I’ve lately been reading, or am about to read, an oddly sorted but wholly characteristic stack of books. In addition to Stuart Isacoff’s When the World Stopped to Listen: Van Cliburn’s Cold War Triumph, and Its Aftermath, about which I wrote in last week’s Wall Street Journal, the list includes:
• Richard Aldous, Tunes of Glory: The Life of Malcolm Sargent
• Michael Cannell, Incendiary: The Psychiatrist, The Mad Bomber, and the Invention of Criminal Profiling
• Rich Cohen, Sweet and Low: A Family Story
• William Daniels, There I Go Again: How I Came to Be Mr. Feeny, John Adams, Dr. Craig, KITT, and Many Others
• Garrett M. Graff, Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S. Government’s Secret Plan to Save Itself—While the Rest of Us Die
• Bernard MacMahon, American Epic: The First Time America Heard Itself
• Terence Rattigan, Plays: French Without Tears, The Winslow Boy, The Browning Version, Harlequinade
• Michael Slowik, After the Silents: Hollywood Film Music in the Early Sound Era, 1926-1934
• Hilary Spurling, Matisse the Master: The Conquest of Colour, 1909-1954
• Gordon Thomas, Ruin from the Air: The Enola Gay’s Atomic Mission to Hiroshima
• James Q. Whitman, Hitler’s American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law
The absence of novels from this list isn’t surprising. I see so many plays as part of my job that I tend to look elsewhere for mental diversion after hours. Conversely, it’s perfectly natural that I should read a lot about music and art, those being two of my main interests. But…criminal profiling? Nuclear warfare? Nazi race law? Artificial sweeteners? From whence cometh the desire to know more about such varied things?
All I can tell you is that I’ve read like this my whole life long, and see no reason to change my ways in late middle age. I wouldn’t be a sometime playwright, after all, were I not prepared to follow my nose wherever it may lead me. I’ve always been curious about most things under the sun, and I’m willing to try just about anything that doesn’t require manual skill (I can hang a picture quite nicely, but that’s about it).
At any rate, these are some of the things with which I’m preoccupied this month, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you hear more about some of them in due course. Or not: I like to learn about stuff purely for its own sake. But either way, that’s what I’m reading on my summer non-vacation.
* * *
Maybelle and Sara Carter perform together on a 1970 episode of The Johnny Cash Show. The performance of “I’ll Be Satisfied” heard on this clip was shown on American Epic: The First Time America Heard Itself: