Rating Books, Movies, and Presidents

I have found that I rate books, movies, and music as follows:


• I have (or would gladly) read, see, or hear it more than once. (***)

• Once was enough, but I enjoyed it most of the time. (**)

• I made it to the end. (*)

• I tried but gave up on it. (0)

One person’s *** book or movie won’t be another person’s *** book or movie. By the same token, I’ve given up on many a book and movie that critics and friends have raved about. Among my *** books are Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome, John Fowles’s The Magus, and Stephen King’s The Stand. Some of my *** movies are “The Philadelphia Story,” “Gunga Din,” and “My Man Godfrey.” Books and movies that I’ve given the goose egg include James Joyce’s Ulysses and Finnegan’s Wake, anything I’ve tried by Martha Grimes and Elizabeth George, and such film “classics” as “Z” and “Last Year at Marienbad.”

Although I’ve read a lot of books and seen a lot of movies that rate ** and *, my preferences in music tend to be binary. Almost anything written between 1700 and 1900 gets *** (the tedious compositions of Wagner, Mahler, and Bruckner being the most notable exceptions). I give a big fat 0 to almost anything written after 1900 by a so-called serious composer: the likes of Berg, Stravinsky, Shostakovich, Poulenc, Britten, Hovannes, Glass, and their more recent offshoots. For music written after 1900, I turn to Gershwin, Lehar, Friml, Kern, bluegrass, jazz (written before 1940), and rock of the 1960s to early 1980s.

Now that I’ve lived through, and remember, 11 complete presidencies — from Truman’s through Clinton’s — here’s how I’d rate them on my book/movie/music scale:


Truman **

Eisenhower ***

Kennedy *

Johnson 0

Nixon 0

Ford *

Carter 0

Reagan ***

Bush I *

Clinton 0

You can try this at home.