Title: Unfinished Lives, “Concept by Michael Viner” (Dove Books: 1995) $19.95.
Synopsis: Fictional accounts of what would have happened if Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, John F. Kennedy, Kurt Cobain, Anne Frank, Nicole Brown Simpson, and other famous people who died early, had instead lived. Monroe sheds her movie star persona and, with the help of Joe DiMaggio, becomes a housewife and lives out her life unrecognized in Columbus, Ohio. Kennedy marries a blind woman. Anne Frank does a book tour of America.
Representative Quote: “‘Papa, how could you?’ Anne blurted. ‘My quarrels with Margot, my stolen kisses, all my private thoughts are being shared by everybody.’ Otto handed her a large packet of clippings. Anne, read these. Your diary has already been published in three countries. Whether you like it or not, you are well on your way to being regarded as an important writer. Be proud of it. Enjoy it. Yesterday I visited the lawyer and arranged that all of the money from the diary go to you.'”
Noteworthy Flaw: Missed opportunity to relate dramatic rescue of Jesus from the cross. Also, not as entertaining as “Finished Lives”–fictional accounts of the early deaths of annoying celebrities who persist in living–would have been.
Title: Plant-Spirit Medicine, by Eliot Cowan (Swan Raven & Co.: 1995) $13.95.
Synopsis: Plants can heal, not medicinally, but through their psychic powers. Dreams are part of harnessing this, building to a “magico-religious rite in which plant gods bestow their grace.”
Representative Quote: “Several years ago my left shoulder joint suddenly froze and became painful….One evening it occurred to me to ask one of my plant spirit allies for help with this condition. The spirit’s response was to tell me to move out of Santa Barbara. I loved Santa Barbara. I had made my home there for many years and I was not eager to leave. At the very least I wanted an explanation. I argued with the plant to no avail. At length I relented and assured it I would move. Instantly my shoulder got fifty percent better.”
Noteworthy Flaw: Neglects to give plant spirits cute names, like “Greenie” or “Lord High Parsley.”
Title: 101 Secrets to Winning Beauty Pageants, by Ann-Marie Bivans (Citadel Press: 1995) $12.95.
Synopsis: A savvy girl looking to make her mark in life can’t pick a better stepping stone to success than competing in beauty pageants. Chock full of practical hints, from updating your publicity photo after you get your nose done, to padded bras, to trying heavy mascara combined with individual lash clusters. Also: don’t be afraid to move to another state.
Representative Quote: “Take a piece of tape about twelve to fourteen inches long. [While bending forward] without your bra on, stick the piece of tape to the outside of one breast. Pull your breasts together as close as you can with one hand, while you pullthe tape straight across underneath the bottom of your breasts, and stick it on the other side. You stop right before you get to the armhole of your swimsuit.”
Noteworthy Flaw: Photograph of Joanna Bramos, 1991 Miss Teen of America, dressed up as Alice in Wonderland to represent that “great state achiever” from Florida, Lewis Carroll.