Wednesday, September 05, 2018


WWW.WEDNESAY asks us three questions to prompt you to speak bookishly. To participate, and to see how other book lovers responded, click here.

1. What are you currently reading?  

Alibi in High Heels by Gemma Halliday. Shoe designer Maddie Springer just got her big break: an invitation to Fashion Week in Paris! But before she can get to The City of Lights, there's a bone-breaking car accident. Once she arrives, there's a jewel heist and a model is murdered and it's starting to look like someone is setting Maddie up as a suspect and putting her life in danger.

This is fluff. It begins, "I love shoes. I mean, I really, really love them." It's lightweight in every sense of the word: it not only provides glamorous, mindless escape, it's a small paperback that fits easily into my purse.

But you know what? After the big, thought-provoking and at times heartbreakingly sad biography I just finished (see below), lightweight escapism could be just what the doctor ordered. Let's hope it delivers. Author Gemma Halliday is certainly prolific and popular, so my hopes are as high as Maddie's heels.

2. What did you recently finish reading?  
Joe DiMaggio: The Hero's Life by Richard Ben Cramer. This exhaustive (546 pages!) biography was exhausting in its pervasive sadness. Here was a man who simply did not/could not enjoy his gifts.

He was unbelievably graceful, independent and disciplined. He had a high pain threshold. His hitting streak (56 games!) remains untouched after more than 70 years. On the field, he was a champion that generations of Americans looked up to.

Off the field, though ... he was petty and jealous, disrespecting the older Lou Gehrig and resenting the younger Mickey Mantle. He was cheap. Understandable, perhaps, because he came from poverty. His moral relativism made me nuts. On the one hand, he wouldn't appear on a dais with then-President Bill Clinton because he didn't approve of the Lewinsky scandal. Fair enough. But Joe, didn't you invest with a mobster who (certainly) had people murdered and (allegedly) incinerated them in his backyard barbecue pit? 

He made himself unhappy. He only seemed to want his first wife when she made herself elusive. No wonder she eventually tired of him and moved on. And then of course, his second wife. Marilyn.* His love and loyalty were indomitable and enduring. But he didn't seem to "hear" her. Seemingly to the day she died, he believed she was willing to walk away from her career and just be his wife.

Cramer gives this big man and his sprawling life their due. He writes well about Joe and baseball, about Joe and the Italian-American community (especially important during WWII), about Joe and Marilyn. I loved this passage about Marilyn's nude calendar shoot: "[It] would become an enormous public relations triumph -- one of the building blocks of her legend. And, at the cost of his own lifelong heartache, so would Joe."

I just wish, for both his sake and mine, he really was the man I thought he was when I cracked open this book.

*You don't have to ask "Marilyn, who?" do you? He married a myth even more enduring than his own.

3.  What will you read next?  
Has anyone read Meg Wolitzer? She's sitting atop my TBR pile with a book called Surrender, Dorothy. There are also more biographies and more mysteries awaiting my attention.