“When you read a piece of writing that you admire, send a note of thanks to the author.” — Sherman Alexie
TO READ OR NOT TO READ
I want you to come into the Book Corner. I want you to buy ten books while you’re there.
Okay, if not ten, then at least one.
The Book Corner is a treasured South Central Indiana cultural institution, and I don’t say that solely because I work there.
Me, Slaving Away At The Book Corner
It’s locally owned, having been under the control of the Spannuth family since…, well, since cavemen chipped rudimentary messages into stones
It carries books and magazines the big boys like Barnes and Noble would never think of stocking.
And I’m there, good for a laugh, a wink, a flirt, or a good recommendation.
Speaking of recommendations, I’ve got a few for you right now.
First, a recommendation of what not to buy. It has to do with the 50 Shades franchise of housewife porn.
Oh, I don’t want you not to buy a book from that best selling trilogy of steamy novels. Go ahead. My old pal R.E. Paris writes in the upcoming issue of Ryder magazine that any book that causes millions of women to engage in a certain solitary behavior, sometimes simultaneously across several times zones, can’t be all bad.
That said, there’s now the phenomenon of shirt-tailers, trying to make an even faster buck off of what already is a fast buck racket. To wit: Yesterday we unpacked a tome entitled “50 Shades of Chicken.”
Yeah, you guessed it, the “author” of said consumer product has produced a “book” of recipes based on the soft S&M theme of the trilogy. Someone named F.L. Fowler (yeah, surrre) has taglined this literary excrement “50 Chicken Recipes Bound to Be Delicious.”
Get it? Bound. Teehee.
Don’t buy it. We shouldn’t be encouraging these people.
So, what to buy?
✐ “Just Enough Jeeves” by P.G. Wodehouse. The Bertie & Jeeves series has been my “comfort food” reading choice for some 30 years now. Wodehouse is one of the finest comedic verbal technicians of the 20th century. He competes with S.J. Perelman, Woody Allen, and the writers of “National Lampoon,” “Spy,” and “The Onion” for the top spot in that category. A wild range of authors from Christopher Hitchens to J.K. Rowling swore by him. Not only are the antics of Wooster and his gentleman’s gentleman a pure joy, but the series is tantamount to an historical treatise documenting the fall of the British caste system.
✐ “Havana Nocturne: How the Mob Owned Cuba and Then Lost It to the Revolution” by T.J. English. A history of the Mob’s presence in Cuba under the Batista regime. Even a cynic has to be shocked by the nefarious cabal of US government officials, the Cuban strongman, and the Italian and Jewish hoodlums who raped and pillaged the Caribbean island nation for so long. And we wonder why Castro and his gang have been throwing us the finger for half a century.
✐ “Goodbye, Columbus (And Five Short Stories)” by Philip Roth. Now that the curmudgeonly hermit of American letters has announced his retirement, it’s time to go back to his first published novella. Imagine, Roth was 26 in 1959 when GC was released. The story betrays that youth. Surely Roth was an old soul who could see why fools — and the young — fall in love. Yes, there was something about Brenda Patimkin — Roth writes in the opening scene of her climbing out of a swimming pool and reaching back to flick with her fingers the fabric of her hiked-up swimsuit to re-cover her firm buttocks — but Roth’s Neil, who had to be Roth himself, loves her for other, less honest, reasons.
From “The Elements”
✐ “The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe” by Theodore Gray. This is a delight for science geeks as well as lovers of gorgeous photographic images. Gray lays out images of all the elements from their constituent atoms to their real-life, practical forms. Have you ever wondered what in the hell krypton is and how we use it? The answer’s here.
✐ “The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook: 2000 Recipes from 20 Years of America’s Most Trusted Food Magazine” by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated. CI is by far the best cooking magazine around and this hefty book serves as a greatest hits from it. The dishes herein are basic, timeless, and would be at home in your grandma’s recipe box. This is a standard for any cook.
✐ “Ball Four” by Jim Bouton. The most influential book of my young life. Bouton was an outsider who chronicled the day to day lives of two otherwise nondescript Major League Baseball teams, the short-lived Seattle Pilots and the Houston Astros, in 1969. It’s hilarious, revealing, tender and tough, and it spits in the eye of all those licksplitters, Boy Scouts, and petit tyrants you love to hate. Plus, it’s a cultural chronicle of perhaps the most gut-wrenching period of time in American history outside of the Civil War.
✐ “Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago” by Mike Royko. Hands down, Royko was the best newspaper columnist of my lifetime. He ranks with Twain and Mencken as the finest newspaper writers in this nation’s history. The fact that Royko’s “Boss” exposed a dying political machine was only an accident of time — had Royko been active several decades earlier, he’d have torn the cover off the venal, venial, tawdry operation when it was at its supposed unassailable height. Of course, he probably would have been killed for his efforts.
There. Now go out and buy some books.
Reading, ah yes, one of life’s finer guilty (and innocent) pleasures. Long live the Book Corner and other purveyors of the arts and letters!