Sunday, February 12, 2012

Casino Women: Author Reading Tour Review

University Book Store


In search of entertainment. I am burning through the usual websites when I come across an author reading tonight at the University Book Store for a book called “Casino Women” Well howdy do, this is the best title of a book I have seen since “When Naked Nazi Zombie Strippers from Mars Attack!”

Don’t know the author, don’t know what the book is about, but with a title like that I gotta check it out right?

I have images of a cheesy novel like Godfather, turned into a movie by Martin Scorsese say "Goodfellas meets "Caged Heat."” Or maybe, “Casino Women” is about a team of female card counters like in "Bringing Down the House" or how about a story of how a female casino owner making it in the tough all man’s world of Casino business.

If only I was that lucky.

Let me stop you and save you some time in case you want to watch television. I almost didn’t post this one. I have taken a long time to think about posting this review but here is it: This was the worst Author Reading I have ever attended. Period. A new low was set tonight so congrats Martha Grimes you’re off the hook.

I arrive with fifteen minutes to spare expecting a sparse crowd when I realize they are putting out more chairs and packing in the Book Store reading area. A fast count and we are up to fifty people and growing: a promising sign. Large groups of women, many college co-eds milling around and I begin to assume the author is a young first timer. Then just before the reading; shrouded in purple and gold jackets, they descend on the room like refugees trying to get out of the cold. What is this a book club, I think at first.?

They are wearing pins. Local 925? Union? They are handing out Union pins with slogans and wearing jackets union jackets. What are they doing at a reading about Casino’s and Women and why are they so angry as they talk among themselves?

Then before I can ask anyone, a professor from the University of Washington School of Public Health steps up and introduces, Dr. Jill B. Jones proclaiming how important her message is about health effects of casino work on women and the importance of her research.

Academia? It is slowly occurring to me that Scorsese is not going be adapting this book but that is fine, I can learn something.

Then she takes the stage. Jill B. Jones is a mature woman who has been on faculty at the University Nevada Las Vegas. I’m expecting something provocative, a charismatic speech to fill the mind and heart but no, not tonight.
Her reading is truly a reading. That is she is reading her whole presentation from a typed page and this woman never varied from the written text.

Now I’ve seen this before from some very good authors but Professor Jones demonstrated the exact reason why this tactic has the potential of a losing presentation. The woman is so monotone, so bland with a complete lack of inflection of her voice that I can’t tell where something begins and something ends… Oh how to explain this.

She reads from her prepared remarks off of the paper then Professor Jones would say something like “This is from the book.” At that point the audience is told they are listening to a section of the book, but then somehow, without any apparent break in cadence or style the book’s quote has ended and the speech continued but there is no clear break from book quote to lecture. I recorded this lecture and listened twice again and I challenge anyone to tell me where the books passage ends and she continues her speech. It was confusing and weird and distracting and had this been a first time writer I would have been more forgiving or not even review this but I expect more from a seasoned college professor.

Then there is the book. It seems that the whole thesis lacked any balance or demonstrated any kind of success story. I'm not against unions personally but I am against boring.

It was the same message over and over again. Casino’s are bad, workers are abused. The Professor tells the audience that casinos in Reno are not unionized and they struggle worse than Vegas, but they struggle in Vegas too because despite having the largest union in the State of Nevada, casino workers can’t get enough breaks from the Casinos.

The professor says while things in Reno are bad, at least in Vegas a housekeeper can make enough to afford a home and send a child to college but they struggle. Memo to Professor Jones, if she defines struggle as a job that allows someone to pay college tuition, then I know some Boeing workers who would have a choice word about the definition of struggle.

The professor says that Hotel housekeepers have the fourth most dangerous job in the United States but does not mention who is in the top three. My guess is if a housekeeper ranks number four on the danger level then that should place them behind police and infantry soldiers but between, Crab boat fishermen and loggers.

Snarky statement I realize but because of her lousy presentation and tone of the book she didn’t sway my sympathy.

Granted, the subject was not as exciting as a novel nor is this subject part of the national conversation. Fine, and not everyone can be Malcolm Gladwell; but I guarantee you that with the low grade presentation I saw tonight, this issue will not see the national spotlight anytime soon.