Thursday, September 16th? Mid-September? Dark has fallen and it’s only 6:30. The year is dying. At least in New England.
It’s not too soon to look back on summer. The best parts of which are those books that hijack our vacation repose and turn us into the trembling enthusiast of a new idea. (Ideas do like to catch us napping.)
Two books in particular worked this way for me.
1. Micklethwait, John, and Adrian Wooldridge. 1998. The Witch Doctors: Making Sense of the Management Gurus. Three Rivers Press
This is a smart and clarifying tour of the ideas that have transformed American business over the last 30 years or so. If you are part of what Florida calls the Creative Class, you really have to read this book. Not to do so is to obscure the forces that shape our world.
Every page you will find you thinking, "Really!" and you’ll think back to high flown rhetoric from the CEO you were working for, and say, "That’s what he was talking about!" Think of this as the "survival guide" or, if necessary, the "cheat sheet" for life in the American corporation.
2. Chabon, Michael. 2008. The Yiddish Policemen’s Union: A Novel. Harper Perennial.
I do realize that all the world is competing to cover Jonathan Franzen with glory. But have a look at this book and see if you don’t think that it is Chabon who deserves the honor. Franzen’s work is wonderful, but it is, to be fair, merely well observed and constructed. Chabon gives us something much more inventive. This is an act of the imagination from which an entire world springs. Franzen reworks his field notes. Chabon supplants our world with his own.
There is lots to admire, including a use of metaphor that really gave me a new understanding of what metaphor can do. But the thing that impressed me most was the way Chabon takes a relatively difficult "what if" (specifically, what if Israel closes shop in 1948 and its communities are transported to Sitka, Alaska) and makes it not just plausible but somehow accomplished fact. My wife now has to correct me, "Actually, I don’t think there are millions of Jews living in Alaska, dear." After reading The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, you will swear otherwise.
For the Amazon page for Witch Doctors, click here.
For the Amazon page for Chabon’s book, click here.