Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Paul Collins, who has a piece in this week's New York Times magazine about his son, is a terrific writer. His book about his son's autism, Not Even Wrong, traces the history of autism, intercut with poignant scenes from his experiences with his son, in such a delicate, engrossing, wonderfully written way that I was almost stunned that the book could be as good as it was. His other books, Banvard's Folly, about a dozen or so people in history who almost became famous -- the guy who almost invented grape jelly, for example, if I recall, and Sixpence House, about his search for old books in a town in England, are also wonderful, rewarding, exceptional books. His piece in this week's paper is terrific. This is why I haven't written anything about his new book, "The Trouble With Tom: The Strange Afterlife and Times of Thomas Paine." I bought the book on Amazon as soon as it came out. There are very few writers whose books I will spend money on anyway, and even fewer I will spend money on without seeing the book in a store, flipping some pages, making sure it's something I really want to have, that I'm really interested in. But I didn't really think twice about this one. And I took it with me to Toronto, one of three books I brought with me, and, for some reason, it's like I'm allergic to it. I'm fifty pages in. It hasn't grabbed me yet. I know it will. I trust it will. I will pick it back up. Soon. But I haven't yet. Read his piece. Read his book Not Even Wrong. I'll report back when I finish this one.

Just to catch up on a few more books... I just finished reading two books by Anne Lamott, who wrote the terrific book about writing, Bird by Bird. These two are about her discovery of faith and spirituality, but that's mostly just the packaging for what are really memoirs about events in her life. Traveling Mercies, from a decade ago, and Plan B, which just came out earlier this year. I thought Bird by Bird was great. These two are good, Plan B moreso than Traveling Mercies, but I think that's my own biases influencing my opinion.

I think I've written about this before, but I have a real bias with most of the stuff I read or watch. I like to feel like I'm getting to know the writer, through the work, and I need to like the writer I'm getting to know. Anne Lamott comes through as a person to a great extent in all of her books. It's one of her biggest strengths. The person in Traveling Mercies is the Anne Lamott when she was young, and addicted to drink and drugs, and suffering through life, and I'm fairly certain that if I met the Anne Lamott of twenty years ago, I'd probably be frightened -- her world was darker than any worlds I've lived in -- and wouldn't want to live in her world. The Anne Lamott since she got sober seems like a person I'd like better. And so I like when she's writing about that person more than about the other person. I guess they go hand in hand and I ought not be so judgmental about it. But, anyway, that's my take on the books. She's a wonderful writer and her books are wonderfully written and engaging and good to read.

I also read Martin Kihn's "House of Lies: How Management Consultants Steal Your Watch And Then Tell You The Time." The author is a former consultant, and a former comedy writer. The book is a whole bunch of management consulting shtick, in the process describing that world pretty comprehensively and giving the reader a sense of the lifestyle. It's not terribly dissimilar from the law firm world, in a broad sense, if you forget about the 4-days-a-week on the road. I liked the book, but he gets stuck in shtick more than he should, and it misses the chance to make some more serious points about the industry and the lifestyle and the waste of talented people who go down that path... I don't know, I may just be holding it to the same unfair standard I find myself frustratingly holding my Anonymous Lawyer stuff to, but it's a fine book, it's an entertaining read, you should read it if you've ever thought about being a consultant, or if you want to remember why you quit.