A Vlog Review: Newjack by Ted Conover

by Kim on July 1, 2010 · 18 comments

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Title: Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing
Author: Ted Conover
Genre: Literary Journalism
Year: 2001
Acquired: Bought
Rating: ★★★★☆

Two Sentence Summary: Ted Conover wanted to write about being a correctional officer, but the New York State Department of Corrections wouldn’t let him shadow a guard for a story. So Conover became an officer for a year and was assigned to guard at Sing Sing.

Two Sentence Review: Conover’s book is a oft-cited example of strong literary journalism, and for good reason. It’s gritty and honest without engaging in stereotypes and grapples with some challenging ethical questions, all while being an engrossing read.

Why I Read It: I’m trying to read all the “big books” cited  in literary journalism history, and this is one that comes up all the time.

Long Review: I decided to switch things up a little bit and do my main review of Newjack as a vlog. Enjoy!

So what did you think? Should I do more vlog reviews in the future? Did seeing my lovely face convince you to read Newjack?

Other Reviews: Letters on Pages |

If you have reviewed this book, please leave a link to the review in the comments and I will add your review to the main post. All I ask is for you to do the same to mine — thanks!

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Amy July 1, 2010 at 6:30 am

Great vlog review, it was neat hearing you talk about it instead of reading it :) Also, the book sounds great!

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Kim July 2, 2010 at 5:26 am

Amy: Thanks! It is a great book, especially if this topic is interesting to you. I was impressed with it, and want to read more of Conover’s work.

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bermudaonion (Kathy) July 1, 2010 at 8:40 am

Your vlog is great! Your enthusiasm for the book comes through. I really like books like that, so I’m definitely interested in reading it.

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Kim July 2, 2010 at 5:26 am

bermudaonion: Good, I’m glad the excitement comes through. I was hard for me to tell if I looked hyperactive, excited, or weird on video :)

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Louise July 1, 2010 at 9:34 am

I also enjoyed the vlog a lot! Its nice when something new happens and its almost like seeing a literature program on TV :)

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Kim July 2, 2010 at 5:27 am

Louise: It was fun to try something different with a review. I’ve only done two other vlogs — one with my sister and one as a book list, so this was a fun change (and actually a lot faster than writing a review, probably because I said less!).

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Benjamin Wheeler July 1, 2010 at 10:39 pm

I toyed with the idea of doing videos kinda like this for fiction writing stuff (read: thought of once and then, upon seeing myself on video, cringed and convinced myself it was a poor idea). For reviews like this, I think it worked really well. Your sophisticated dorkiness comes through in your speech as well as your writing.

Also, I make a Wordle of my blog after you posted yours. My two biggest words were ‘People’ and ‘Writing.’

Keep reading and talking, I’ll keep reading and thinking, Man, look at what Kim’s doing–I need to blog more.

*on a side note, I dunno if there were cars going by outside your window or what, but every so often a white haze floated over your left shoulder in the video, and my own personal dorkiness screamed “GHOST!”

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Kim July 2, 2010 at 5:29 am

Ben: Thanks Ben! I’m not convinced I like the way I look on video either, but decided to get over it. The way the lighting was when I took this makes me look like like a ghost. And yeah, I took it facing my front windows, and I think when cars went by they sent the light across the back. I didn’t notice it before, but it does look like a ghost!

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Lynne July 2, 2010 at 4:53 am

I don’t usually like vlog reviews and in fact skip over them without even pushing “play,” but you did a great job, Kim! I probably would have read this book anyway because it’s my kind of my book, but you made it even more enticing. Not sure it was the “beautiful face”…lol…but definitely the laid back yet sophisticated dorkiness :)

Loved it.

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Kim July 2, 2010 at 5:30 am

Lynne: I don’t always watch vlogs either, or just a few minutes, so I wasn’t sure how this would work for other people. If I do it again, I’ll try to keep it shorter, since 5 minutes is sort of long for an online video. I hope you get a chance to read the book. And thanks!

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tolmsted (BookSexyReview) July 2, 2010 at 4:58 am

I liked it. You came across great on screen and your presentation was very natural. Plus, now I want to get a copy of the book! The only criticism I would give would be with the camera so close to your face, when you move naturally it can come across as a little fidget-y and distracting. Is there any way you can zoom out a bit? (By the way, I am nitpicking here – only because I thought since it’s the first one you’d probably like constructive feedback).

I can say that I liked your vlog 100x better than the book trailers that are out there now and which I find a tad creepy. BTW, Have you thought of experimenting with podcasting as well?

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Kim July 2, 2010 at 5:32 am

tolmsted: Thanks for the feedback — I appreciate it. I did notice on a rewatching how fidgety even little things look that close, I didn’t notice before. If I do it again I’ll have to find a better place in my apartment to record it — between the weird lighting and the desk placement, just where I usually blog is an odd space for a video. Good things to think about.

I go back and forth on book trailers. I like some of them, but others just seem like they’re trying to hard — give me a good plot teaser and I’m usually set.

I’ve never podcasted, although I have some friends who do. I’m not sure what I’d talk about!

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Laurie July 13, 2010 at 8:31 pm

i love conover’s work. immersion journalism at its finest and most personal. his first book, written while he was still in college, is terrific–”rolling nowhere,” about riding the rails. i’ve read all of his books.

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Kim July 15, 2010 at 5:02 pm

Laurie: I’ve wanted to read Rolling Nowhere for a really, really long time! I just never seem to find a copy of it when I’m out and about poking around bookstores.

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Carin B. October 29, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Oh this books sounds so interesting! Have you seen The Wire? I really want to read the book it’s based on. It’s probably the best television I’ve seen and it seems like this would at least somewhat parallel some of the show. I love the vlog too! Hooray for vlogging! You did a really nice job! :)

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Kim October 31, 2010 at 9:02 am

Carin B: I haven’t seen The Wire, but everyone I know that has seen it tells me that I would love it. I’ve got a whole Netflix queue of tv, which The Wire is on.

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