"The Philippinos would welcome us with open arms and greet us as liberators."
It's possible to think that I sat down to talk with Gregg Jones about his book 'Honor in the Dust' about ten years too late. Had this book been in circulation back then, we might very well find ourselves in a very different international situation right now. America's first big foreign adventure went every bit as well as our current gig is going, which suggests that we've learned nothing in the interim.
But I have to admit that I knew nothing of the particular corner of history where Jones sets his story, and it is one hell of a story. He and I had a grand time sitting at the big table at KUSP talking about the past and the present, sort of at once. This is a weird and powerful book to read. Jones hews closely to what happened and why. It's a great story with nuanced characters, a fast-paced plot arc and a dramatic trial to wrap it all up. It's also true.
And that informed our conversation. Jones could pull quotes from a hundred years ago that sounded like last years' headline debate. We had a lot of fun talking about this book, and it can never arrive too late. It seems unlikely we have learned from what happened yesterday, let alone one hundred years ago. But the power of literature and storytelling is such that it is possible to learn things from a book that are invisible when they take place right in front of your eyes.
04-17-12 UPDATE:Podcast Update: Time to Read Episode 40: Ben Marcus, 'The Flame Alphabet and Heidi Julavits, 'The Vanishers'
Click image for audio link.
Here's the fortieth episode of my new series of podcasts, which I'm calling Time to Read. The podcasts/radio broadcasts will be of books worth your valuable reading time. I'll try to keep the reports under four minutes, for a radio-friendly format. If you want to run them on your show or podcast, let me know.
My hope is that in under four minutes I can offer readers a concise review and an opportunity to hear the author read from or speak about the work. I'm hoping to offer a new one every week.
"Roosevelt and Riis were out looking, and if they did find a cop, he was talking to a streetwalker."
— Richard Zacks
Richard Zacks has just the kind of enthusiasm that you'd expect from a man who just returned from a brisk walk through the streets of New York on the 'Island of Vice' — some 117 years ago. Readers should not be surprised to learn that book started as research for a novel. Zacks has really succeeded in creating a non-fiction reading experience that has the feel and fun of a novel.
I spoke with Zacks via an ISDN connection to New York, where he was going to be giving a walking tour later in the day. The book is a real hoot to read, and Zacks brings that sort of fun to the conversation. There are just so many juicy details in here that it is hard to believe that some stuff had to be left out. But there were a few details (ranging towards the rude side of life) that fell on the cutting room floor. I was lucky enough to have Zacks talk about them in our conversation.
The verve that Zacks brings to his written storytelling carries over to his conversational expertise. And while Roosevelt is the center of attention, Zacks and I ranged wide with regards to the topics in the book, including the provenance of the word "groaner" as it applies to beer. In fact, beer gets mentioned enough here that you might want to have one or two ready, provided you're not driving to or from work.
05-04-13: Commentary : Reasons Not to Leave the House, Reality Check : The Truth Hurts Edition: 'Down the Up Escalator' by Barbara Garson, 'The Wolf and the Watchman' by Scott C. Johnson,'The Book of Woe' by Gary Greenberg, 'Confessions of a Sociopath' by M. E. Thomas