First off, I am so proud of myself. I finally finished a good big book. That’s right: Richard Scarry’s Big Book of Bestest Storybook Ever. Started it in second grade; was never able to put it down or get past those funny images. And, did I mention, it is really big.
Taylor Branch wrote at least one supreme masterpiece of non-fiction (what other type of fiction is there?) in Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years, 1963-65.* I think that The Boston Globe was very adeptly accurate in calling it “Jet-propelled history.”
The second-of-three on the America in the King Years trilogy (the first being the Pulitzer Prize winning Parting of the Waters and the last being the more recent At Canaan’s Edge, neither of which I’ve read, yet), the series is not so much a biography on Martin Luther King, Jr. as a tour-de-force lens on reading the U.S. through the focal point of King. The historic March on Washington gets but one paragraph, and much of that focuses on Malcolm X and other leaders. Only a few passing notes are made on the “I Have a Dream” speech. In this 600 page tome, Branch has less-famous fish to fry.
Two of the most captivating and central figures in the book are Vice- and then President Lyndon B. Johnson and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee’s torn and born leader Bob Moses.
Other intriguing giants in this land include King’s right-hand man Ralph Abernathy, the entrenched and fearful state of Mississippi, the austerely beautiful and strong Fannie Lou Hamer, the arch-conservative self-bureaucrat J. Edgar Hoover, Barry Goldwater, the presidential candidate who turned the Republican Party against the Legacy of Lincoln, J.F. and R.F. Kennedy, the NAACP and the NCC, Elijah Muhammad and his tight and violent grip on the Nation of Islam and its defactors, the New York Times and the press, the extreme activists within King’s SCLC Diane Bevel Nash and her husband James Bevel, the ingenious and tragic Mississippi Freedom Democracy Party, the aforementioned Malcolm X, the four girls in that church in Birmingham, and haunted and neglected leader Lawrence Guyot.
I want to do a series of essays on this book. It’s just that profound. I can’t get it out of my head.
Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. Shhhh… I’m very secretly working on a book right now. I want to say a lot more about it, but it’s about half the way to the point where I can even show parts of it. And maybe about 1/6th through to where I feel it can be published as a work, if I’m good and continue at it. Lamott was always one of those dry and just slightly eccentric left-of-center witty-izers who I admired from a distance. This book on writing is like taking an MFA class with her. Except that by only paying $11, I don’t feel the guilt of not having spent my money wisely unless I write a billion pages a day. And really, who has time to write when you’re reading all day?
Sports Illustrated. Because somehow, I let myself get talked into two pick-em leagues and one fantasy football league. And we. don’t. actually. watch. t.v.
Contemporary Issues in Curriculum: Fourth Edition, ed. by Ornstein, Pajak, and Ornstein. There’s no hiding it. It’s probably the most boring $80 I’ve spent recently. There’s 20 hours I’ll probably never get back!
*BTW, notice that Amazon is selling it for 6.5 USD? Scoop up your copy NOW.