Friday, November 09, 2007

Three Books

While I was in the U.S.A. these last two months, I read two books and started a third. The purpose was more distraction than enlightenment, but I can recommend each as an absorbing read if its subject interests you.

Jews and Power, by Ruth Wisse
Having read a review somewhere, and then watched a clip of a video interview with the author, I became curious to read her new book. Happily, it is under 200 pages of beautifully-sculpted prose on a subject that fascinates me: the history of Jewish political power, both within Jewish society and in host states. Wisse writes as I wish all scholars would: understandably. She and Bernard Lewis are my gold standard of academic writing for the layperson.

The Center Cannot Hold, by Elyn Saks
Because the cousins where I stayed in California are psychiatrists, their bookshelves are filled with books related to their profession. They reserve a shelf or two for books by people they know personally, and Elyn Saks is one of them. She is a law professor at University of Southern California (USC). If that weren't enough, she is also an adjunct professor of Psychiatry at USC and a schizophrenic. This new book is autobiographical, fascinating, myth-busting, well-written, but painful in parts. Inspiring.

Raised on Radio, by Gerald Nachman
One of the tasks I had to begin, and decided to finish on my next trip, was to prune my brother's book collection. There were several books he'd received as gifts while he lived in the nursing home over the past years, sent by people who knew his interests. Among these was Raised on Radio, a book my daughter, elswhere, sent him knowing that he had been raised during the pre-TV era. The book is entertaining even for younger adults, but it's a delicious nostalgia trip for those of us who remember Jack Benny and Fred Allen as voices, not faces. I agree with one of the reviewers:
Gerald Nachman's book RAISED ON RADIO is like having a great conversation with the world's biggest old-time radio authority...and enthusiast! I haven't listened to some of these shows in ten years, and yet its amazing how well I remember the VOICES when Mr. Nachman quotes an old gag or piece of dialogue.
I had to leave before I finished it and it was too heavy to pack (544 pages!), but I've left a bookmark in it and hope to resume when I return. Thank you, elswhere!


elswhere said...

Did I give him that? I don't even remember it. Just Overheard in NY, which I swiped to read on the plane.

Anyway, glad you liked it, and happy to take credit!

Savtadotty said...

Elswhere, maybe it was your cousin? My memory, she is prejudiced in your favor :-)

ppb said...

I love hearing about good books. My list is growing LONG!

Tamar Orvell said...

I heard Elyn Saks speak with Terry Gross this summer on National Public Radio's Fresh Air program. Here is the link to that interview.

Earlier, I blogged about the stigma of mental illness as described by my beloved childhood friend, whose daughter has schizophrenia. So, Saks' story is especially gripping. And astounding.

Liza said...

Ooof! I wish I'd seen this before I ordered books for my dad for his birthday! I'll have to get him the radio book at some point.