Saturday, February 25, 2023

 #22- Has It Really Been a Year?     2022 A

Yes, it has and Stuff to Read has fallen way behind. But, I can make up for it quickly in two articles, artfully called 2022 A and 2022 B that will give you a lead on some really good writing worth your time. 2022 A in alphabetical order begins with John Branch's Sidecountry: Tales of Death and Life from the Backroads of Sports. Branch, a NY Times, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist chose 20 of his favorite articles covering such topics as alligator hunting and sky sailing, avalanche skiing with the aftermath, the Dawn Wall climb by Tommy Caldwell and Alex Jorgeson in Yosemite--BTW, an excellent documentary--and an extended essay on the school girls basketball team at a Tennessee reformatory that hasn't won a game in decades. All are wonderfully written pieces about sports we seldom think about.

H.W. Brands latest Our First Civil War: Patriots and Loyalists in the American Revolution goes beyond the history texts to reveal the origins of the split between those loyal to the Crown and Parliament and those opposed who would form the Patriots of the Revolution some years ahead. The interesting emphasis is on the intertwined lives of Washington and Franklin who had their reasons for supporting the Revolution including family squabbles and ambition. Most interesting to me was how this Civil War shifted from the north to the south, especially the Carolinas and Georgia late in the war leading to Yorktown. Another especially good book I've read on the American Revolution in the South is John Buchanan's The Road to Guilford Courthouse: The American Revolution in the Carolinas.

Next up is Gwendoline Brooks bestseller Horse which intertwines four subplots about the world's fastest thoroughbred, Lexington, born and raised in Kentucky in the 1850s by his Black trainer and son, but raced around the South pre-Civil War, a skeleton of a racehorse found in storage in the Smithsonian, an art dealer who is obsessed with an oil painting of a race horse and two young people in Washington who tie the story together. IMHO, I was not satisfied with the book's ending which had that dreaded quick ending, tacked on but all that preceded--the story of Lexington, the racing, the painting is first rate and worth your time.

A.F. Carter's The Yards is a debut definitely worth reading. Baxter is a mid-west, rust belt town on the way down when Git O'Rourke, a single mother holding 2 jobs as an LPN for the sake of her daughter and mother who lives with them, heads out for a night of bar adventure, and maybe sex. She links up with the best of the bar lot, heads to a local motel, has sex, finds the guy unconscious in bed after a dose of heroin, and leaves with his bag of money and a gun. The next morning local police officer Delia Mariola is called to the motel when the guy in bed now has a bullet hole in his forehead. The book moves among Git, Delia and a local crime king as they work out who shot the guy and why and what happens to the money.

And speaking of a shot to the head, the next book under consideration is One Shot Harry by Gary Phillips. His photographer/process server Harry Ingram listens to the police scanner to get his photography leads but a call about a car accident that kills a friend and fellow Korean war veteran leads Harry into some dangerous territory in racially charged 1963 LA. Phillips presents a mystery but one charged with a lot of history and sociology of the times.

Stephen Pyne,an emeritus faculty member at Arizona State in ecology, earth history who served as a wildland firefighter for many years on the north rim of the Grand Canyon has presented what seems a summary of his thinking on the history of homo sapien's impact on earth as seen through the history of fire. When people learned how to manage fire from volcanic events to clear forests for hunting and eventually, agriculture, all was basically in balance. The middle ages leading into the Industrial Revolution changed that as well as how people viewed fire. Now , people have introduced what Pyne terms the Pyrocene when wildfire combines with climate change to create a new world governed by fire. This is an important book based on a career spent in thought.

The final book in 2022A is another non-fiction/novel written by the late Valparaiso U theologian, teacher and author Walter Wangerin entitled The Book of God. It is written as a continuous story beginning with Abraham and his wife receiving new names and a mission from God. The book moves through the old and new Testaments in chapters as the twelve tribes war with each other and all the other inhabitants of what would become the middle east. It was indeed a bloody time but the Old Testament reads like a novel. I need to borrow it again from my library to read the New.