Tuesday November 26, 2019
Chabon: “I love Mr. Spock because he reminds me of you, I said.”
- Dan Kois and Laura Miller of Slate pick the top 50 nonfiction books from the last 25 years. For the last 15 I‘ve mostly read nonfiction. So how many of these have I read? Four. Yikes. Get busy reading or get busy dying. Particularly vis a vis the Kolbert.
- That said, no Michael Lewis, Adam Hochschild, Jill Lepore or Jane Mayer? How about Yu Hua? Or Bill Bryson?
- The New York Times, meanwhile, has put out its list of the top 10 books of 2019, as well as 100 notables. There, I’m 0-10 and 0-100. But I am interested in the impeachment book.
- Joe Henry's new album is out, “The Gospel According to Water,” a title I love. My most-played song so far? “Orson Welles,” with its beautiful refrain: “You provide the terms of my surrender, and I‘ll provide the war.” (Cf., “Citizen Kane.”) It’s available here, along with testimonials from Rosanne Cash, Lucinda Williams, Elvis Costello, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Jason Isbell, and John Prine. But you should really just buy it. Support your local artist.
- Parade magazine has posted a slideshow of its baseball-related covers through the years. We get about five Stan Musials, three Mickey Mantles, a few Tom Seavers, a few Yogi Berras. What's missing? Besides any Minnesota Twin? Well, on the April 11, 1954 cover, Roy Campanella is displayed as one of six sluggers in the Majors. He's the only African-American baseball player on the Parade cover until the 1978 Cleveland Indians/Bible study cover, in which none of them are named. And that's it. That's it, by the way, even to this day. Just two. Yes, a few pretty good players kinda passed over there, Chief. Cf., the history of Who's Who in Baseball.
- Everyone who cares about this world, not to mention good writing, should subscribe to The New Yorker. Print edition, if you still do that thing. Earlier this month, we got a personal essay from Michael Chabon about his dying father and “Star Trek.” I was reading it, went “Damn, this is good writing,” then checked the byline. Right, Chabon. Amazing what you can make art out of. “I'm with the Horta on this one.”
- How many of the SCOTUS justices can you name? On a good day I get all nine but it's kinda part of my day job. One that gets overlooked (not Breyer- or Alito-overlooked but still overlooked) is Elena Kagan, who's the subject of a good Magaret Talbot profile in The New Yorker. Talbot paints her as the stolid liberal justice even conservatives dig. Bonus points for Jewish/dry sense of humor.
- But the must-read New Yorker piece—for the year, really—is by Alec MacGillis, who wrote that scathing bio of Mitch McConnell I'm forever quoting. Here, he dives into how the Boeing 737 Max 8 crashes have affected one family. They lost a daughter in the second crash, flying out of Addis Ababa, five months after the first crash. She was 24, lovely, smart, driven. Her father ran “Coalition for a More Prosperous America,” a lobbying organization for small farmers and manufacturers, and on whose board sat a former Boeing engineer who had been warning for years that Boeing had shifted from an engineering culture to a business/bottom-line culture, and the inherent dangers there. Her mother, meanwhile, was the niece of Ralph Nader, the author of “Unsafe at Any Speed,” and the most famous consumer-safety advocate in my lifetime. You can't make this stuff up. If no one is contacting MacGillis to turn this story into a movie, Hollywood is truly dead.
- I should mention that those three great New Yorker stories were all from the same issue: Nov. 18, 2019. The one with the beautiful “Dressing for Fall” cover by Birgit Schossow. See what I mean?