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Duluth, Minn. — If you surf over to Amazon.com and click on a product - any product - you might run into Lawrance Bernabo.
Customers at Amazon can post reviews of products for everyone to see, and Lawrance Bernabo has written more than 4,000.
"Of course Oedipus the King is not only the most-read of all the Greek tragedies, it is also the most-misread of the Greek dramas..."
"This album has Vladimir Horowitz performing two piano pieces written by the young Robert Schumann during the period when he was courting Clara Wick, the concert pianist..."
"'Bugs Bunny, Hollywood Legend,' includes five classic Warner Brothers' cartoons from the mid-'40' - none of which have anything to do with Tinsel Town in terms of the plot. 'Hair-raising Hare' has Bugs chased through mad scientist Peter Lorre's castle by a hairy, orange monster wearing sneakers..."
Each evening Lawrance Bernabo is in his basement with the TV, the DVD player, the computer, and his other stuff.
"The 1,200 CDs ... start over here," he says, pointing to chest-high shelves stuffed with CD cases. "And the DVDs are sitting over there. And there's the Buffy the Vampire Slayer tapes. And those are all the baseball cards."
Lawrance Bernabo teaches an online class in 20th century popular culture at the community college in Duluth. He also teaches a class in Greek and Roman mythology. He has a Ph.D. in rhetoric. And for the past couple years he's been writing product reviews at Amazon.
There's no money. He does it for fun.
"I'm always criticizing things," Bernabo says. "Doing all this spares my wife from having to hear what I think about everything I've read or seen on television."
A few years ago, just for kicks, he wrote a book review at Amazon. Then he wrote a few more. And then he decided to write more reviews than anyone else.
"I do tend to get obsessive about stuff," he says.
He started writing three reviews a day. Then last spring he got really serious.
"I got to April, and I did, I think, at least 10 reviews a day for the entire month, just to try to get caught up," he says. "I think I finally got to the top spot in July. So now I'm trying to put enough of a gap there where I can slow down. Try to go for quality, not quantity."
Lawrance Bernabo has reviewed Stephen King novels, and he's reviewed Euripides. He's written critiques of Buffy the Vampire Slayer action figures and Harry Potter Lego sets.
He says his "on-line friends" teased him about reviewing toys. They said it was "an affront to reviewing."
"I said fine," Bernabo remembers. "I'm now going to go out and review a coaster."
And he did.
"Since I am teaching classical Greek and Roman mythology (I know, it sounds redundant and repetitive to me as well), and I am getting tired of putting my drinks on top of papers and books that I should be taking care of, Greek Key Embossed Coasters are what the doctor ordered. Besides, with a set of four there is a chance these could last the entire school year before I lose them all. These are simple, elegant, and functional. On top of that, they actually complement my office dinnerware set which has a similar design. Works for me."
Lawrance Bernabo has reviewed opera. He has reviewed a CD called, Billboard's Top Country Hits of 1968. One of his favorite CDs is called, Stairways to Heaven.
"It's from Australia," he says. "Apparently on an Australian show they had a thing each week where somebody would come in and do a version of Led Zepplin's 'Stairway to Heaven' in the style of somebody else."
One cut sounds amazingly like the Beatles singing "I Wanna Hold Your Hand," but the lyrics and the melody are straight out of "Stairway to Heaven."
"I love it," Bernabo says with a grin. "And it drives most people absolutely crazy."
Bernabo isn't slowing down yet -- he's written 300 reviews in the last month. He plans to stay on top of the heap at Amazon.
"This is like the Internet equivalent of building a house out of Coke bottles," he says. "So it's not like a great achievement which you put on his gravestone. You know, 'He had 4,000 Amazon reviews.'"
There have been sacrifices.
"It hurts me to think how many novels, how many Buffy the Vampire Slayer novels I could have written," he says.
Somewhere down the road, Lawrance Bernabo wants to write something else. Maybe a book about popular culture. He figures he's got a lot of the research already done.