May 3, 2016

Book review: “The South Side: A Portrait of Chicago and American Segregation” by Natalie Y. Moore

In The South Side, WBEZ reporter Natalie Y. Moore examines the myriad ways in which the lives of African-Americans in the Chicago region are limited, constrained, stifled and lessened by segregation. She focuses on her home territory of the city’s South Side where she grew up, went to school and now lives, but her analysis fits the West Side as well. It’s also relevant for the other portions of the seven-county metropolitan area where blacks live concentrated together and set apart, particularly many near western and near southern suburbs. And, of course, for much of the nation, as her subtitle A Portrait of Chicago and American Segregation notes. Segregation [Moore writes] is crippling because it’s the common denominator in innumerable challenges in black communities, from housing to jobs to food access to education to violence. Moore tells the history of how racial segregation came about here and considers a variety of ways through which it might be reversed. Much of what she describes has been detailed many times before by social scientists, by newspaper reporters and by groups, such as the Chicago Urban League, devoted to better race relations.   Back in the local conversation What’s particularly important about The […]
April 29, 2016

Book review: “First Love” & “Look for My Obituary,” two novellas by Elena Garro

The first love in Elena Garro’s novella First Love isn’t exactly what you might expect. For one thing, it isn’t about teenagers nor about the sweaty, fevered lust that love can be. For another, it involves Siegfried, a 20-year-old German prisoner-of-war, still in custody after the recently ended World War II, and Barbara, who is at least 30 and has her daughter, maybe 10, who is walking near the two when the discussion of first love takes place. Indeed, it is from the daughter’s point of view that the scene unfolds this way: Suddenly, she glanced back and saw the outline of Siegfried and her mother as they shone brilliantly against the darkness, as if a halo circled around their blond hair and their golden bodies tanned by the sun. They were very far behind… “Barbara, you are my first love,” said Siegfried, with eyes cast down, as his friends walked far ahead. “And you are the first person to love me,” Barbara answers, almost ashamed, as she stood in front of that young man who looked upon her with such intensity.” Siegfried is one of seven German POWs whom Barbara and her daughter, also named Barbara, have befriended in […]
April 26, 2016

Book review: “It Can’t Happen Here” by Sinclair Lewis

On Christmas Day, 1937, the family of Doremus Jessup is enjoying a festive afternoon in their Vermont home with friends, including shop-owner Louis Rotenstern, a Jewish bachelor. Suddenly, there’s a loud knocking at the door, and five white-uniformed paramilitary Minute Men tromp in to take Rotenstern away to a concentration camp. This scene occurs about two-thirds of the way through Sinclair Lewis’ novel It Can’t Happen Here. Already, Lewis has described how Senator Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip, an entertainingly folksy, fun-poking Democrat has bested Franklin D. Roosevelt for the party’s nomination and then won the White House in 1936. As president, Windrip has moved quickly to reorganize the government and impose strict controls on citizens as “emergency” measures, granting official status and wide latitude to the Minute Men. The government has been redefined as a totalitarian Corporate State, with all traditional parties eliminated. Lewis writes: There was to be only one: The American Corporate State and Patriotic Party — no! added the President, with something of his former good-humor: “there are two parties, the Corporate and those who don’t belong to any party at all, and so, to use a common phrase, are just out of luck!”   Anywhere Now, less […]
April 20, 2016

Book review: “A Cruel and Shocking Act: The Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination” by Philip Shenon

Over the last half century, scores and probably hundreds of books have been published about the 1963 assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy and its investigation by the Warren Commission. Many of these have been fueled with overheated prose and wide-eyed paranoia and have propounded conspiracy theories upon conspiracy theories. Yet, after reading a several of the more meticulous of those books, including most recently Philip Shenon’s 2013 A Cruel and Shocking Act: The Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination, I keep going back to what I’ve thought all along. Lee Harvey Oswald, a loner and a perpetual malcontent, acted alone when he put a rifle to his shoulder on November 22, 1963, and fired three shots, killing Kennedy and wounding Texas Gov. John Connally. Why? It all comes down to human nature. Lee Harvey Oswald was a mope. He didn’t work with people. He didn’t work for people. He didn’t live his beliefs. He didn’t have any beliefs, really, except that he should be famous and important. He had a mother who was crazy as a loon, and he lived his whole live as a scream for attention. He got it. Consider this: When he began the handwritten journal […]
April 13, 2016

Book review: “The Discworld Graphic Novels: The Colour of Magic & The Light Fantastic” by Terry Pratchett

I’ve written before about the difficulty of translating Terry Pratchett’s funny, witty, silly, insightful, wacky and clear-eyed novels into other art media. A year and a half ago, I saw a wonderfully entertaining version of Pratchett’s Monstrous Regiment at Lifeline Theatre here in Chicago, but I’ve been underwhelmed by television and feature-length movie versions of several of his books.   What worked with the Lifeline presentation was, first of all, that it was a top-notch production with a great amount of talent and gusto. Also important, I think, was that it was on stage with real human beings moving through the story. Unlike a television show or a movie, a play doesn’t purport to be realistic. These are people here in front of another set of people, the one group pretending to be someone else and the other suspending disbelief to pretend that the characters of the story are actually there in front of them.   The problem The problem with television or movie versions is that, by their nature, they seem realistic, even if told from a fantasy point of view. In a stage play, we see people pretending to be other people, but, in a video version, the […]
April 5, 2016

Book review: “The Buried Giant” by Kazuo Ishiguro

Many reviewers were flummoxed last year when they tried to come to grips with Kazuo Ishiguro’s seventh novel The Buried Giant. A lot of readers are likely to have the same reaction. That seems to be Ishiguro’s goal — the creation of a story and a world where logic and clarity exist only in pieces, like shards of a stained-glass window fallen to the ground. This novel is set in post-Roman, post-King Arthur England, on a landscape populated by Britons, Saxons and Picts, as well as ogres, pixies and one greatly feared she-dragon Querig. Of course, there’s also that buried giant of the title. Yet, The Buried Giant is no historical fantasy. There is nothing quaint and picturesque about the novel. No cute sidekicks, no noble quests. Neither does it truck in horror. The humans in this story are fearful of Querig and the other mythical creatures who share the same patch of geography, but they take them in stride, as a modern American would recognize the possibility of an armed robbery in certain places and take sensible precautions.   “A low growl” True, there is a Saxon warrior, Wistan, who has been given the job by his king to […]
March 29, 2016

Book review: “A Distant Heartbeat: A War, a Disappearance, and a Family’s Secrets” by Eunice Lipton

In the jagged, inscrutable ways of families, Eunice Lipton’s A Distant Heartbeat is a love story. It is a love story that encompasses affection, loss, flight, innocence, competition, anger, sex, idealism, arrogance, fear, courage, longing, martyrdom and betrayal. It centers on Lipton’s uncle Dave who, in 1938, at the age of 22, snuck away from his Jewish family’s New York City life to volunteer to serve with other American Communists in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish Civil War. Three months after arriving to fight for the Republic against the fascist forces of General Francisco Franco, he was dead. One of Dave’s friends later told Lipton: I was checking our position at the front  when Dave walked over toward me asking if he could return to his regular squad. Just as I yelled to him to get down, he was struck by a sniper’s bullet sinking slowly to the ground in front of me.   “Like a religious act” This was before Lipton, who is a friend of mine, was born. Yet, even as a child, she quickly found that Dave’s death — his absence — was a mysterious presence at the psychic center of her family of first […]
March 16, 2016

Book review: “The Familiar Epistles of Coll. Henry Martin, Found in His Misses Cabinet”

She wasn’t his wife, but Henry Marten loved Mary Ward, the mother of their three young daughters whom he called endearingly his “pretty brats,” his “biddies” and, after a bout of illness, his “pocky rogues.” Ward, as he told her over and over again in dozens of letters, was “my own sweet Love and Heart, and Dear and Soul.”   Theirs was a love story that took place more than three and a half centuries ago, and, like most love stories in human history, it would have been lost forever following their deaths — but for two quirks, one historical and one technological.   Familiar LETTERS In the mid-17th century, during the English Civil Wars, Marten, whose name was also spelled Martin, was a Member of Parliament who sided with the Roundheads against King Charles I and his Cavaliers, raising a regiment of soldiers and earning the title of Colonel. Along with Oliver Cromwell and about 80 other leading Parliamentarians, he took part in the conviction and execution of the King in 1649. The tables of political power in the nation turned, however, and, just a decade later, when the king’s son Charles II was restored to power, Marten found himself […]
March 8, 2016

Book review: “Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin” by Timothy Snyder

Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin is a monumental, heavily detailed, ground-breaking and deeply humane look at the political murder of 14 million people by the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany from 1932 through 1945. Published in 2010, it is a bludgeon of a book, brutally direct and honest and unflinching. It is also a keening elegy for the dead whose tragedy it was to find themselves inside a portion of Europe that was occupied by invaders from the Soviet Union or Germany or, worse case, both. It is an elegy for the millions of men, women and children who were starved to death so food could be exported to boost the Soviet balance of trade or to feed German soldiers, and shot to death as they stood at the edge of body-filled pits, and gassed to death in one of the five death factories, or killed in a multitude of other ways for a multitude of policy reasons. Killed for the sin of being where they were. and being Jewish or Polish or Ukrainian or a prisoner of war or a farmer or just handy to serve as a target for a reprisal for a resistance attack. […]
March 2, 2016

Three times a great read — an appreciation of “Chicago: Growth of a Metropolis” by Harold M. Mayer and Richard C. Wade

Back in the mid-1970s, when I was a newly minted reporter, I covered Chicago’s City Hall for a while. I remember that, at news conferences, Mayor Richard J. Daley, the first of the Mayor Daleys, would talk about the suburbs as “country towns,” as if they were these quaint, almost fanciful places. This, at a time when the suburban population was nearly equal to that of the city. Today, there are twice as many suburbanites as Chicagoans. It was around the same time that I started using as a key reference work the 1969 book Chicago: Growth of a Metropolis by geographer Harold M. Mayer and historian Richard C. Wade. If I needed to know about the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, I’d look in Mayer-Wade. The reversal of the flow of the Chicago River? Mayer-Wade. The 1909 Plan of Chicago? Mayer-Wade. The book, filled with more than 900 photographs and dozens of maps, has a text that is direct and to the point. And, unlike that first Mayor Daley, the authors weren’t Chicago-centric. They viewed the city in the context of its region — the rest of Cook County and the five collar counties: DuPage, Kane, Lake and McHenry. […]
February 23, 2016

Book review: “Manhole Covers,” text by Mimi Melnick, photographs by Robert A. Melnick

Manhole covers are beautiful. There, I’ve said it. Just give them a look. I mean, really look at them. You’ll agree. Take these six from Manhole Covers, the 1994 book by Mimi Melnick with photos by her husband Robert. Look at the one on the top right. It looks like a rose window on the front wall of a cathedral, doesn’t it? They were created out of the same spirit. Like the other five, this one was created to sit inside a rim in the pavement of a street or sidewalk as the door to a hole six to 18 feet deep, leading down to a sewer or maybe a clump of electrical wires or any of a variety of other underground systems that, out of sight, out of mind, serve the modern metropolis. These six covers, like all of their sort, had to fit snugly in their rims. They had to be easy for workers with the right tools to open. And they had to have some sort of height difference across their surface so that, originally, horses and, later, autos and other motorized vehicles wouldn’t slip and slide on their metal surface as if across a patch of […]
February 10, 2016

Book review: “Methuselah’s Children” by Robert A. Heinlein

In Methuselah’s Children, Robert A. Heinlein is all over the map — the celestial map. The novel starts on Earth, approaches the sun. hightails it to one Earth-like world with human-ish residents and then gets sent off careening through space to a second Earth-like world with a population of beings that seem pretty human but aren’t. Finally, it’s off to a third world, even more like Earth, and then the central character, the 200-plus-year-old Lazarus Long, decides to go off on an expedition to explore the Universe. It’s also all over the science fiction map in the sense that Heinlein envisions a cadre of long-lived humans who voluntarily breed with others like them to create families of people who can live, well, like Lazarus, 200 years and more. (He, though, is the oldest surviving family member.) He envisions controlled weather and a jury-rigged inertia-less space ship drive. He envisions a group soul and a civilization in which the members of a human-like race are the domesticated animals of another. In Methuselah’s Children, the story arc is so convoluted and the pages are filled with such a grab-bag of ideas that the novel is a mess. Yet, it’s a wonderful mess. […]
February 4, 2016

Book review: “The Haymarket Conspiracy” by Timothy Messer-Kruse

In late April, 1885, Chicago’s small, tight, deeply committed group of anarchists marched to protest the opening of the new Board of Trade Building. Turned away by police, the group ended up hearing speeches nearby at the building in which the group’s newspaper Arbeiter-Zeitung was housed. An undercover policeman, Thomas Treharn, made his way up to the paper’s editorial offices where he found several people, including editor August Spies two well-known anarchist speakers Albert Parsons and Samuel Fielden. Someone asked Spies to show “the package” he had displayed a few days earlier, and, writes historian Timothy Messer-Kruse: Spies handed Parsons a foot-long tube with a fuse protruding from one end. Parsons boasted there was “enough there to blow up the building.” [Treharn] asked Parsons why he had not challenged the police barricades and later remembered Parson saying, “We’re not exactly prepared to-night…here is a thing I could knock a hundred [police] down with like tenpins.” A little more than a year later, a mile and a half away, near Haymarket Square, a similarly homemade bomb was thrown into the midst of nearly 200 policemen. They fell like tenpins.   Riot, tragedy or conspiracy? It’s been called the Haymarket Riot and […]
February 1, 2016

Book review: “Arabian Nights: Four Tales from A Thousand and One Nights,” art by Marc Chagall, text by Richard Francis Burton

It is not often that three works of art can be found in one volume. But that’s the case with Arabian Nights with art by Marc Chagall and text by Richard Francis Burton. As Norbert Nobis explains in an introduction, Arabian Nights, also called Tales of a Thousand and One Nights, is a collection of stories from a wide array of cultures, including Indian, Persian, Hebrew, Arabian, Syrian, Egyptian and Mesopotamian, “merged into a single work welded together by the Arabic language and the Islamic faith.” These stories — their number varies from edition to edition — are framed by a tale that starts and ends the work and starts and ends each “night.” This frame story involves a King who marries a succession of virgins. Each one comes to his bed on their wedding night and, in the morning, is executed. The reason: The King doesn’t want to be the victim of his wife’s infidelity. (This, by the way, is the sort of over-the-top, operatic, baroque thinking that’s on exhibit throughout Arabian Nights.) The latest of the King’s wives is Scheherazade, but she has a plan. When she comes to her wedding bed, she begins to tell the King […]
January 27, 2016

Book review: “The Forgotten Frontier: Urban Planning in the American West before 1890” by John W. Reps

In 1856, some 60 Roman Catholics from eastern Iowa, calling themselves St. Patrick’s Colony, moved together to the Nebraska side of the Missouri River where they laid out an elaborate town site called St. John’s, near the present-day hamlet of Jackson. North-south streets were conventionally numbered [writes John W. Reps], but those running east-west constituted a partial hagiology of the canonized: St. Margaret, St. Elizabeth, St. Monica, St. Anastasia, and so forth. Even saints could not guarantee urban salvation, however, and after the financial panic of 1857 the town began a steady decline. By the mid-1870s it consisted of no more than a handful of houses, a fate shared by several others whose ghostly remains dotted the river bluffs. Throughout the 19th-century across the American West, pioneers crossed prairies, mountains and deserts, and built cities for themselves. Some, like St. Patrick’s Colony and, much more successfully, the Church of the Latter Day Saints, were seeking religious solidarity in the creation of their new urban places. Some wanted to be next to railroad lines or near established outposts, such as military forts and mines for gold and other precious ores. Almost all of them involved speculators of one sort or another. […]
January 21, 2016

Book review: “The Law and the Prophets,” edited by Robin Fox

The man’s left hand is on the boy’s neck, holding the head down. On the boy’s face is a grimace. In this tight detail, nothing else of the man is seen except his right hand. It holds a sharp knife and is moving to make the initial cut. The man is Abraham. The boy is Isaac. The detail is from the 1603 painting by Caravaggio, The Sacrifice of Isaac. This image is featured on pages 68-69 in The Law and the Prophets, an art book published by Harry N. Abrams, Inc., in the late 1960s or early 1970s. Robin Fox was the editor, and the book was based on a 1967 NBC documentary by Richard Hanser and Donald B. Hyatt. To the left of the image are sparse words of text: And God’s servant, Abraham, obeyed. He journeyed into the Land of Moriah. And there he took the knife to slay his son Isaac, whom he loved.   A labor of love Nearly half a century after its publication, what’s striking about The Law and the Prophets is its earnestness. And its showmanship. Those two aren’t mutually exclusive. Consider the Roman Catholic liturgy with all the robes, candles, marble altars, […]
January 19, 2016

Book review: “A History of Heaven: The Singing Silence” by Jeffrey Burton Russell

Life is a journey. We get to the edge, and then — what? As a Catholic, I grew up with lots of talk about heaven and all the other aspects of the afterlife. As an adult, I’ve approached the question from a different angle. I am intensely aware that, when I look down the road of life toward its end, there is an edge beyond which I cannot see. It is as if life were a painting which has an exquisitely detailed mass of images on the left side but, on the right side, there is only blank canvas. Or, maybe, it’s not blank canvas. Instead, it’s a hole in the wall, dark, black, empty. I am intensely aware that, when I get to the edge of life, there will be this great formless white that will show nothing except all that white. When I cross the edge of life, I’ll enter that white, and maybe I’ll cease to exist, or maybe I’ll find myself in the process of reincarnation, or maybe I’ll discover myself to be in hell, purgatory or heaven. As a Catholic, I believe that there is some sort of an afterlife with God — that God […]
January 11, 2016

Book review: “Dragons at Crumbling Castle and Other Tales” by Terry Pratchett

Climbing a mountain in search of the abominable snowman, the group of adventures come across a tiny water wheel on which is attached a piece of parchment. It reads: When is a door not a door?… When it is a jar (ajar). Groan. Yet, this is not your run-of-the-mill (ahem) pun. As one of the explorers explains, this is a joke wheel. It’s like the prayer wheels of Tibetan Buddhism except, instead of a prayer, there’s a joke that’s repeated with each revolution of the wheel. It’s put there by the Joke Monks. You see, they think the world was created as a joke, so everyone should give thanks by having a good laugh. That’s why they tie jokes to the water wheels. Each time the wheel goes around, a joke goes up to heaven…. Do you know, they reckon that there are 7,777.777,777,777 jokes in the world, and when they’ve all been told, the world will come to an end, like switching off a light.” One character spends the rest of the journey wondering how soon the 7,777,777,777,777th joke will be told.   Cub reporter This scene with its pun, its wry humor and its fascination with religious faith […]
January 6, 2016

Book review: “The Holocaust in American Life” by Peter Novick

Peter Novick’s 1999 book The Holocaust in American Life examines in great detail and with great insight — and great skepticism — how the killing of six million Jews by the Nazis during World War II came to loom so large in the cultural, social and political life of the United States. After all, as Novick notes, none of the concentration camps was in this country, and no Jews living in the U.S. during the war were threatened. No Americans took part in the murders although some of the perpetrators moved here after 1945. It’s easy enough to overlook this reality today when the Holocaust is a major touchstone for American Jews and non-Jews alike, but it hasn’t always been such. There’s been an evolution in the importance of the Holocaust in American consciousness. It’s an evolution, Novick argues, that’s taken place mainly because of the perceptions and needs of American Jewry. Also important has been the perceived weakness or strength of Israel. And the loosening of ties among U.S. Jews. And the growing importance of the Jewish vote for all politicians.   “Inhibitions” Initially, American Jews were inhibited from talking about the Holocaust in public. There was a Cold […]
January 3, 2016

My Top Eleven Books of 2015

Why eleven? I couldn’t cut the list down to ten, that’s why. Last year, I read and reviewed 69 books on my website, some of which had originally appeared in the Chicago Tribune. This isn’t, by any means, a list of the best books of 2015. Some of the works among these eleven were published last year, but most are older. One came out in 1935; another, in 1890. They aren’t ranked, just given in alphabetical order. These are simply eleven that I’m really glad to have read. There are a lot of others. On another day, the list would be somewhat different, maybe a lot different. So, here they are along with a portion of my review:   “A House of My Own” by Sandra Cisneros With a phrasing and bravado echoing Saul Bellow’s Augie March, Sandra Cisneros writes: I was north-of-the-border born and bred, an American-Mexican from “Chicano, Illinois,” street tough and city smart, wise to the ways of trick or treat. Yet, even as she writes those words, originally published in Elle magazine in 1991, she’s undercutting them, explaining that, because of her Chicago birth and upbringing, she knew nothing for a long time about a key […]
December 28, 2015

Book review: “Be Cool” by Elmore Leonard

I want to talk about Elmore Leonard as a practitioner at that high altar of modern literature, metafiction, but first… In Leonard’s 1999 novel Be Cool, Chili Palmer is explaining some insights he’s gathered about his new career in the music industry: The label, the manager and the lawyer are the tree and its branches. They nourish the fruit, the fruit being the artist. The tree has to be healthy to bear good fruit, or else the fruit falls to the ground and rots. Elaine Levin, a movie studio executive (and, eventually, Chili’s love interest), asks, “Why does that sound familiar?” There are a great many people who would say: Of course, that’s familiar. It echoes the seventh chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, verses 17-19, which begin: “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit,” as well as a parable in the 13th chapter of that gospel which starts: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they […]
December 21, 2015

Book review: “Get Shorty” by Elmore Leonard

As Elmore Leonard showed in his early novels and short stories, he could write a straight-ahead tale with a tight plot that unfolded step-by-step-by-step to a climax. In most of his later work, though, Leonard employed a much different approach. What there is of a plot, even if it involves danger and violence, isn’t very pressing. It is simply a flat stage on which his characters move. It is his characters who have his interest — and that of his readers. Get Shorty is one of these later books, published in 1990. Chili Palmer is a Miami loan shark who’s getting out of the business. Well, he’s being chased out by Ray “Bones” Barboni, a mobster he once cold-cocked and who’s had it in for Chili ever since. Anyway, Chili ends up in Hollywood. He hooks up with longtime schlock film producer Harry Zimm who, for the first time in his life, has a high-concept project to push. Also moving in and out of the story are Karen Flores, a former starlet famous for her full-throated scream in various Zimm movies; rich wastrel Ronnie Wingate and his savvy partner in a limousine-drug operation, Bo Catlett; and three-time Academy Award-winner Martin […]
December 15, 2015

Book review: “The Summons” by John Grisham

I was looking for a page-turner, and, for its opening chapters, The Summons by John Grisham supplied that. Ray Atlee, a law professor at the University of Virginia School of Law in Charlottesville, Virginia, gets a letter addressed to him and his younger brother Forrest from their father. It reads: Please make arrangements to appear in my study on Sunday, May 7, at 5 p.m., to discuss the administration of my estate. Sincerely, Rueben V. Atlee It’s a letter that gives an immediate insight into the relationship — and lack of one — that Ray has had up until now with his father, a retired judge who, until being unseated in an election nine years earlier, had been a major figure in Ford County, Mississippi. Forrest, a wastrel, lifelong addict, has had an even more tortuous connection with the Judge. Ray knows that his 79-year-old father is dying of cancer so he is shaken but not completely surprised when he arrives at the family home for the appointment to find his father dead with a packet of morphine nearby.   Neat packets of hundred-dollar bills What does stun him, though, is his discovery in dozens of boxes in cabinets in […]
December 8, 2015

Book review: “Women in Clothes” by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits, Leanne Shapton & 639 others

Women in Clothes is a wonderful book, a cornucopia of insights into the ever-so-complicated feelings that women have about clothing. Although I like the idea of fashion as a kind of practical, everyday art, it’s an art for which I am without aptitude. I do love, however, to study the way human beings think and act, what makes us tick, especially human beings in groups that don’t include me. This book provided me with a delightful and ever-surprising glimpse into the psyches of women as reflected in their clothing and their emotions about their clothing. It allowed me to listen in on literally hundreds of women as they took part in a conversation about a subject that, clearly, is of great import to them. For a guy, reading the book might be called voyeuristic, yet I’m a human being who wears clothes, so none of this is completely foreign to me. While men in Western society aren’t as into fashion and clothing as women (except a small percentage that includes my son David), I’m sure any guy who reads Women in Clothes would feel resonances. Guys have their own clothing issues, and all of us are close to women who […]
December 7, 2015

Book review: “It Can’t Happen Here” by Sinclair Lewis

The Vermont doctor, successful and respected, is with friends, listening to the radio as Senator Buzz Windrip is nominated by the Democratic Party to become President of the United States. Windrip is a shoo-in in the 1936 election, and some of the friends around that radio fear that, given his proposals and the sorts of people he has gathered around himself, Windrip will become an American dictator. Bosh, the doctor says. Dictatorship? Better come into the office and let me examine your heads! Why, America’s the only free nation on earth. Besides! Country’s too big for a revolution. No, no! Couldn’t happen here! Yet, it does. And the doctor is one of the first to be marched out behind the courthouse and summarily executed by a firing squad. The book, written in 1935, is by Sinclair Lewis. Its title is: It Can’t Happen Here. And it’s all about how it can and, in this story of the then near-future, it does. Throughout the book, one character after another says, one way or another, says, “It can’t happen here.” And yet it does.   Alarming vision Windrip is a version of Louisiana Senator Huey Long, a demagogue, who was gearing up […]