Sunday, July 10, 2005

The Chainsaw, Watermelon, and Penguins that CHANGED AMERICA!

The events of this pleasant Sunday morning included the chainsaw-facilitated removal of the final trees from the side of the house and the disposal of the ex-trees at a friend's house out in the country. The events of this equally pleasant Sunday afternoon and evening included a quick trip to the grocery store to get two watermelons (they should last me through Wednesday), and then a road trip to the eclectic playground Bookman's Alley, dinner at Wolfgang Puck's (I like to call it Wolfman Jack's) and seeing The March of the Penguins. If you liked Winged Migration, you'll like this. I liked both.

The Tribune Book Section today featured Eric Arnesen's review of Meet You in Hell: Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, and the Bitter Partnership That Transformed America by Les Standiford. A couple of things about this:

First, at some point in my life I want to list people whose first and middle names were the first and last names of presidents (and yes, I know Henry Clay was never president, duhh). Examples: George Washington Carver, Abraham Lincoln Marovitz, and Grover Cleveland Alexander. I might or might not include Franklin Delano Romanowski. We'll just have to see.

Secondly, I loved the following excerpt from that review:

The reference in Standiford's subtitle to "the Bitter Partnership That Transformed America" promises more than the book can deliver. These days trade publishers are fond of such grandiose subtitles, whose various combinations of "America" or "the world" with "changed" or "transformed" extravagantly insist on their subjects' importance.

How true! I have read (or thought about reading, or heard somebody mention) any number of books in the past five or six years that have made such claims. For instance:

Now while I will grant that it is certainly true that baseball players, geologists, shirtwaist factory fires, alternatives for purple, and fishing can create ripple effects far beyond that which is immediately obvious, and while I will also certainly assert that there are fascinating stories associated with all sorts of off(on-?)-the-beaten-path topics, I have come to suspect that the subtitular grandiosity described above by Arnesen is more a product of Madison Avenue than the halls of academe. And really, given enough time, just about anything changes the world in one way or another. For more, see The Article That Changed the World.

Heh heh... "Subtitular."


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