The Catcher in the Rye | Recommendation

Books I am reading.

Here are some recent books that have interested me enough to mention them to you:

The Catcher in the Rye.  Yes.  The recent PBS  special on Salinger hooked me, so I bought the book by the same name (co-authored by David Shields and Shane Salerno) along with a new copy of Catcher.  I want to give some serious time to  Salinger and thought that a re-read of Catcher would launch me into the proper mood.  It did.  I loved it.  Moreso than my memory of past readings.  I had forgotten the humor.

The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin.  This book is so contemporary what with the early 20th century effort to rein in private excess.  It gave me a deepened appreciation for TR and an introduction to WHT whom I had previously stereotyped as an overweight golfer – true, but there’s so much more.  The poignant part of the book for me was  the central role of investigative journalism.  I worry about its present decline, especially in small communities where subscription-based newspapers are dwindling in circulation.

Zealot   A fascinating look at the historical Jesus by a Muslim.   I have enjoyed discussing and learning from this book with friends in a reading group.

Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson.  The author’s book on Steven Jobs interested me enough to read it twice.  I am so impressed by Isaacson’s ability to dig into complicated topics and pass on his understanding to lay readers.  I have Isaaacson’s Kissinger and Benjamin Franklin on my to read list.

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.  A Righteous Gentile vs The Third Reich by Eric Metaxas.  I had recently read Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison and had to learn more about him from another source.  This worked, but I was surprised at how few biographies exist on this fascinating iconoclast.

One on One: Behind the Scenes with the Greats in the Game by John Feinstein.  I like his golf articles and thought this foray into several other sports might not appeal to me, but it did.  Now will Feinstein ever write a [definitive] probing, objective biography of Tiger Woods?

Flight Behavior: A Novel  by Barbara Kingsolver.   Her scientific background and creativity with words bring me back to her.   I’d put this book just a tad below the masterpiece, Lacuna.  Not a bad place to be.

Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain by Oliver Sacks.  Like his Uncle Tungsten, this book explores a topic close to the neurologist’s heart while applying his diagnostic, scientific, and story telling skills.

Christmas | Tom Warren Family

Looking back … WAAAAY back

Here’s a sizable chunk of our annual holiday letter for 2013.   This year it’s easy for us to mix personal highlights with those acted out on a larger stage:  

Two thousand thirteen has been a noteworthy year for us highlighted by our fiftieth  wedding anniversary celebration, a delightful gathering with much of Mim’s family joining us up north.  Fifty years . . . Good grief.   The nineteen sixties don’t seem that far back into the past for us, but it must look like ancient history for many.   When we were married on June 29, 1963, fifty years back from then was 1913 – before World War I. . . . ancient history.  The older we get, the closer even those times are through the rear view mirror.   Interesting.

Nineteen sixty-three registered as a special year for us in other ways.  The JFK assassination was burned into our memories, and we relived the scenes in November this year as if it were yesterday.    And reliving the 1963 March on Washington made us thankful for progress but frustrated by the increasing gap between rich and poor.

Twenty-thirteen kept up our sweet rhythms of recent years: spending lots of time at our Lake Superior cabin, visiting our relatives in Chattanooga over Thanksgiving, and welcoming our English “brother” Mike Savage during late summer.  We also became better acquainted with the ancestral land and family history of Rachel’s husband, David Morrissey, during a fascinating visit to Ireland with his parents, Ann and Michael.  (They could be professional tour guides).

We stay active on various fronts in Beloit, and like what we see happening here.  Lots of new families have re-energized the place with their time and talents. Our favorite vocation is still occasional kid-sitting grandsons Jack & Will in Wheaton, Illinois.  That’s a bit of paradise.

 

Beloit College Buffalos

Discovering Beloit

Update on Discovering Beloit: Stories Too Good to be True?

I’m inching along.   Each sentence is a little challenge, and these days I’m eliminating or shortening many of them.

I share the latest drafts with readers, and they respond.  Always with meaningful advice or corrections.  I incorporate much of it, but the main task remains:  How can I tell a tale of troubled newspapers and diminishing investigative journalism while tantalizing people about Beloit, Wisconsin . . . a very interesting place.

I am constantly walking through the places I write about in Discovering Beloit . . . on the way to the “Buffaloes” on campus many weekdays at 10:00, inside college buildings, and throughout town.  Especially Oakwood Cemetery and the college playing fields.    I feel very close to the scenes that I am describing.   My challenge: make them seductive to readers.

The targeted readership will be present and past residents of Beloit along with people who have been associated with Beloit College.    The trick is to play on what these folks have experienced while sparking the interest of non-Beloiters, like readers from Milwaukee, Chicago, or the Wisconsin diaspora anywhere.

Please stay tuned.

Beloit College Chain Gang

Progress on my novel…

I’m inching ahead on a novel.  Here is some evidence:

Author Introduction to a pre-publication draft of

Discovering Beloit

Stories Too Good to be True?

This is a book of fiction with doses of fantasy.  It focuses on what I hope could happen to Beloit, to baseball, to old men and women, to religion, to turtles, and to journalism.  Especially journalism.  Let’s call the whole thing concern laced with whimsy.

The main action takes place a few years into the future.   The plot focuses on a Beloit, Wisconsin, high school journalism teacher and his class.   He is frustrated by the disappearance of investigative journalism that has accompanied the decline of traditional newspapers, but he has some hope  via his students  They call this teacher Gov, like in Governor.   Gov says,

“All around us are untold stories.  Some deserve privacy forever; Others might be worth telling, and some [Gov almost shouts] must be told BY US JOUR­NALISTS!”

His students dig up stories that might be considered unbelievable. Certainly, many readers will think these things couldn’t happen in Beloit, or could they?

  • Ex-convicts teaching at Beloit College?
  • Major league baseball here, in Beloit?
  • Vibrant main-line churches?
  • Violence and love in Oakwood Cemetery?
  • A goofy new industry in town?
  • Wild old women?
  • A school in Africa with its roots in Beloit?
  • A herd of old Buffaloes?
  • A world famous chef?
  • A death-defying turtle?
  • Teachers that are subversive?
  • Spies?

Is this the Beloit of our future, or our present?  Well, things change and things that stay the same become better known. Fiction can be truer than what we think is happening.

In the meantime some endangered species  hang on for dear life:

• Hand held newspapers

• Mainline churches

• Big animals

• The national pastime that we used to call baseball

• Old professors

• Investigative journalism

• Service clubs?

and

• Stories that need to be told, but aren’t.

 

Here are some words from the preface

Well into the second decade of the new century Beloit’s ren­ais­sance hit a snag.  Things had been moving in the right direction for years.  Just the word Beloit elicited thumbs up signals through­out the state.  Reversing previous statistics, crime rates and un­employment were down, and parents from surrounding townships were choosing Beloit schools for their children.  Executives and scientists who took jobs in the expanding bio-industrial park lived within the city limits be­cause of its newly appre­ciated ambience.  And baseball was, well, successful beyond any Cub fan’s wildest imagination.

These accomplishments along with a solid reputation for gov­ern­men­tal rea­sonableness had brought national atten­tion to a city that for years had been scorned by much of Wisconsin.  Beloit was hot.

And then came an incident called the glitch, along with its cover-up.  It wasn’t a big deal in the arc of local history, but news; something to excite those who like to poke at the little city.  Print and blog headlines called out, “What’s hap­pening?” …  “Say it isn’t so, oh Gateway to Wisconsin”….  and “Whither thou goest, Belwah?”

A respected New York Times columnist had written about Beloit’s ascent in 2015.  He followed up with this comment in the spring of 2016 using the Wisconsin city to illustrate a broader concern.

… Had local investigative journalism been alive and well in Beloit, what happened in Oakwood Cemetery would have been de­scribed dif­ferently.  The truth would have been discovered and shared.  That didn’t happen.  Speculation and gossip filled the vacuum.

The op-ed piece continued.

Here are some facts that bother me:  the Beloit Memorial High School news­­­­paper no longer exists (it used to be the oldest one in the state).  The Beloit College newspaper no longer exists, and the venerable Beloit Daily News now comes out only once a week in hard copy under a new name.  Some say websites replace these insti­tu­tions, but the beating heart of print journal­ism – investigation – is miss­ing in Beloit.  The same is true in countless American com­mun­ities …

This warning caught the attention of an anonymous Beloit angel who had once been tempted to put her money where her heart was.  She established an endowment at a local charter high school to fund the salary for a teacher of investigative journalism.  In  describing the gift she said, “Cover-ups that seem useful at the time hurt in the long run, and this one has given me pain.”

Her idea was well received by the school’s governing board. One of them said, “Why not talk to Bridlington, that guy who used to teach jour­nalism at the College?  He might like a part-time gig.”

And it happened.  That Bridlington guy was hired.  He designed a class called Issues in Newswriting and started teaching it in the fall of 2017.  However, truth telling about the glitch and its prin­cipal player stayed covered up for a long time….  as if it never happened.