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Summer Reading

Fantastic piece on McCartney in the New Yorker, but no link, sadly. It's a somber article -- the cute Beatle is now an old Beatle. Has had "When I'm Sixty-Four" on his mind a lot lately for obvious reasons (who knew that he wrote the tune when he was 16?). Naturally there's a Paul spin on the history of the band and its breakup, but no matter, it's a great piece of reporting and writing.

Same magazine, different issue, another great piece: Gopnik's article on Stanton's famous epitaph at Lincoln's deathbed ("Now he belongs to the ages" -- or did he say "angels"???) It's a long article but worth the effort. Here's the payoff:

'History is not an agreed-on fiction but what gets made in a crowded room; what is said isn't what's heard, and what is heard isn't what gets repeated. Civilization is an agreement to keep people from shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theatre, but the moments we call historical occur when there is a fire in a crowded theatre; and then we all try to remember afterward when we heard it, and if we ever really smelled smoke, and who went first, and what they said. The indeterminacy is built into the emotion of the moment. The past is so often unknowable not because it is befogged now but because it was befogged then, too, back when it was still the present. If we had been there listening, we still might not have been able to determine exactly what Stanton said. All we know for sure is that everyone was weeping, and the room was full.'


My eldest, who is 16, asked for suggestions for summer reading. I think she has to read something for school, so she's not really looking for a beach book. But I also don't think she should necessarily spend the summer lugging around "Moby Dick." It should be something compelling -- such as "Miracle in the Andes," which she loved (along with "Into Thin Air").

Most lists of "best" books are skewed toward tomes. For example, here's that Top Ten list that we talked about on the A-blog a while back:

1. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
2. Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert
3. War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy
4. Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov
5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
6. Hamlet, by William Shakespeare
7. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
8. In Search of Lost Time, by Marcel Proust
9. The stories of Anton Chekhov
10. Middlemarch, by George Eliot

Good list. But maybe not exactly right for a rising high school junior. To me a summer book should be fun even if it's not a beach book. From the list above, Madame Bovary would be a good choice. Gatsby, of course, but my daughter read it last summer. She definitely needs to read Huck Finn at some point -- the Great American Novel until something better comes along.

I'd suggest Vonnegut, but she just read Sirens of Titan.

Ringworld? Dune? I should have asked Larry and Jerry. Stranger in a Strange Land?

I know I'm repeating myself (which is allowed -- it's a blog!), but here are some books that I really enjoyed reading, listed in no particular order (and some are probably a bit heavy for teenage summer reading):

1. Corelli's Mandolin
2. The Yearling
3. Sophie's Choice
4. 1984
5. Watership Down
6. Lord of the Rings (maybe the perfect summer book)
7. The Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
8. The Corrections
9. Under the Net
10. The Sun Also Rises
11. Catch-22
12. The Spy Who Came in From the Cold

Fun books:

Anything by P.g. Wodehouse
Ten Little Indians, or somesuch by Agatha Christie
Double Whammy by Carl Hiaasen

[I notice in that in the boodle, Curmudgeon listed Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy as the best novel ever, and A Small Town in Germany as the third-best, sandwiching Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man. Lots more great lists in that boodle. For example, this from dmd:

Curious incident of the dog at Midnight, Mark Haddon
Great Expectations, Dickens
The Crucible, Arthur Miller (if you can include Hamlet - then this must count)
Anne of Green Gables - Lucy Maud Montgomery
The Diviners - Margaret Laurence
Prince of Tides - Pat Conroy
Twelve Angry Men, (Author?)
Sunshine sketches of a Small Town - Stephen Leacock.
Ordinary People, Judith Guest]

Previously on the A-blog, we've discussed the fact that there are too many books.

Also, check out yellojkt's blog: He's annotated another list of 100 popular books:

Oh yeah: Some sentences and paragraphs I like (from the pre-boodle era).


Gregg Easterbrook in Wired takes a shot at NASA:

NASA's to-do list neglects the two things that are actually of tangible value to the taxpayers who foot its bills -- research relevant to environmental policymaking and asteroid-strike protection....The agency is conducting only a few sun-study missions -- even though all life depends on the sun, and knowing more about it might clarify the global-warming debate. But $6 billion a year for astronauts to take each other's blood pressure on the space station? No problem!

...Since the end of the Apollo glory days, NASA seems to have been driven by the desire to continue lucrative payments to the contractors behind manned spaceflight (mainly Boeing and Lockheed Martin) while maintaining staff levels in the congressional districts (mainly in Alabama, Florida, Ohio, and Texas) that are home to huge centers focused on manned missions. If the contractors and the right congressional committee members are happy, NASA's funding will continue and NASA managers will keep their jobs. The space station project was built to give the shuttle a destination, keeping the manned-space spending hierarchy intact. With the space station now almost universally viewed as worthless, the manned-space funders need a new boondoggle. The moon-base idea, pushed by President Bush, fits the bill.


This Fisher blog item is making me hungry!

By Joel Achenbach  |  May 30, 2007; 10:36 AM ET
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