Reader’s Notebook, 7/3/18

Our internet-less summer continues. Joyous times.

We checked in with the fine folks at the Comcast store on Saturday. Golly, they sure had no idea why our request was still just sitting there without anything being done to it. The guy who helped us was the guy who put our initial request in three weeks ago. When we asked him, “OK, who do we talk to to get it moving?” He responded, “My manager.” Who of course was not there. But he was going to email her and was sure she would get right on it.

That was Saturday, I’m typing this Monday night, and haven’t heard a thing.

Fuckers.

So we’ve been watching a lot of movies and the girls have been playing a lot of XBox games that don’t require a network connection.

I’ve been reading a little. I’m trying to get back in the swing of things after a rather barren month of books. Which reminds me, I owe you accountings of my last two books. Since these were finished awhile back, I’ll keep them brief since the memories have already faded.


Killers of the Flower Moon – David Grann
I would imagine several of you have read this. It is an excellent look back at a very strange and scary time. In the 1920s, just as the Osage Indians of Oklahoma were enjoying the spoils of large oil reserves being discovered on their lands, many of them began dying under mysterious circumstances. Poisonings, shootings in the countryside, explosions in the middle of the night. Seeing an opportunity to gain power for the organization he had just taken over, J. Edgar Hoover sent a team of his best FBI agents to Oklahoma to crack the case. Which they did, or at least part of it, bringing justice to those who wronged the Osage and creating a foundational myth Hoover could build his agency upon.

Grann dives into all of this. He explores the deeply racist policies the US government had in place to keep the Osage down, and how the government was always willing to change laws to make it harder for the Osage to hang on to money that was rightfully theirs, and easier for white folks to steal it. He gets deep into some of the most notable deaths and the FBI investigation that lead to arrests, trials, and convictions.

What makes Grann a great writer isn’t just how he reconstructs events that are almost a century old. And he’s fantastic at that. No, what really makes him shine is how he wasn’t satisfied with just telling the story of what happened. The last third of the book is devoted to his investigation to determine if the verdict in the early 1920s was correct. He believes that while the men that went to prison were responsible for some of the deaths, there was no way they could have been responsible for all the mysterious deaths of the Osage.

It’s a fascinating story by one of our best investigative authors.


What We Think About When We Think About Soccer – Simon Critchley
I had to read a soccer book during World Cup time. I thought this seemed interesting, a kind of European version of some of the more cerebral baseball books I’ve read. I was expecting something that explained why and how soccer is so deeply ingrained in the cultures of so many different countries. Why the game stirs such deep passions among so many.

Instead this was a super philosophical take on the game. Or rather an application of various philosophical schools of thought to the game. It was a bit much and, honestly, I skimmed long sections of it. The best parts were when Critchley, who is a Liverpool fan, devoted chapters solely to his favorite team and their recent coaching and organizational changes. Changes that led Liverpool to this year’s Champions League finals.

I should have grabbed Grant Wahl’s new soccer book instead.


Oh, and I had my first abandoned book of the year. I saw Edgar Cantero’s Meddling Kids at the library and was intrigued. Cantero took elements of the classic Scooby Doo mysteries – a group of kids and their dog who solved mysteries in the 1970s – and jumped forward in time to the early 90s, where the gang, as adults, re-investigate a case they believed they had solved in 1977.

The concept had the potential to be genius. But, man, did Cantero over-write it. Every single sentence was weighed down by $1000 words and extra phrases and clauses. It was as if Cantero was trying to show that despite not being a native English speaker he was still worthy of telling this story. If only he had relaxed and let it unspool casually it might have worked.

I was hoping for a light, funny story to get me through the final week before our move. Instead I fought my way through about 60 pages and then decided I had better things to do that deal with Cantero’s showing off.