Welcome back to our ongoing series which allows me to passive aggressively flaunt my faux-intellectualism in the face of my readers while also sharing my impressions on the books I’m reading.
This month, we get political before being sidetracked by mother nature.
The Oath by Jeffrey Toobin- 352 pages
Going in, I pretty much knew I wasn’t going to like this book very much. I didn’t seek it out as much as I settled on it late at night. I finished reading “I’m Dying Up Here,” at around 11 o’clock one night, then decided to download a new book right then and there. So, I logged onto iBooks and went searching. I had read Toobin’s last book, “The Nine,” which was also about the Supreme Court, and I liked it very much. That book was essentially a biography of the High Court. “The Oath” is about the Supreme Court’s interactions with the Obama Administration. Its too specifically targeted and too bogged down in legalese. As a result it took a really long time to read. But, not nearly as long as the next book.
The Making of The President 1972 by Theodore White-452 pages
I decided on this book after seeing a few obituaries of George McGovern. I wanted to know how a man who was so universally respected as a soldier, thinker and public servant could end up being the biggest loser in Presidential history. I had previously read Theodore White’s “The Making of the President 1960,” and loved it. That book dove into the people that made up both the Kennedy and Nixon campaigns. In that book, White got caught up in the excitement of the JFK campaign and his enthusiasm made for an engrossing and quick read. That is not the case this time. White tries to make the point that the McGovern campaign was about big ideas but not about the reality of people’s lives. But instead of making that point with anecdotes, he does it with endless reams of census data. It’s incredibly boring. And so, I tend to fall asleep after reading about 10 pages. So, It took forever to read.
The reading of this book also coincided with Hurricane Sandy and it’s aftermath. That made things more difficult, but not for the reasons you may think.
At the height of the storm, when the battery tunnel was flooding and the Hudson and East Rivers were touching in lower Manhattan, when the Jersey shore was being washed into the Ocean and parts of Queens were burning to the ground, I looked out my window on the Upper East Side and saw.. a pizza guy riding past my building on his bike. Hurricane Sandy did not happen in my neighborhood. It rained a bit and got a little windy. The power never went out and most businesses were reopened within a day.
But, I work in the news and my newsroom is in Lower Manhattan. So, every day, I traveled into the blackout zone. Then I spent 10 hours sending reporters into storm ravaged neighborhoods throughout our area.
There are sights you can’t unsee. There are smells you can’t unsmell. There are stories you can’t unhear. Every day for two weeks, I forced reporters to go see those sights, smell those smells and share those stories. And most of them did it for 12 hours, then headed home to cold, dark houses or went to sit on three hour gas lines so they would be ready to do it all again the next day. There were moments when the thought crossed my mind that this might actually be what it will feel like at the end of the world.
And what did I do when I was done sending reporters out into this world? I got in a cab and went home to my nearly normal existence. It was like helicoptering into and out of a warzone.
I was one step removed from the whole process. One step away from the suffering. One step away from the damage. One step away from not knowing if or when it will all get better. All those steps added up to an overwhelming sense of survivor’s guilt.
And that guilt is draining. It’s hard to read about 1970 census numbers and George McGovern’s failure to secure enough support from party elders while winning the 1972 California primary when you can’t stop thinking about the here and now and just how lucky you are not to be part of it.
So, next month, maybe I’ll read something light.