Writers who can take a subject in which you are studiously uninterested, put a stranglehold on your attention while you are reading them on said subject, and, when they are finished, release you undisturbed to your previous stance of disinterest. That’s what my world needs more of. Twice now, Michael Lewis has proven himself, in my book, such a writer. His prolific 1998 reporting on the Microsoft antitrust case for Slate had this effect on me, and now his New York Times Magazine piece about an eccentric, successful college football coach has cast a similar spell. If I had spent the entire following morning poring over BCS rankings, what we’d have had is a previously undiscovered interest brought to the surface, with some credit due to Lewis. But I didn’t care about college football before I read this article, and I don’t care about college football now. The fact that I had such a splendid, indeed ecstatic, time reading an article about college football in the interim is proof positive that, in this case, the writing is the thing. At the moment, I feel Lewis could put forth a treatise on botany, tax law, aluminum siding, or goddamn Paris Hilton, and I’d be slavering for a copy. (Although, that said, he’s not infallible. I couldn’t get through The New New Thing, purchased in cloth on the strength of my addiction to the Microsoft Dispatches, nor would the local used book interest take it off my hands. Here it still sits, oldly.)
There are a precious few other writers I can say this of (and one or two of them are bloggers). How about you? Who would you read on any subject at all?