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As soon as the boy Pip reaches the graveyard where his parents are buried and runs into the convict Magwitch, which is to say, by about page three, I became Pip’s staunch ally to such an extent that I identified with him completely.Pip was a quasi-orphan being raised by his ill-tempered sister and her gentle giant of a husband, the blacksmith Joe Gargery.For better or worse, it has become an integral part of American culture.And Ullman, a fast-talking, self-described “social-change activist,” is a big reason why. Ullman says losers become winners simply by joining. Once, when he needed to borrow 0,000, he wore a clear plastic tie filled with shredded dollar bills to a meeting with a banker.Never mind that Dickens was doing everything in his considerable power to convince me that Estella was an awful person, as vain and cruel as she was beautiful.

In 18 years, Ullman’s invention has done more than change the way some heterosexuals get lucky.

Don’t miss this eight-part television series that explores and celebrates the power of reading, told through the prism of 100 novels, The Great American Read, Tuesdays at 8/7C on PBS.

The big man with the heart-shaped cuff links sits in his spacious Encino office, a “Get-a-Woman-Flames-of-Desire” candle on his desk, a rubbing of Rudolph Valentino’s headstone on his wall and two middle-aged businessmen in his clutches. Plunk a franchise in there, Ullman says, hire a few Mormons and you’ll never look back. ” asks one of the men, much relieved to be discussing the commercial, not the carnal, side of passion.“Nope,” says Ullman happily, biting into a turkey sandwich as he sketches out the geographical sweep of his growing empire, Great Expectations. With the right management team, even Oklahoma City could be a gold mine. It looks as if Ullman has sold them on taking video-assisted coupling into the heartland. He spoke their language--the lexicon of the bottom line.

“Ultimately, I had to say, ‘You just don’t get it, Mom. He was no easier on his sister, who until 1984 was a Great Expectations vice president. TELEVISION TALK-SHOW HOST MONTEL WILLIAMS once asked Ullman: “Are you preying on the lonely people out there? “Just like restaurants prey on the hungry and doctors prey on the sick and talk-show hosts prey on the people who are too bored to read a book.”But restaurants sell food. Members briefly describe “Who I Am,” “What I Like To Do” and “What I’m Looking For.”“I am as wild as they come,” writes Alfonso, a fourth-grade teacher. Alfonso-the-wild-man, for example, confesses on his video that he takes women to karaoke bars on the first date and that he would never, ever jump out of an airplane for fun.“People lie all the time,” says Bonnie Beaux Fullerton, a Costa Mesa comedian who met her husband, a chemist, through Great Expectations.

Alan, a novelist and TV producer, promises that he’s not “the kind of guy who keeps his emotions so subterranean you need to go spelunking to find them or a Rosetta stone to interpret them.” Asked what she’s looking for, a marriage counselor named Jody simply writes “a fireman.”If intrigued by a written profile, a member can cue up a video for closer inspection. A video interview, he has said, “shows appearance, animation, personality, charm and all of the ambitions, desires, dreams, wants and needs which can be hidden in the ordinary social contacts.”Ullman may overstate. What’s more, some folks just aren’t themselves on videotape. “You’d see the little sweat balls on their upper lips.” But Fullerton is definitely the consumer Ullman courts.

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If you are not hormonally addled or romantically clueless, that is, if you are not a 13-year-old male teenager, you know that is the story of a boy and then a man who gets everything wrong. He is financed by a mysterious benefactor whom he mistakenly believes is the insane Miss Havisham, the spurned bachelorette to end all bachelorettes who trains up Estella to break men’s hearts in proxy revenge for Miss Havisham’s heartbreak at being left at the altar decades earlier. In my defense, neither did quite a few early readers of Dickens who hated his original ending, the one where Pip does not end up with Estella.