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Wisdom Well Said
Paperback: 620 pages
ISBN: 978-0982388709
Available at:
Barnes & Noble
& most book sellers

A.W. Einstein Jr.
Katonah, New York

You can be forgiven if you don’t know that Zsa Zsa Gabor thought it was bad luck to keep goldfish in the house.

And if you’re not aware of how deeply Phillip Wrigley felt about his advertising, you’re excused. Wrigley’s brands dominated the chewing gum business. In the light of their towering market share a friend asked him why he continued spending so much on advertising. His answer was simple: “for the same reason a pilot keeps his engines running even though the plane is already 30,000 feet in the air.”

Charles Francis, former worldwide director of IBM advertising, one time speechwriter, and a man who obviously loves a good story, has been collecting them all his life. Now he’s taken the best of the best from his shelves and published a fat, and frequently sassy, soft cover compendium titled WISDOM WELL SAID – Anecdotes, fables, legends, myths and wise sayings that capture the human condition.

It isn’t easy to convey the scope of the volume. At 7”x 9” it’s a bit larger than the average trade paperback. But the fact that it weighs about 2 lbs and is more than an inch thick gives a clue to how much is packed between the covers.

And a look at the index gives a sense of the vision Francis had as he went about picking stories for this collection. There are what I call “vertical collections” about single subjects such as baseball, basketball, politics, etc. in most bookstores. In this collection, Francis has aimed to be horizontal and cover the world more broadly. In the index Abdul-Jabbar, Kareem, sits next to Abbott, Bud. Ali, Muhammad, with 5 citations is next to Algebra, with one. Irving Berlin and Isaiah Berlin are neighbors. Nader, Ralph; Newman, Paul; Newhart, Bob; and Neiman Marcus are all on the same page. Having a little bit about a lot of things is part of the charm (and utility) of WISDOM WELL SAID.
Collections like this are often bought for the pure fun of the stories. But the speechwriter in Francis has organized the material to help make the professional writer’s job easier, by making what you’re looking for easier to find. When I searched the internet for a site that offers anecdotes, the first one I found parses anecdotes into 42 categories. WISDOM WELL SAID offers anecdotes in 158 categories from “accounting” to “youth,” Included are categories as lofty as “creativity” and mundane as “cooking and utensils.” Entries relating to holidays are divided into 12 months – and there is even a category titled “unexpected consequences.”

WISDOM WELL SAID contains stories about a broad range of subjects. If I have any concern about this comprehensive volume it’s that it is not bound in sturdy buckram so that it can better withstand the hard use it’s going to get in so many libraries.