SK: Thomas Williams was a wonderful, wonderful novelist. He wrote a novel called The Hair of Harold Roux, which is one of my favorite books, about a writer named Aaron Benham. Benham says that when he sits down to write a book it’s like being on a dark plain with one little tiny fire. And somebody comes and stands by that fire to warm themselves. And then more people come. And those are the characters in your book, and the fire is whatever inspiration you have. And they feed the fire, and it gets big, and eventually it burns out because the book is at an end. It’s always felt that way to me. When you start, it’s very cold, an impossible task. But then maybe the characters start to take on a little bit of life, or the story takes a turn that you don’t expect … With me that happens a lot because I don’t outline, I just have a vague notion. So it’s always felt like less of a made thing and more of a found thing. That’s exciting. That’s a thrill.
My heroic journey in ping-pong and almost anybody’s heroic journey in ping-pong ends nowhere. It ends in obscurity. Obscurity is a very good subject for a writer. Failure is a very good subject for a writer. You don’t want to write about success is not good for a writer— no one really wants to read a novel about somebody for whom it’s all gone right. The stories that we love are the stories that people for whom it’s all gone wrong and may go right, but mainly gone wrong. And ping-pong is all about something going wrong. It’s about having a grand idea that can never be, can’t be realized, it’s a dream that cannot ever be realized. -Howard Jacobson
Mary Delany was seventy-two years old when she noticed a petal drop from a geranium. In a flash, she picked up her scissors and cut out a paper replica of the petal, inventing the art of collage. Now nearly a thousand of her cut-paper collages, known as Flora Delanica, are housed in the British Museum. Molly Peacock has written a biography of Mary Delaney as only a poet could.
In COOPERSTOWN CONFIDENTIAL, Zev Chafets offers a stinging and persuasive defense of Barry Bonds, who was found guilty of obstruction of justice yesterday. Chafets argues that racism and hypocrisy led to the downfall of one of the greatest sluggers to ever play the game, and that “the cost to baseball in goodwill in the black community is likely to be much higher.” This is an excerpt from Chapter 7.
All this history helped explain why a CBS News/New York Times poll, published in July 2007, showed such a stark discrepancy between the way blacks and whites understood the Bonds controversy. The survey found that 54 percent of blacks—but only 29 percent of whites—were rooting for Bonds to break the home run record.
Sixty-two percent of black baseball fans said that race was a major or minor factor in steroid charges against Bonds; just 14 percent of whites agreed. Asked if they had a favorable view of Bonds, black fans responded positively by an almost three to one margin; white fans were negative by nearly 2 to 1. Twice as many whites as blacks said that it would be bad for baseball if Bonds broke the home run record.
After the 2007 season, Bonds was indicted on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice, for lying to a grand jury about using steroids. An indictment is not a conviction. If a senior government official is indicted for such crimes, it might be seemly for him to step away from the job, at least temporarily. But Bonds was a 42-year-old baseball player. Time was running out on his career, and he wanted to play again in 2008. He filed for free agency after the World Series and he had every reason to expect that he would be snapped up. He had a name that sells tickets in droves and draws more media attention than almost anyone in baseball. On the road fans might come to boo, but in his home park he would be a hero, as he has been, and remains, in San Francisco.
Even more important, Bonds in 2007 was still one of the best players in baseball. He hit 28 home runs in just 340 at bats, for a .565 slugging percentage, led the National League in walks and in on-base percentage, with a colossal .480. Since 1950, only four players have bested that OBP—Bonds himself in tkyear, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle and the Tigers’ Norm Cash in his unforgettable (and, sadly, unrepeated) 1961 season. It’s true that Bonds was no longer one of the greatest defensive outfielders in the game, as he had been in his prime, but in most ballparks he would have been adequate, and he was perfect for the American League, where designated hitters don’t need to field at all.
What lucky team signed baseball’s best slugger in 2008? The answer is, none. Bonds didn’t get a single serious offer.
The baseball press handled this with astonishing equanimity. Bonds’ exile from the game—which is also his profession—was treated as a natural and positive development. He hadn’t been convicted of anything. He hadn’t confessed to anything. The evidence that he used steroids was anecdotal—he had grown bigger and stronger over time—but there were plenty of players in the game who had admitted to using steroids. But Bonds was guilty no matter what. It was back to the days of Judge Landis, when not even a jury acquittal mattered.
Now comes Justin Cartwright’s "Other People’s Money" (Bloomsbury, 259 pages, $15), a novel that illustrates this transformation of finance as it describes the death of one of the last private banks in London. Julian Trevelyan-Tubal—a member of the 11th generation of the Tubal dynasty—takes over the family firm after his father, Harry, suffers a stroke, and the son immediately begins secret preparations to sell it. The bank has foundered in the subprime mortgage crisis because Julian, bucking centuries of conservative business practices, invested in “sliced and diced derivatives and recklessly lent money.” As his efforts to find a buyer continue, he hides his losses by illegally transferring assets from the family trust. When word of the scam leaks to a newspaper blogger, Julian scrambles to stay ahead of the story while keeping up appearances for his eccentric relatives.
DIET FOR A HOT PLANET is now in paperback, @AnnaLappe's spring tour kicks off 4/18 in NYC
Cooling the Planet, Feeding the World
In her latest book, Diet for a Hot Planet, Anna Lappé exposes the connections between the food on our plate, the climate crisis, and what we can do about it. The launch event for the paperback edition will be in New York City next Monday 4/18 at NYU (details below) and will be followed by trips to Northern California and Elon University in North Carolina.
While millions across the country are waking up to the economic and healthcare costs of the American fast food diet, few understand the connections between our food system and global warming.
“If we are serious about addressing the climate crisis,” says Lappé, “we’ve got to talk about food. And the good news is creating a more climate-friendly food system isn’t just good for the planet, it’s good for our bodies too.”
In her groundbreaking book, Anna Lappé reports on the underreported story of the climate impact of food. As she deftly explains—from raising cattle in industrial-scale feedlots to razing rainforests to make palm oil for Pop Tarts—our food system is responsible for as much as one third of all greenhouse gas emissions.
In this award-winning book, Anna Lappé also exposes the forces driving these emissions, including the heavy hand of food industry marketing, the expansion of factory farming, and global land grabs. As Lappé has artfully done in her previous two books, she helps the reader see grounds for honest hope, exploring the fields of farmers promoting climate-friendly, agroecological practices, and busting some of the biggest myths about sustainable farming.
The book also includes seven practical steps for a climate-friendly diet and creative ways we can, and must, go “beyond our plate” to push for more fundamental change in our food environment.
Raj Patel calls the book a “tour-de-force… its lessons will stay with you for a lifetime.” And Kirkus Reviews calls it “an essential toolkit for readers looking for a pragmatic climate-response action plan of their own.”
Anna Lappé is one of the nation’s leading advocates for “real food”—food that’s good for our bodies, workers, and for the planet. Along with Diet for a Hot Planet, Anna is the coauthor of the national bestselling Hope’s Edge and Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen. Named one of Time magazine’s “eco” Who’s Who, Lappé is a founding principal of the Small Planet Institute and the Small Planet Fund. Lappé lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband and daughter. Follow her on Twitter @AnnaLappe.
Diet for a Hot Planet Tour Dates
Food + Farm Book Talk April 15, 2011 7:30 pm SPACE Gallery 538 Congress St. Portland, ME 04101
Paperback launch of Diet for a Hot Planet April 18, 2011 6:30 pm New York University Kimmel Center 60 Washington Sq. South Shorin Performance Studio Room 802 New York, New York 10012
Earth Day at Elon University Join Anna as she delivers the Earth Day Keynote Address. Wednesday, April 20, 2011 7:30 pm Elon University McKinnon Hall (on campus) Elon, NC 27244
Green For Queens Earth Day Fair May 15, 2011 2 pm Central Queens YM & YWHA 67-09 108th Street Forest Hills, NY 11375
Water Fight! Fracking, Food, Art & Economy Monday, May 16th 2011 2:00 – 5:30 pm Doors Open at 1:30 pm Tishman Auditorium The New School 66 West 12th Street New York 10011
Anna at the Commonwealth Club Wednesday, May 18th, 2011 7 pm Montalvo Arts Center 15400 Montalvo Road Carriage House Theatre Saratoga, CA 95071
Cooking for Solutions Friday, May 19, 2011 8:30 am to 9:15 am Monterey Plaza Hotel 400 Cannery Row Monterey, CA 93940 www.cookingforsolutions.org
Girls Gone Green Conference Thursday, June 9, 2011 9 to 5:30 pm (career panel from 10 to 12 pm) conEdison Auditorium 4 Irving Place New York, NY 10003
“#fridayreads @HowardMegdal: “[Mirabelle] gripped my index finger tightly with her entire hand when Shin-Soo Choo singled, then stole second base. Was she caught up in the drama? It was hard to conclude anything else. Even Rachel, who had been skeptical about my insistence on playing Vin Scully broadcasts through an earbud I placed in her belly button during pregnancy, admitted that Mirabelle appeared to be fully absorbed in the game.”—TAKING THE FIELD by Howard Megdal, watching the Mets-Indians game on 6/17/10 with his wife Rachel and young daughter Mirabelle.
Every morning at the age of 79, I wake up in the same bed, in the same third-floor apartment, in the same four-story brownstone on the East Side of Manhattan that I first moved into in 1958, when I was 26 and feeling older than I do now. At 26, I was constantly worried about things that worry me no longer. Where was I going? What was my next move? Now I never question myself about my next move, I know the answer. Don’t move. Change nothing. Let the world come to you.
“The political system,’’ writes David Goldfield, a history professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, “could not contain the passions stoked by the infusion of evangelical Christianity into the political process.’’ The various political disputes of the time, “and above all slavery,’’ he writes, “assumed moral dimensions that confounded political solutions.’’ And as “the bonds of Union fell away,’’ violence and eventually war “became an acceptable alternative because it worked’’ as perhaps the only way to resolve irreconcilable differences.
@BloomsburyPress “The political system,’’ writes David Goldfield, a history professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, “could not contain the passions stoked by the infusion of evangelical Christianity into the political process.’’ The various political disputes of the time, “and above all slavery,’’ he writes, “assumed moral dimensions that confounded political solutions.’’ And as “the bonds of Union fell away,’’ violence and eventually war “became an acceptable alternative because it worked’’ as perhaps the only way to resolve irreconcilable differences.
The Finkler Question was the first comic novel to win the Man Booker Prize. I think The Mighty Walzer is more amusing—not as economically constructed as The Finkler Question, but also without that novel’s ideological abstractions and thudding satire.