Pale Wire (Popscene)

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Short Version
Where you been?

In the days, rather weeks, of my absence (abdication?), I've been doing little of which we can be proud, yet much of which I could report, a condition I'm sure must be a terrifying prospect for you, kind reader. I promise to keep it short. My coffee is getting cold and the staff here at Amphora, Vienna's finest 24-hour Greek diner, seems ready to welcome the departure of this loitering blogger.

In between settling in at my new job, finding a permanent home for myself in Washington, and fulfilling the final requirements of my graduate program, I've managed to drive many thousands of miles in several long, tiresome treks and read several books in many short, invigorating bursts.

I finally did my duty and read the lodestar of my would-be profession, Woodward and Bernstein's All The President's Men, as well as the pair's authoritative summation of their antagonist's decline, The Final Days. While the former book is credited with setting the templates of manner and means for a generation of reporters, the latter's innovation of the practices that Woodward would go on to employ in erecting a shelf full of inside stories on subjects varying from Belushi to Bush deserves mention. As does Woodward's oftentimes boring, albeit occasionally revelatory, writing. August Kleinzahler's collection of poems, The Strange Hours Travelers Keep, provided more spark, but in fitful, inchoate moments ferreted away from the day, rather than in any sustained, satisifying meal. Mahmood Mamdani's Good Muslim, Bad Muslim taught me many things about Muslim societies, put American foreign policy in a historical context considerably different than what I'm accustomed to, and provoked me to examine a few assumptions about how exactly this world of ours works. It's shame he doesn't give Soviet policy in Afghanistan the same scrutiny as America's. Backstory, Ken Auletta's collection of New Yorker pieces on newspapers and the media, went well. I enjoy how he can put all the players on the board in what seems such an facile way. His writing makes me feel like I get it. And the steady focus on the business side of the media business is refreshing in comparison to the windy prate that passes for so much of media criticism. John Baxter's memoir A Pound of Paper didn't teach me much, but the guy did make a great drinking partner. Baxter is like A.J. Liebling without the deadline, a gourmand on the make. The now departed Saul Bellow's ode to his departed friend Allan Bloom, Ravelstein, introduced me to another grand homme, this one more literary than the last only in commensuration to his Jewishness.