripped into the round pot. When the pot got halfway full, I fished out two cups from the cabinets and grabbed the creamer out of the fridge. Pouring a little creamer in mine and a little more in hers, I grabbed the handle and filled them up. Taking one in each hand, I started back towards her room” (116). Large type font and double spaced pages make for an easy reading experience.
About the Author: Drew (Andrew) Schroeder ’16 has also self-published a collection of poetry, Sweet Nothings & Silent Screams (2016). He is co-founder of Marketleaf Solutions and resides in Chicago.
Jesse Stiller, ed. New York and London: Routledge, 2017. 168pp.
Summary: Banking Modern America is part of the Financial History series from Routledge. Its aim, according to editor Jesse Stiller, is to address the gap in our understanding of the significance of the National Currency Act of 1863. It gave the U.S. its first uniform paper money; first nationally chartered and supervised commercial banks; and first modern regulatory agency, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. This topic seems especially important near the end of 2017.
The scholars who contributed essays in this collection are from various disciplines, including history, economics, law, and finance. Consequently, Banking Modern America lends a new, multidisciplinary approach as together the authors explore the tensions that arose between bankers and federal regulators, between governmental jurisdictions, and between regulators themselves.
The book is composed of an Introduction providing historical context, eight individual essays, and a detailed index. The final essay, “The measure of a regulator: The Office of Thrift Supervision, 1989-2011,” is by alumna Paula Dejmek Woods. The Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) was founded in response to financial crisis, but the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 mandated the end of this office. Woods herself transferred to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency in 2011 and, thus, understands both sides of the issue. Her thesis is that the OTS faced insurmountable challenges in implementing the more permissive statutory framework and in dealing with changes in the general economic climate.
Dodd-Frank brought the most dramatic changes in financial regulations since reforms after the Great Depression. Other federal agencies had to accommodate the influx of new institutions in the midst of technology system overhauls and other administrative tasks. This financial crisis illustrates the limitations of the political management of risk because the OTS had limited authority to challenge or modify the rules written by Congress. Thus the OTS unfairly became the scapegoat for the failure of those rules to produce a safe and viable thrift industry.
About the Author: Paula Dejmek Woods ’83 is a financial analyst at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, U.S. Department of the Treasury, in Chicago. She and her husband reside in Frankfort.
Juliette Berning Schaefer and Siobhan Craft Brownson, eds. New York and London: Routledge, 2017. 214pp.
Summary: Thomas Hardy’s Short Stories: New Perspectives is part of Routledge’s The Nineteenth Century series of scholarly criticism about major authors. Hardy (1840–1928) wrote nearly 50 short stories, but his contributions to the genre have been relatively understudied. Schaefer and Brownson have brought together an international group of scholars in the first collection devoted solely to Hardy’s works of short fiction. The essays therein are important contributions to Hardy criticism for graduate students and scholars.
The book is divided into four parts: Periodical publication, Gender relationships, Community relationships, and Narrative technique. The two essays in Part I address how Hardy responded to the demands of and for periodical publication during the 19th century. By analyzing the sequence, A Group of Noble Dames, the uncertainty of contemporary reception to the stories is made clear. Hardy challenges the expectations of the Christmas story, which had become traditional in Victorian magazines.
The three essays in Part II focus on the depiction of marriage in Hardy’s later stories, on the use of letters in courtship and love, and on the surreal story “An Imaginative Woman.” Three essays in Part IV discuss the variety of techniques in Hardy’s narrations. Authors analyze two of his collections, Wessex Tales and Life’s Little Ironies as well as the story “A Changed Man.”
The chapter “Love, deception, and disguise in A Few Crusted Characters” is by JoAnna Mink. Although much has been written about Hardy’s portrayal of the Wessex rustic community in his novels, many of his short stories have been sadly neglected, particularly those which comprise A Few Crusted Characters. One may wonder, opines Mink, why these nine delightful stories have been overlooked by readers and critics alike because close reading reveals the subtlety of Hardy’s careful organization.
Hardy’s careful structure of A Few Crusted Characters has literary precursors, but he subverts the convention of Boccaccio’s Decameron and Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. The subjects of the tales and their narrators are a microcosm of rural Wessex communities. As a whole, the series portrays the most basic aspect of human community—family relationships and love. Depictions of these relationships are linked thematically by the use of deception and disguise, forming a motif which provides another commentary on the concept of love.
About the Author: JoAnna Stephens Mink ’73, M.S. ’75, D.A. ’85, is professor emerita of English from Minnesota State University. She co-edited four collections of scholarly essays and published numerous articles in state, regional, national, and international journals on 19th-century authors. She resides in Normal and is active in various volunteer activities, including her work as author of the Reggie Reads column.