a reader’s progress

‘The deaths of Cuban musical legends Compay Segundo and Celia Cruz…” -July 24, 2003

The deaths of Cuban musical legends Compay Segundo and Celia Cruz are vivid reminders of the large space taken up in my life by Cuba and its culture. Cruz’s death was accompanied with the kind of notice Catholics usually reserve for deceased popes. In a truly odd twist The Washington Post noted her passing on […]

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“The life-extending capacities of the convertible automobile…” -July 14, 2003

I do believe that a rainy day is a good day to extoll the life-extending capacities of the convertible automobile. And because I have already opined at length on the incapacity of millions of American automobile drivers in the preface to my automatically written (but as yet unpublished) memoir, Who’s Listening?, I can now freely […]

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“My bad feelings about the younger Bush and his band of triumphalist Babbits…” -June 24, 2003

As I was buying a gallon of milk for $1.99 at the Mobil gas station convenience store, I thought back to the days when George Bush’s father was campaigning to keep his sinecure. He was apparently embarrassed by some pesky reporter who had inquired about what the price of milk was —this also might have […]

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“I am a Revisionist Historian.” -June 18, 2003

When anyone asks me what I do (though I can’t remember the last time I was in the company of any strangers—that would be people I don’t know—so thoroughly American), I now will answer solemnly, "I am a Revisionist Historian." I am still working out the job description, but a portion of my responsibilities will […]

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“I read all year around.” –June 1, 2003

Summer reading as a category seems to me to be as legitimate as greeting-card holidays like Valentine’s and Mother’s Day. Graybeard Norman Mailer had it right when he was asked about his summer reading, "I read all year around." Despite this sensibility, that one would hope is shared by at least a few people, some […]

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“Despite my aversion to soft-cover editions…” -May 19, 2003

Despite my aversion to soft-cover editions (a distaste I overcome as a matter of occupational necessity as a recipient of a storm of galleys and advance reader’s editions), I recently found three books (well, four, but Selected Writing of Jose Marti is not a book I plan to foist on my literate friends and acquaintances) […]

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“Why would someone want a signed edition…?” -May 13, 2003

The other day not only did I speak with Robert Stone but I attended his reading/book signing at Brookline Booksmith. One of the many revelations coming from my chat with the portentous Stone was that a fairly significant amount of his tour of duty in Boston (and other places) was involved in going to book […]

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“May 1 is May Day, celebrating the observance of spring and the renewal of life…” –May 1, 2003

May 1 is May Day, celebrating the observance of spring and the renewal of life and Labor Day everywhere in the world except the U.S., Canada and Bermuda. Once again, workers of the world unite! May is National Book Month (www.nationalbook.org) and Get Caught Reading Month (www.getcaughtreading.org). Also, like a bad version of David Foster […]

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“Is The Believer worth your $8?” –April 22, 2003

I was reading one of those snarky (here’s a word that has been riding a linguistic wave) on the new literary magazine The Believer: So is The Believer worth your $8? I can’t see it, really. The New Yorker, the NYRB, The Atlantic, even, I daresay, Salon – all these places have more interesting stuff. […]

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“Two things I don’t have are a critical theory and a theory about critical theories…” –April 6, 2003

Two things I don’t have are a critical theory and a theory about critical theories (known in some English lit. circles as a meta-theory). Perhaps because I am at heart a naïve enthusiast or because I have great reverence for the efforts involved in writing books or making movies or creating a great piano or […]

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“Ideational monads, little billiard balls of thoughts” –March 30, 2003

Having mostly favored writers and thinkers who exhibit synoptic views I find myself, via some osmotic transference, inhibited from chronicling some of the thoughts and observations that are whizzing around some part of my mental space because they are small and somewhat self-contained. Or at least do not, at the moment they occur to me, […]

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“The Inferno of James Nachtwey” –March 25, 2003

A few years ago—three to be more exact—I was encountering the usual indignities of a life of freelance writing and was talking with the Boston Globe Arts editor, Scott Powers, about opportunities at that august newspaper. About the same time the renowned photographer James Nachtwey was in town to lecture at the Photographic Resource Center […]

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“Scott Spencer’s newest novel, A Ship Made of Paper” –March 23, 2003

Many people who own what they call a library or a book collection (no numerical threshold required) probably have a few books on their shelves or in the piles by their bed—or wherever, that stare out forlornly, unrequited, waiting to be picked up, waiting to be read. How does this happen? Who can say, but […]

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“Tender feelings for so-called used bookstores” –March 15, 2003

As loathe as I am to enter commercial shops other than grocery, drug and computer supply stores, I still harbor tender feelings for so-called used bookstores (which these days may not qualify in the commercial category). I recently paid an overdue call to my favorite bookseller Vincent McCaffrey at the new location of Avenue Victor […]

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“Indulging myself in a casual Graham Greene film retrospective” –March 10, 2003

Who can know what unconscious synchronic engine moves us to think and act in ways that have some connection with events as they unravel in the real world? Of late, I had been indulging myself in a casual Graham Greene film retrospective, first with Sir Carol Reed’s The Third Man, screenplay courtesy of Greene, starring […]

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