FRI: My Book World | Alexander Chee, The Queen of the Night
TUES: A Writer's Wit | Katherine Patterson
WEDS: A Writer's Wit | Stephen Crane
THURS: A Writer's Wit | Lois McMaster Bujold
FRI: My Book World | Alexander Chee, The Queen of the Night
TUES: A Writer's Wit | Katherine Patterson
WEDS: A Writer's Wit | Stephen Crane
THURS: A Writer's Wit | Lois McMaster Bujold
My Book World
Gabor, Thomas, and Fred Guttenberg. With a foreword by Steve Kerr. American Carnage: Shattering the Myths That Fuel Gun Violence. Coral Gables: Mango, 2023.
This succinct book is a must-read for every person in America. Gabor, a professor in criminology and sociology, and Guttenberg, father of downed Parkland Shooting victim, Jaime, have teamed up to appeal to our better senses about gun violence and gun safety.
First, the authors set the historical record straight. For much of our 247-year history, this country has regulated guns. It has only been during the last two or three decades that organizational leadership (not necessarily their members) of the National Rifle Associate (NRA) have sold Americans a phony bill of goods. Instead of concentrating on the formation of state militias only, certain NRA members have glommed onto the Second Amendment to push their gun-toting agenda.
Second, the NRA has failed to take the historical context into consideration (what so-called originalists claim to love to do when speaking of the Constitution), that the amendment was designed to help communities protect themselves collectively, not to promote individual gun ownership.
Third, the authors tackle, by way of eleven chapters, thirty-seven myths that the NRA et. al. have dreamed up through the years. Just a few of them. Myth 3: America Has and All-Encompassing Gun Culture. Nope. Only three in ten Americans personally own a gun. Myth 6: The Only Consequences of Gun Violence Are Murders.Nope. “Sadly, some victims experience life-altering injuries that have a profound impact on the quality of life. For example, when a person is shot and paralyzed in his twenties, his quality of life will be diminished significantly . . . [w]hen all the above financial costs are taken into account, it has been estimated that the annual cost of gun violence in the US is over $280 billion” (51). Myth 16: The Training Required of Concealed Weapons Permit Holders Prepares Them for Effective Defensive Gun Use. Nope, once again. The authors prove that the carrying of guns can lead to escalation of disputes. Gabor, in an earlier book finds “that ongoing or spontaneous disputes were the most common motives underlying mass shootings” (91). Moreover, “since May 2007, concealed carry permit holders have killed more than two thousand people and committed thirty-seven mass shootings, as well as many other crimes” (91).
Authors Gabor and Guttenberg conclude their book with suggestions for what Americans can do, for we all know it will take an upswelling of such citizenry to join the rest of what the civilized world has already accomplished, and that is to reduce and limit the amount of gun violence. From requiring gun owners to secure guns in their homes to leveraging the corporate world to cease doing business with the gun industry to voting, the eighty to ninety percent of citizens who want change can achieve it.
TUES: A Writer's Wit | Fanny Burney
WEDS: A Writer's Wit | Jerzy Kosinski
THURS: A Writer's Wit | Amy Clampitt
FRI: My Book World | Colm Tóibín, The Magician
WEDS: A Writer's Wit | Natalie Goldberg
THURS: A Writer's Wit | Brian Tracy
FRI: My Book World | Elizabeth Strout's Amy and Isabelle
THURS: A Writer's Wit | John Banville
FRI: My Book World | Edith Wharton's The Custom of the Country
TOMORROW: My Book World | R. Price's The Promise of Rest
TUES: AWW | Philip Larken
WEDS: AWW | Suzanne Collins
THURS: AWW | Alex Haley
FRIDAY: My Book World | Mark Doty's What Is the Grass: Walt Whitman in My Life
TOMORROW: My Book World | Hermann Hesse's Rosshalde
My Book World
Schiff, Adam. Midnight in Washington: How We Almost Lost Our Democracy and Still Could. New York: Random, 2021.
If one followed the two impeachment hearings of ex-president Trump, one became quite well acquainted with the rhetorical skills of Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA), who led that trial. And one will recognize much of the material he includes in this book but also much, much more. One gets an inside view of what he experienced to reach that point where Trump needed to be impeached. He recreates important scenes on the floor in public; he recreates scenes out of view as he confers with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other congressional leaders. Reading his account fills out one’s view if you only watched it on TV, especially if your viewing was spotty. Most important, however, is the revelation of Adam Schiff’s character. Into his narrative are woven personal anecdotes about family members, congressional staff members, and other personalities. These reveal a wholly human and humane person who would make a great speaker of the house or president, should he desire to run.
NEXT FRIDAY: My Book World | James Clear's Atomic Habits
FRIDAY: My Book World | Adam Schiff's Midnight in Washington
My Book World
Leonnig, Carol. Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service. New York: Random, 2021.
This book is one of the most fascinating contemporary reads to emerge in a long time. Leonnig, a distinguished Washington Post reporter, delves into the 155-year history of the United States Secret Service—the agency designed primarily to keep the president and family safe. She brings to light its early history: Within a period of thirty-six years, the U.S. experiences three presidential assassinations. Lincoln. Garfield. McKinley. Following Lincoln’s death, the Service is established with minimal or feeble funding. After the third assassination, the congress still refuses to provide additional protection, not wanting the president to be treated like royalty. When Kennedy is assassinated, the congress ultimately realizes it must provide more resources for the Secret Service. And presidents must adjust their thinking. Kennedy may, in part, have contributed to his own death by not adhering to the Service’s request that he not get as close to crowds as he liked. And also by not riding in an open car and by not allowing agents to stand on the rear bumper of his limo.
Leonnig explores subsequent presidencies to inform readers in great detail about each administration since: Ford’s two close calls. Reagan’s near-death attack. How the Service erodes during Bush’s and Clinton’s administrations. How the Service is pushed beyond its capabilities during Obama’s era when threats and attempts on him rise exponentially and when two different “jumpers” leap over the White House fence, one of them actually coming within feet of the Obama family’s living quarters. The author informs us of the unrest within the Service: the frequent change of leadership, the history of good old boy networks that reward relationships instead of meritorious service. She tells of the scandals that rock the service, including details of the one in Cartagena where at least ten agents become extremely drunk and involve themselves with prostitutes. Her conclusion: many problems still exist. The agency needs a complete restructuring, much more funding, and a coordinated effort to heartily renew its mission of always putting the lives of the president and family and other figures ahead of lives of agents sworn to protect them. Until these things occur, the Secret Service will remain stretched beyond its capabilities and perhaps remain a second-rate organization.
NEXT FRIDAY: My Book World | Reinaldo Arenas's The Doorman
FRIDAY: My Book World | Albert Camus's The Plague
My Book World
Obama, Barack. A Promised Land. New York: Crown, 2020.
Having read President Obama’s 1995 memoir Dreams from My Father a number of years ago, I pre-ordered this book and anxiously awaited its arrival from Amazon on November 17, 2020. Dreams had revealed to me a skilled and sensitive writer. The scene in which Mr. Obama kneels at his father’s grave in Kenya is deeply moving and serves as the striking climax. It remains fresh in my memory.
A Promised Land is a title that resonates in a global way. However, Mr. Obama transforms it a bit to reveal how the United States of America has functioned as a promised land for him, for his life. The book seems to possess a unique structure. The former president limns in this the first volume of his long-awaited memoir his political life. Yet he does not hesitate to return readers by way of carefully selected flashbacks to his humble beginnings: we learn things about his family that we perhaps did not know before, the boldly liberal nature of his Kansas-born grandparents who flee to Hawaii to live a freer life; their daughter who marries a Kenyan man and gives birth to Barack Hussein Obama.
At the same time, this memoir develops a strand of history focused as readers would expect to see through the eyes of the person to whom it happened, the one who witnessed first-hand his several political campaigns, his earthy language in dealing with staff who have displeased him or fallen short of their expected performance. In spite of the subjectivity of such a view, one senses that Mr. Obama is being fair, that not many can argue with his point of view, his memory, his own fact-checking.
But finally, this book is silver-lined with personal and moving vignettes the president experiences throughout his first term: campaign events, public and private; White House anecdotes (he gives an inviting description of the contemporary White House); the relationships he develops with everyday WH employees, the large majority of whom are African-American, one essentially declaring, “You’re one of us.” At the same time, though he avoids making too much of the issue, Mr. Obama sets the record straight on the political evils he must endure: Donald Trump’s birtherism campaign; the media’s daily tearing at his flesh even though he is far more transparent and open than the previous administration’s leader; obstructionist Republicans who wish to thwart the President’s agenda, not because they so much disagree with him ideologically (which they do) but because they object so blatantly to him. Mr. Obama very elegantly portrays their vitriol without saying what I have no problem stating: Republicans regularly respond with a latent but powerful sense of White person’s entitlement, racism, and bigotry that have laced our American life since before its formation. That the man continues to rule with great dignity is a tribute to his stature as an adult who wishes to build on our democracy, not destroy it.
Mr. Obama relates the night at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, in which he takes stand-up potshots at a seated and furious Donald Trump. I think Mr. Obama must later realize how much this roasting inspires DT to run for president. Finally, skillfully building toward the narrative arc’s fine climax, Mr. Obama relates the fulsome scenario by which Osama bin Laden is assassinated and buried at sea. Though at times the reading is a slog, because the former prez wishes to be thorough and exact (a quality I appreciate), the book is well worth the time. And that infamous date, May 2, 2011, is where the first half of this memoir ends.
NEXT FRIDAY: My Book World | Steven Millhauser's The Knife Thrower and Other Stories
My Book World
Edwards, George C. with a foreword by Neal R. Peirce. Why the Electoral College Is Bad for America. New Haven, Yale UP, 2004.
For years the electoral college mystified me, but it seemed like a concept that worked because more or less the right candidate always won both the popular vote and the electoral college vote. Then came the 2000 election, a bizarre turn of events by which five people on the Supreme Court would, through their action/inaction allow the candidate with fewer popular votes to win. And one of those justices would tell the rest of us to get over it—instead of taking the time, like a reasoned person, to explain to us why we should get over it, why their decision was such a wise one. Another justice, years later, before her death, would confess that she regretted her vote. Nice. I hope it made her feel better. The electoral college is a roulette wheel that is loaded. Rigged. Like any roulette wheel, we don’t really know until the last second which way the falseness is going to lie.
Author Edwards logically and factually proves his thesis as to why the electoral college ought to be drummed out of existence. Interestingly, instead of beginning with the historical context of its origins, he begins with how the electoral college works, how it among other things, cheats the voters in a particular state who vote for the “losing” candidate who may actually have more popular votes. Most important in his discussions may be the idea of political equality or more important the political inequity that the electoral college tends to foster. The biggest takeaway from Edwards’s chapter on history is the recorded fact that the electoral college was not a well-thought-out concept that received rigorous attention from its founders. No, Philadelphia was hot that summer, and men [and I mean only men] formed the electoral college in a hurry, so that they could find cooler places in which to spend the rest of their summer vacations. At every turn, Edwards has an answer for those who would retain the electoral college, especially by noting when the proponents begin with false premises. The e.c. does not protect the smaller states, as some claim. It does not maintain cohesion and harmony among citizens. Candidates are not more attentive to small states with a low number of electors nor to large states that are entrenched in one party or another.
In the book’s foreword, scholar Neal R. Peirce sums up what is most flawed about the electoral college: “The electoral college process, Edwards reminds us, doesn’t simply aggregate or reflect popular votes; it consistently distorts and often directly misrepresents the votes citizens have cast. Indeed, the unit vote actually takes votes of the minority in individual states and awards those votes, in the national count, to the candidate they opposed” (x).
Don’t worry that Edwards’s tome was published in 2004; nothing much has changed concerning the institution. Author Edwards’s study is prescient in that he states emphatically that what happened in 2000 with Bush v. Gore will happen again. Voilà, 2016! The United States must abolish the electoral college when it comes to voting for the office of the president. The time to do so has past.
[This book published by Yale University Press has, by my count, five typographical errors derived mainly from a lack of close reading by copy editors—rather egregious for an Ivy League press, eh?]
NEXT FRIDAY: My Book World | Oscar Lewis's Five Families: Mexican Case Studies in the Culture of Poverty
My Book World
Hill, Fiona and Clifford G. Gaddy. Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin. New and
Expanded. Washington: Brookings, 2015.
When I tuned in to President Trump’s impeachment trial at the end of 2019, I was impressed with the testimony of Fiona Hill, at that time former Deputy Assistant to the President and Senior Director for European and Russian Affairs on Trump’s National Security Council. Her credentials seemed impeccable, and I told myself I would read the book she co-authors with Mr. Gaddy.
The Hill/Gaddy team paint a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin that is not personal. They do not delve much into his upbringing or family life, only as those elements may apply to his long political life. They formulate what they refer to as Putin’s six identities, by which the book is structured: “the Statist, the History Man, the Survivalist, the Outsider, the Free Marketeer, and the (KGB) Case Officer (18).” The man manipulates or exploits each one of these identities in order to further his own career, his own strategies, and each study is an eye-opening view into the life of the real Mr. Putin.
Mr. Putin declares himself to be a gosudarstvennik, “a builder of the state, a servant of the state . . . a person who believes that Russia must be and must have a strong state” (40). The State is of ultimate importance, not the individual. Hill/Gaddy claim that “Putin continued with an analysis that echoed the language of the tsarist statist school, noting that Russia will ‘muscle up’ by ‘being open to change’ through state-sanctioned procedures and rules’” (55). The authors reinforce what President Obama once said of Putin, that Putin still maintains a nineteenth-century view of the world. He may utilize some of the tactics he learns while serving in the KGB, but his worldview is rooted in a glorified, pre-Soviet past: he aspires to be a tsar.
To summarize most of the other five areas, Putin manipulates history to strengthen his power. He is a survivalist who will do anything to get what he wants. Ultimately, his sense of strategy (over tactics, which only serve to fulfill his overarching set of goals) is one of his greatest strengths, one that Hill/Gaddy claim the West underestimates at its own peril. A man who creates a long-term strategy for the success of his State and is willing to do anything to see that it succeeds is to be to watched very carefully, something that the authors indicate the West has failed to do thus far. The West must see clearly how the man views himself, and the West, while not forfeiting its own values, must develop strategies for dealing with him, ones that realistically exploit his perceived strengths and weaknesses. Until the man is taken seriously, the rest of the world cannot deal with him in a realistic manner, and such a stance is not good for that world.
NEXT FRIDAY: My Book World | George C. Edwards's Why the Electoral College Is Bad for America.
My Book World
Waldman, Michael. The Fight to Vote. New York: Simon, 2016.
I wish I had read this book when it came out during the run-up to the 2016 election—when I bought it. Even though the last chapters seem dated now, considering what the country has been through, the early chapters give an excellent historical account of how this country has ALWAYS been divided into two camps: those who would like to allow everyone to vote and those who would only have so-called elites vote. White (heterosexual, one assumes) male landowners comprised that group in colonial times:
“And there were men who worked as hard to restrict the vote as others did to expand it, such as John Randolph of Roanoke, who fought to deny the franchise to men without property, declaring, ‘I am an aristocrat. I love liberty. I hate equality;’” (xi)
Slowly, and only through arduous struggles, did other groups gain traction over great spans of time: African-American males, white women, African-American women and other minority groups (including the young). Still, the fight to vote has wavered back and forth, according to the whims of the SCOTUS and voter suppression activities. One group rises up and gains three feet, and another group grabs power and sends progress back two feet. And tragically . . . the struggle still continues. If readers have time, they should consider devouring this informative and at times humorous book. If you’re undecided about voting in 2020, perhaps its contents may sway you to get registered and do so now!
NEXT FRIDAY: My Book World | Fiona Hill's Mr. Putin
TOMORROW: My Book World | Blake Bailey's A Tragic Honesty
TOMORROW: My Book World: Thor Heyerdahl's Kon-Tiki
My Book World
Tribe, Laurence, and Joshua Matz. To
End a Presidency: The Power of
Impeachment. New York, Basic,
This eminently readable book explicates a complex subject, one worthy of study during a period when the term “impeachment” is bandied about in the media with incredible ease. The authors do a commendable job of, first of all, discussing the laws governing impeachment of a president and how they sprang to life in the first place as part of the US Constitution.
On the other hand, Tribe and Matz help readers to understand that nothing about impeachment is simple. They limn the intricacies of the laws, how the proceedings must begin in the House of Representatives and can conclude only in the Senate. They tell us about how difficult it is to obtain a two-thirds majority vote (under normal times, let alone now with such great partisan divides) in either house to advance impeachment. They explain which offenses are impeachable and which are not and why, that it is not a matter of removing a president from office because he is a boor. He must have committed a crime or misdemeanor. Even with those parameters, it is never a simple matter for Congress to decide.
Ultimately, the authors rule against impeaching our current president, largely because of the disruption it would cause in our society. Under normal circumstances, the executive and judicial branches of the government would help to reign in the abuses of a president. Even now, during times that do not seem normal to those of us of a certain age, the other two branches are doing their job. The House will be governed, beginning in January, 2019, by Democrats, who can begin to call the actions of President 45 into question. Even the Supreme Court, which has now been loaded with conservatives, could surprise the president. The two men whom he seated owe him absolutely nothing. The president cannot remove them from their seats if they should rule against him. And if they do favor him in ways that are questionable, they themselves could be subject to impeachment . . . theoretically. As the authors say in conclusion:
“We must abandon fantasies that the impeachment power will swoop in and save us from destruction. It can’t and it won’t. When our democracy is threatened from within, we must save it ourselves. Maybe impeachment should play a role in that process; maybe it will only make things worse. Either way, reversing the rot in our political system will require creative and heroic efforts throughout American life. And at the heart of those efforts will be the struggle to transcend our deepest divisions in search of common purpose and mutual understanding” (240-1).
NEXT TIME: My Journey of States-36 Vermont
My Book World
Anderson, Carol. White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of
Our Racial Divide. New York: Bloomsbury, 2016.
Unspoken indeed. Professor Anderson takes readers through the long yet decisive history of White Rage. It is a history that has lain directly beneath the noses of all Americans but one that has been covered up, ignored, or outright distorted, as well. Anderson revives for readers the five primary events in US history which incite and keep alive White Rage.
First, following the Civil War, former Confederates refuse actually to take Reconstruction seriously, and the North ignores the South’s refusal. Two, as a direct result of this action, freed African-Americans migrate north, only to find they are no more welcome there than they have been in the South. In places, rejection is even more hostile, more vitriolic. Three, White Rage is incited with the Brown vs. Topekadecision to integrate American schools, and at least two decades are spent in fighting or rolling back provisions of this decision—making most school districts as segregated as they ever were. Four, the author delineates how Ronald Reagan’s white-rage leadership reverses, insidiously, the Civil Rights gains of the 1960s and 1970s. And last, Anderson reiterates what contemporary readers have witnessed for themselves, how the election of an African-American president, Barack Obama, once again incites White Rage, a backlash that results in the questionable election of Donald Trump.
Anderson’s book reinforces the recent writings of other black authors, Ta-Nehisi Coates, for one. She doesn’t mention reparations, but my thinking is that our country will never be at rest, can never truly hold its head up among nations until it has, in more than a symbolic manner, attempted to make reparations to the descendants of slavery. It won’t be difficult to determine who qualifies. The government will be able to use the same visible trait it used to discriminate, and that is the color of one’s skin. Anyone with African-American lineage should qualify for funding for free education, help with daily living expenses until one is independent. Not only that, but the trillions of dollars that were accrued by this nation during slavery off the backs of black men and women, should be multiplied to, in some manner, make it up to our dark-skinned brethren. Their ancestors were captured on their native soil, mauled, maligned—treated more harshly than work animals—and the surviving generations of victims of White Rage deserve recompense. The one percent will have to pay their fair share to ensure that this happens, along with the rest of us, but it must be done. And it must be done with an amount of good will and love. The fires of White Rage must be quelled forever. Only then can we heal.
NEXT TIME: My Journey of States-32 North Carolina
My Book World
Clements, Brian, Alexandra Teague, and Dean Rader, eds., with an introduction by Colum McCann. Bullets into Bells: Poets & Citizens Respond to Gun Violence. Boston: Beacon, 2017.
There would nothing wrong with presenting a book-length collection of anti-gun poetry by itself, but Bullets into Bells increases its power by pairing each poem with a response written by a person who has been deeply affected by such violence. Note the eloquence of these lines from “Heal the Cracks in the Bell of the World,” by poet, Martín Espada.
Now the bells speak with their tongues of bronze.
There are too many fine poems and too many strong responses to them to list here. Just buy the book and READ them for yourselves. Words alone may not solve this problem of gun violence but they can certainly articulate its many problems.
NEXT TIME: My Journey of States-25 Michigan — October 17, 2018
NEXT TIME: My Journey of States-22 New Mexico
My Book World
Coates, Ta-Nehisi. We Were Eight Years
in Power: An American Tragedy. New
York:One World, 2017.
Of necessity this book is a sad one. It tells a truth, or many truths, really, that white people in our country must come to grips with—namely that our white ancestors committed crimes against black slaves and that, as descendants, we have failed and continue to fail to atone for their sins.
“If you see black identity as you see southern identity, or Irish identity, or Italian identity—not as a separate trunk, but as a branch of the American tree, with roots in the broader experience—then you understand that the particulars of black culture are inseparable from the particulars of the country” (54).
One point, among many, that Coates makes resoundingly is that the great wealth that has been with this country from the beginning was made off the backs of black slaves, free labor. If poor white families had had to harvest all that cotton themselves such wealth would never have been accumulated. And that’s why some citizens of places like Mississippi are still embittered today: “In 1860 there were more millionaires per capita in the Mississippi Valley than anywhere else in the country” (183). Those individuals may feel that their legacy was stolen from them, but they fail to think of the legacy stolen from black slaves: their lives and the lives of their descendants.
Whites could do with a healthy dose of walk-a-mile-in-my-shoes kind of empathy. Coates quotes one man: “‘When they tore down the projects here, they left the high-rises and came to the neighborhood with that gang mentality. You don’t have nothing, so you going to take something, even if it’s not real. You don’t have no street, but in your mind it’s yours’” (195).
In Coates’s introduction he makes clear that the eight years he is talking about—Obama’s eight years in power—are shadowed or echoed by an earlier period in the late nineteenth century, when black citizens, as part of Reconstruction, ran the state of South Carolina. Eight years only because whites took that away from them. Each of the eight essays in this book is a championing statement that clarifies the history of African-Americans: “The Legacy of Malcolm X,” “The Case for Reparations,” and “The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration.” “My President Was Black” concludes this book which must be required reading for all Americans.
NEXT TIME: My Journey of States-18 Arkansas
This past week, I came to a decision I had been mulling over for at least eighteen months, when a foreign nation used Facebook to try and skew the election of 2016. I deleted my Facebook account. It was a decision I did not arrive at easily. After all, I had established lines of communications with high school, college, and childhood friends, as well as former students of mine, and contemporary acquaintances of all kinds.
However, I believe until Facebook cleans up its act and can secure our personal data in the way that our credit card companies and banks do, I'm wary of participating. I also believe FB must shore up its advertising scheme. When I was attempting to sell my book with ads on FB, I figured into their algorithms every English-speaking country in the world. Mistake. It invited all kinds of mayhem—people around the world desperate for attention—and virtually no sales. Many of the parties who searched me had a "ru" following the dot in their URL.
There are also practices of FB that I could no longer tolerate. The idea of establishing algorithms that prey on our buying patterns, our political choices, and a host of other preferences, appalls me. Algorithms dictating that we only see the posts of a certain twenty-five friends! Why? It is the epitome of Big Brother watching us every minute, and it is intolerable. And get this, Instagram and other apps are owned by FB, so I shall never be using their services, either. I am considering dropping my Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google + accounts, as well because they have many of the same problems as FB.
Sooooo . . . until FB can get its sh** together, I choose not to participate. I will miss seeing what's happening with my friends, both close ones, and those whom I confirmed because we happened to know someone in common or because we met a long, long time ago. I am certain I do NOT have over 250 friends in my non-cyber life. If you do, congratulations. And if in the future FB, or some emerging social media outlet, should be able to set up a platform that is safe and secure, I'll see you there!
Until then, reach me here at my Web site on my Home page where there is a contact box. And I'll gladly respond. That's what friends do.
NEXT TIME: Defeating A Fib at Last-4 (final installment)
My Book World
Corn, David and Michael Isikoff. Russian
Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s
War on America and the Election of
Donald Trump. New York: Hachette,
This book is a hot read, mostly because these two journalists have taken the patchwork of daily news that we all read every day and transformed all that information into a seamless narrative that is easy to understand. And important, easy to appreciate. If Americans aren’t concerned about the Russia investigation, they aren’t very concerned about the survival of their country.
“Putin had once called the collapse of the Soviet Union the ‘greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.’ He was a Russian nationalist to his core. H wanted to extend Russian power, restoring its spheres of influence. He was an autocrat in the long tradition of Russian strongmen and had little interest in joining the club of Western liberal democracies—or winning its approval” (31).
NEXT TIME: My Journey of States-12 Virginia
My Book World
Tur, Katy. Unbelievable: My Front-Row
Seat to the Craziest Campaign in
American History. New York: Morrow,
This engrossing book seems to be made up of at least three strands: 1) MSNBC reporter Katy Tur’s narrative of her assignment to follow then candidate Donald Trump throughout the entirety of the 2016 presidential campaign. 2) In doing so she shares a great deal about what it’s like to be a reporter placed in such a position, the great moments, the uncomfortable moments, the shortchanging of her personal life. 3) And speaking of that, Tur interweaves bits of her personal life—including her childhood and youth, her love life, and her travels—into the weft of her fascinating storytelling.
With regard to 1) she has mixed feelings about leaving her assignment which places her in London, England. Accepting it means moving to New York, giving up her flat in London, her friends there, a boyfriend in Paris, I believe. Turning it down would mean giving up the opportunity to cover one of the most controversial presidential candidates in history, and might also mean squelching her career by not playing ball with the producers at MSNBC.
Katy Tur shares with the reader the details of her travels with DT: flying coach, packing economically yet in a way that allows her to appear fresh on camera (dry shampoo?); a significant lack of sleep because she can be wakened at any moment to be given an assignment; keeping up with tens of thousands of work-related emails, many of which she winds up dumping. Sad, sad meals grabbed here and there, the lack of exercise on any given day or week. But most of all, we see what it feels like to be on camera nation-wide:
“Hardball wants me live. I take a deep breath, stand up, put in my earpiece, and hook back into MSNBC’s live coverage.
Finally, Tur’s personal history adds a tantalizing touch to her career. It seems that her parents, Bob and Marika Tur begin in the 1970s a helicopter service in which they cover in Los Angeles such happenings as “fires, shootings, and most unforgettably, police pursuits. Their first big get was Madonna’s 1985 wedding to Sean Penn” (108).
From her parents, especially, father, she learns the thrill of the hunt. As a child, she goes up with her dad in his ‘copter, and one point she, without benefit of a harness, hangs out the cockpit a bit too far. Her dad says little but apparently turns white. At thirty-two or -three Tur must feel jaded in some sense, as anyone who’s been in a business for a decade must, but she’s got a long career ahead of her if she can sustain this kind of reporting and writing—if she can continue to hang out there without a harness.
NEXT TIME: My Journey of States-6 Illinois
Richard Jespers is a writer living in Lubbock, Texas, USA.
See my profile at Author Central: