Hear Me Roar

I Am Charlotte Simmons
Tom Wolfe

Readers of the last post should have seen this coming.

Before the sociologists got to the subject of campus sex, the novelists had gotten there first.  Well, one novelist and because the scrivener in question is Tom Wolfe you get a two-fer. Wolfe the novelist is also Wolfe the Continue reading


Like a Thief in the Night

The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession
Susan Orlean

I sometimes think certain types of books should bear a slogan, like a genre film, or a police car. Something that tells you why the present item exists or what its purpose is.

For Susan Orlean that slogan might be to inform and entertain. There’s no doubt that Orlean knows how to spin a tale. She sets out, in this case, to tell the story of John Laroche, a gent who comes to her attention when he’s arrested with two Seminole Indians for poaching wild orchids in a Florida nature Continue reading

In the Land of the Blind

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine
Michael Lewis

Welcome home, laddie.

The Big ShortThose of a certain age might remember that seemingly hot on the heels of  Bonfire of the Vanities came Liar’s Poker, a first-hand view of life inside one of the then-dominant Wall Street firms, Salomon Brothers. That fly on the wall look at the shenanigans within the firm that invented mortgage-backed securities was penned by a 20-something Princeton grad turned bond salesman. And for those of us casting a jaundiced eye upon Yuppiedom it had particular resonance.

Michael Lewis went on to become a best-selling author tilling the fields of Continue reading

The Rich are Not Like You or Me

A Bloomberg post, in which Max Abelson provides a snapshot of the travails facing Wall Street pros whose bonuses are much lower this year, caught my eye yesterday.  It’s a pitiable sight as grown men and women (but they’re mostly men) lament the hard times on which they’ve fallen. It’s right out of Dickens, I tell you, that having to sell the unused motorcycle, giving up the lease on the Porsche and summering for only one month instead of four.

Since I typically don’t troll the Bloomberg site (I’m trying not to further enrich New York’s technocratic, quasi-authoritarian mayor) I’m certain I Continue reading

It’s 1,2,3 what are we fighting for?

Reporting Vietnam: American Journalism
Vol.1:  1959-1969, Vol. 2: 1969-1975

Everyone living in America lives in the shadow of the 1960s. The events of that decade have shaped the culture for nearly a half century now and even as key figures age and exit, the penumbra and the emanations from the penumbra of that decade persist.

What will, eventually, happen is that living memory of the period will depart, too. (As will all these silly hyperlinked catchphrases and the title of this post.) Then all that will be left is the interpretations caught between the covers Continue reading

What’s in a word? The problem with ‘hot.’

Does anybody remember the Marx Brothers? Here’s 10 minutes of The Cocoanuts. The important part starts at 7:39 (but you may want to watch the whole thing).

For the uninitiated what Groucho is doing with Margaret Dumont is what was known as wooing. (I suppose he is really doing a parody of wooing.) That became flirting. Somewhere along the line that became hitting on and now, if I believe Tom Wolfe, and I tend to believe Tom Wolfe, it has Continue reading