Need a short actor with some big ideas


February 18, 2007|By LAURA VOZZELLA

As tickets to the best-sellers list go, it's not quite like getting picked for Oprah's book club. But close.

The New Yorker does one long book review each issue. Out of the zillion or so authors who get published each year, only 47 can claim the honor of a feature review in the highbrow near-weekly magazine.

Last week, that distinction went to David A. Bell, a Hopkins history professor and author of The First Total War: Napoleon's Europe and the Birth of Warfare As We Know It. And the review was generally positive, to boot.

The book's Amazon ranking instantly shot up to, well, 12,589. Not quite Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. But not bad for a guy whose audience, until now, has been mostly limited to people whose names are followed with Ph.D.

Can a movie deal be far behind?

"I'd like to see Keanu Reeves as Napoleon," Bell said.

He's only half joking, even though his book sounds a little eggheady for the silver screen. Here's the gist: French Enlightenment-era intellectuals consider war passe; wars keep breaking out anyway, so they advocate waging "total war," which results in more death and destruction, but doesn't actually end all wars.

Might not sound like something coming to the multiplex near you. But Bell, who was a talking head in a couple of documentaries on the French Revolution and Napoleon, made a pitch to the History Channel while the book was still in the works.

"I did have some conversations with them about turning this book into a documentary," he said.

Their response: Don't call us; we'll call you.

But now that he's got The New Yorker behind him, his hopes are up again. "That's probably just my fantasy."

Ease up on the exclamation points

Harford County Executive David Craig typically peppers his speeches with uplifting quotations from the Bible, Roman philosophers and slain U.S. presidents. During Thursday night's speech to the Chamber of Commerce, Craig also turned to a modern-day sage: motivational speaker Tony Robbins.

Craig first called upon Proverbs 29:18: "Where there is no vision, the people perish."

Next up was Seneca: "Our eyes are fixed not on what we have, but what we seek to have."

Then, Abraham Lincoln: "The struggle of today, is not altogether for today - it is for a vast future also."

And for the big finish, Craig drew from Robbins, the life coach and author: "Our beliefs about what we are and what we can be precisely determine what we will be."

The quotation comes from the first chapter of Robbins' book, Unlimited Power. It preaches "passion!" "belief!" "strategy!" "clarity of values!" "energy!" "bonding power!" and "mastery of communication!"

Has Craig been combing the self-help shelves at his local bookstore to help him face crowded schools, clogged roads and other growth pressures?

No, he told The Sun's Justin Fenton through a spokesman. Craig came across the quote in "another context" - infomercial? - and found it "fitting for use in his speech."

From the Park School, the bloggers' pick

Park School librarian Laura Amy Schlitz won a Cybil Award last week for her book A Drowned Maiden's Hair.

Never heard of a Cybil? No wonder. It's the inaugural year for the Children's and Young Adult Bloggers Literacy Awards, created by an online community of "librarians, teachers, homeschoolers, parents, authors and illustrators" who blog about kids' books in the "kidlitosphere."

The awards recognize books with both literary merit and "kid appeal." Schlitz's melodrama was one of nine winners, which a team of volunteers chose out of 482 titles nominated by the public.

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