For those who have doubts, I can attest that there is a heaven.
I spent much of the Fourth of July weekend there; or more
accurately, suspended between heaven and earth in my hammock,
listening to the 400 fast-oldies countdown on WODS 103.3 FM, and
alternately reading fiction and nonfiction.
Not that the recently ended television season
wasn't nice, too; I was intrigued by the ending of AMC's "The
Killing" — didn't see that coming.
Nothing better than the season finale of
"The Mentalist" — I'm still high on the justice/revenge
ending, flawlessly done. Won't say more in case you missed this
excellent cop series and want to catch up over the summer.
I myself am catching up with "Glee."
But summer is mostly for books. Early in 2011
I discovered a new reading front that I am enjoying immensely;
enjoyment defined as learning new things and seeing part of my
paradigm shifting. It started with "The
Given Day" by Boston native Dennis Lehane, which I
bought in paperback with a birthday coupon from The Paper Store
in Vinnin Square.
Had been planning to eventually read this
"great American novel" anyhow, which unlike Lehane's modern
thrillers goes back into Boston history to the police strike in
1920. I'd always been curious about that event. Written as
novelized history, it was riveting; wish I'd been able to read
it before my years of working in Boston, which I realize now I
didn't really get to know.
I did find a better understanding of why
unions became so important to the police. One almost roots for
them when they strike; until one sees the devastating results,
then one roots for Calvin Coolidge again.
The book also quickly noted another Boston
tragedy, which led me to "Dark
Tide, The Great Molasses Flood of 1919." This was pure
nonfiction written in 2003 by another Boston writer, Stephen
Puleo, but timely now during ongoing discussions about corporate
I'd never been a nonfiction reader, except
for taxpayer-relevant political books; but this year I
discovered Erik Larson after friends recommended "Devil
in the White City," also written in 2003 about the 1893
World's Fair in Chicago. From the title, I expected a true crime
story, which it was; but what held me enthralled was the
depiction of the United States during this period in history,
which I barely knew.
I suspect I'm not the only one whose
knowledge of American history starts with Columbus, drops by the
first Thanksgiving, then the Revolutionary War, briefly visits
the Civil War and the Alamo, notes the Titanic, then skips to
World War II followed by the '60s.
Once I discovered the turn of the last
century, I didn't want to leave. Using a Christmas gift
certificate, I bought another Erik Larson book about "the
deadliest hurricane in history" of 1900, which destroyed
Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History"]
Not sure I can wait for Larson's latest book, exploring evil in
early Nazi Germany, to come out in paperback.
I can stall for awhile with Jared Diamond's
How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed," which I found
on the Village Pharmacy sale table and have been slogging
through for months. I've found some great books at the pharmacy,
including my favorite novel so far this year, "The
Last Child" by John Hart, published in 2009, which I
grabbed when I saw the Washington Post blurb on the cover —
"Huck Finn channeled through Lord of the Flies." I actually do
sometimes pay full price, wanting to support local bookstores,
and knowing that The Spirit of '76's Bob Hugo will always
recommend wonderful reads like the
Stieg Larsson series and Jeanette Wall's "The
I'm resisting getting a Kindle, an eventual
threat to bookstores and used book stalls. Also, I like to mail
books I've finished to family and reader friends, or drop them
off at the library or Peter Smyth's Hand It Back Book Smyth on
Route 114 in Middleton. Often I keep my favorites, which fill
several bookcases and are piled up on tables in my house — it
would seem barren to me without them.
A large number of the keepers are political
books to which I refer often: Beverly activist Michael Gendre
just added "The
Bastiat Collection" to mine. I've mentioned "Destined
for Failure: American Prosperity in the Age of Bailouts"
by Nicolas Sanchez, written in 2010. The non-fiction book I
started this weekend is "Neck
& Neck to the White House: The Closest Presidential Elections,
1796-2000" by former Salem News columnist Robert Kelly.
As noted earlier, I feel pretty confident in
my knowledge of Revolutionary War history, but kind of let
things drop after the signing of the Constitution. The history
courses I took in school mentioned the John Adams-Thomas
Jefferson split, the beginnings of the political parties, and
the 1798 Alien and Seditions Act; but without the decades of my
personal activist history to give them context and importance,
they hadn't registered overmuch.
Now, facing another potentially close and
world-changing presidential election next year, I am memorizing
Kelly's facts that I need to understand what is happening here.
Can't wait to read "2000: George W. Bush vs. Albert A. Gore"
on the way to whoever vs. Barack Obama.