The whole point of free speech is not to make ideas exempt from criticism but to expose them to it.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Bob's reading list

The stuff I don't know..., welllll..., they could write a book about it. Okay, I guess they have. In fact, about 565 million of 'em, give or take a few hundred million. I've been doing some reading lately. I know, that's surely dangerous, and might be a violation of my probation, but I'm trusting you not to tell my probie about it.

Here is a short list of books you might consider giving someone for Christmas. (Don't bother with PP; he doesn't believe anything that hasn't been recommended by the RNC.)

'The Given Day," by Dennis Lehane, a historical novel in the tradition of "Ragtime," by E.L. Doctorow (also worth reading or giving, if you haven't already). Lehane combines vignettes of Babe Ruth (in 1919, the year he was traded to the Yankees by the Red Sox), life for black folks in Boston and Tulsa, and the 1919 Boston police strike in a substantial saga that kept me awake four nights in a row (a substantial feat in itself). Lehane is the author of "Mystic River," which was made into an excellent Sean Penn/Tim Robbins movie not long ago.

"Middlesex," by Jeffrey Eugenides, author of "Little Children," also recently made into a movie with Kate Winslet and Jennifer Connelly (and who can get enough of her?). This one combines history ranging from the middle ages to Detroit's problems during the past half-century, told around a hermaphrodite central character. It's about self-identity, especially sexual identity, and the resilience of children (without which we would all be so screwed up we'd be non-functional). Mainly, it's a pretty damned good adventure story.

"Mile High," by Richard Condon, whose novels (look him up) can hardly be called novels. The villain in "Mile High" resembles..., well, okay, Joseph Kennedy, or maybe Vito Corleone (no, wait, Kennedy created Corleone's real-life derivation). This is the probable story of how alcohol prohibition came to be, and, by logical extension, how an even more disastrous prohibition, which still afflicts us today, came to be.

"The 480," by Eugene Burdick. This gem was written in 1964; I stumbled on it in Again Books, downtown Rapid City. The "480" refers to a breakdown of socio-economic/religious/quasi-political-leaning groups in the United States derived from the efforts of political advisors to conceive messages to these various groups that minimizes their natural antipathy to one another (or takes advantage of it when that is advantageous). The story is of the rise of seemingly reasonable guy who gets infected with the "virus of ambition" after being lauded for simply doing his job. I'm glad I did not read it until I had seasoned myself with 45 more years of watching the virus infect folks I know personally--as well as some I don't know personally--who achieved national political office.


PP said...

Bob -

I'd heard you were upset when at the time the police arrested you, that they'd confiscated all the books from your vehicle.

Because some of them had pages that you hadn't colored yet.

Bob Newland said...

Mighty clever, PuPu.

Taunia said...

You mean....I'm not entitled to be Ambassador to the U.N., no matter how much I want it, because I clean house really well and am a whiz at laundry?

Aren't you the little dasher of hopes.

I'm going to check out "The 480" anyway.