WWW. WEDNESDAY asks three questions to prompt you to speak bookishly. To participate, and to see how other book lovers responded, click here.
PS I no longer participate in WWW.WEDNESDAY via that link because her blog won't accept Blogger comments. I mention this only to save you the frustration I experienced trying to link up.
1. What are you currently reading? Bogie & Bacall by William J. Mann. This year, I've been reading about people I've heard about my whole life but know little about. So far I've taken a little dive into the lives of Winston Churchill, Aristotle Onassis, Dwight Eisenhower and Babe Ruth. Now I'm turning my attention to Humphrey Bogart.
Within the pantheon of classic film stars, he's way, way up there. The American Film Institute named him the #1 Movie Actor of All Time. Yet he's not someone I always gravitate to, like his contemporaries Clark Gable, Cary Grant, and William Powell. And except for Lauren Bacall's recollections of their marriage -- which seem sincere but also understandably rose-colored -- I know nothing about his personal life.
This 650+ page book is a dual biography of the stars and so far, I'm all in. The "dese dem and dose" guy on screen was a New York blue blood. He tried many jobs before landing in the theater, which gave him a sense of belonging and provided an outlet for his creativity, even though Hollywood's PR machine did everything it could to make him seem like an "accidental actor," because his more sensitive yearnings didn't fit his image.
One thing that makes me smile: so far (he's in his 20s), everyone calls him "Hump." I wonder when he became "Bogie," which is far more fitting for his image. Was it organic, or was his new moniker a product of PR machine, too?
2. What did you recently finish reading? The Last Politician: Inside Joe Biden's White House by Franklin Foer. This book takes us from the end of 2020 campaign, through the historically fucked-up transfer of power and into the Biden White House. It's about how Biden, a politician who is proud of his profession and believes in our institutions, tried to govern after the shambolic Trump years.
However, after the Administration recovers from the Trump team's willful obstruction and gets its bearings, it's not about a compare/contrast between Biden and Trump. It's about the CHIPS act, the American Rescue Plan and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. These are ambitious pieces of legislation and it was not easy to get them passed. Yet Biden did it, and we're all the better for it. That's one of the interesting things about Biden: for an 80-year-old man, he's remarkably forward thinking, and has an eye on future generations. I find this refreshing and wonder why it's not emphasized more.
This book is similarly granular in its examination of Biden and Zelenskyy. These two men are of different generations and different cultures. One is a lifelong politician, the other a showman. Theirs is not a natural relationship and it's been personally rocky. But Biden is a pro and Zelenskyy is a patriot, so the personal has not gotten in the way of their collaboration. It makes me grateful that we have a President who has been a politician for most of his life and has the muscle memory to do the right thing in these situations.
That's the thing about this book: it appeals to the Kennedy Girl in me. I grew up believing that politicians are public servants, and that being good at politics is something to be proud of. Joe Biden believes the same. Yes, it's corny and certainly not in step with today's "drain the swamp" mentality, but I think it's that attitude will help (to borrow a phrase) keep America great.
3. What will you read next? I don't know.