What I’ve Been Reading

1. Autobiography of Malcolm X. A very well written autobiography from a man I didn’t know much about. The story of his life as conveyed in this book is variously inspiring, deeply saddening, and infuriating. Recommended.

2. Achieving Our Country by Richard Rorty. The first I’ve read of this late, great American philosopher. The title comes from Rorty’s view that liberals (like himself) see America as yet un-achieved and therefore it’s necessary to struggle and change to achieve those ideals. He distinguishes between reform liberalism and cultural liberalism. Recommend for those interested in political theory and/or two strands of liberalism but for anyone else I’d pass.

3. Back in the World: Stories by Tobias Wolff. I love Wolff’s writing but this set of short fiction stories didn’t do much for me.

4. Rigged: The True Story of an Ivy League Kid Who Changed the World of Oil, from Wall Street to Dubai by Ben Mezrich. The author of “Bringing Down the House.” He employs cheesy techniques to keep you turning the pages but in the end the book’s subtitle fails to deliver. All the main character did was set up an oil exchange in the Middle East? You expect something truly groundbreaking, and so it’s a let down.

I spent 20 minutes with Ted Turner’s new memoir Call Me Ted which has been on the bestseller list. A publicist sent it to me. The writing is terrible. Really, it appears he had zero editing. Not recommended. However I did learn in flipping through it that Turner was sent off to boarding school at age four. Yes, four years old. He says ever since he’s had problems being alone. It figures.

3 Responses to What I’ve Been Reading

  1. Ben, did you know the Autobiography of Malcolm X was written by Alex Haley, the author of Roots, as told to him by Malcolm?

    It wasn’t an entirely accurate record of his life (is any autobiography?).

    When I was a kid in the South, not only were there separate restrooms for black people, there were separate water fountains as well.

    A lot of greasers would have been surprised to know then that they had some black ancestry themselves, but the memory of the fact was surprisingly preserved in the family lore of some white families as a family ‘secret’. Many well-known old families in the South have white and black branches– Thomas Jefferson’s descendants, for example.

    Unfortunately, blacks with lighter complexions, ‘high yellows’ in the old parlance, still have higher social status in many black communities, even in Jamaica.

    Malcolm felt conflicted about his racial makeup, as reflected in this business he preached about the white race being created by a black scientist, Yacub.

    Most likely there is some ironic truth in the notion of all the other races springing from black-skinned people, since the evidence collected by paleontology and paleogenetics tells us that humans evolved on the African continent.

    So symbolically, Malcolm was right. Regarding what I said about white people with black ancestry in the south of the US, the same is true in Sicily and Spain, they being so close to Africa.

    Just don’t tell anyone in Palermo that.;-)

  2. Ben Casnocha says:

    Thanks Vince. I did know Haley collaborated with Malcolm…but thought it
    was more a co-written thing. Thanks for the heads up…

  3. If Richard Rorty piques one’s interest, then I wouldn’t dismiss him based on that one book. Obviously, readers who are already inclined to agree with him will find him most entertaining. He has written lots of wonderful short essays.

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