in which the author discusses five books he’d read, if time permitted.
1. Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter: The Georgia Years, 1924-1974, by E. Stanly Godbold, Jr.
My first memory: Raj, Dwayne, and Rerun plotting on “What’s Happening!!” (mind the double exclamation points!!) to write President Carter and (in an prescient maneuver that anticipated our own financial stimulus) ask for 80 cents they don’t have to pay the tax on a $8 dress Raj wants to buy his mother for her birthday. Hold on, hold on—-I remember them talking about President Carter, but maybe they didn’t actually write the White House to ask for 80 cents. I mean, it’s impossible that a TV writer would imagine a scenario in which three young black men write the President of the United States to ask for 80 cents, right? Even on “What’s Happening!!” right? Well, whether they tried to get the cash (coin?) from the White House or not, I know that, sometime during the Carter administration, Raj was short 80 cents on an $8 dress he wanted to buy his mother. Then again, maybe I watched this show in syndication in the early 1980s, and my first memory is of eating a ladybug.
2. The Star-Crossed Stone: The Secret Life, Myths, and History of a Fascinating Fossil, by Kenneth J. McNamara.
Another early memory: fossil-huntin’ with papa in the coalfields of central Pennsylvania what used to be great swamps in the Jurassic era. I still remember the day I turned o’er a stone and papa said “Whatcha got there?” and I said “Just another goshdarned trilobyte” and my papa said “Son, that ain’t a trilobyte, but a rare partial Eohippus (Hyracotherium) skeleton not normally found at this elevation!” Boy, I sure earned an extra hot chocolate that day!
3. Street Player: My Chicago Story, by Danny Seraphine.
To whoever told me that Chicago vocalist Peter Cetera killed himself in the late 1980s after battling heroin addiction: It’s 25 or 6 to 4 that you are full of shit. Peter Cetera is alive and well and singing songs about tiny Ted Danson (at about 1:35 in this clip). Do you—-the person whose name I can’t remember who, under circumstances I can’t quite recall, so fecklessly told me patent untruths about Mr. Peter Cetera—-know how many times I’ve been trying to impress a young lady with my deep knowledge of all things Chicago and say, “You know, darling, it’s totally fucked—-Peter Cetera killed himself in the late 1980s after battling heroin addiction” only to be laughed out of the club/party/cafeteria with no hope of scoring a telephone number when that lady says, “Dude, like, don’t you know that Peter Cetera is sooooo living right now?” Faithful readers: in the name of the legendary band Chicago specifically and the cause of jazz rock (rock jazz?) in general, please fight the smears and spread the glor’ous news that CETERA IS ALIVE.
5. The Road, by Vasily Grossman, edited by Robert Chandler, translated by Robert Chandler, Elizabeth Chandler, and Olga Mukovnikova.
Not the popular, Oprah-endorsed Cormac McCarthy novel that takes place after an unexplained apocalyptic event in a near-future where people resort to cannibalism (and, indeed, impregnate women to eat their children), but freshly translated stories and essays by an slightly obscure Russian author who witnessed many WWII- and Stalin-related atrocities. Well—-maybe those two books aren’t actually that different.