What I’ve been reading

by on July 1, 2014 at 1:11 pm in Books | Permalink

1. Tom Doyle, Man on the Run: Paul McCartney in the 1970s.  This book actually has some fresh material, plus you realize that John and Paul were even more obsessed with each other than we used to think.

2. Francisco Goldman, The Interior Circuit: A Mexico City Chronicle.  Further evidence that politics is often the enemy of really good books, nonetheless this is still a moderately interesting treatment.

3. Elizabeth Pisani, Indonesia, Inc.: Exploring the Improbable Nation.  Lots of emphasis on the islands.  Pretty good, not great.

4. Hans Ulrich Obrist, ?Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Curating*?, a successful Swiss attempt at being clever and punchy.

5. Carl Wilson, editor, Let’s Talk About Love: Why Other People Have Such Bad Taste.  Most of this volume concerns Céline Dion, or is that Celine Dion?  Fascinating in parts, the subtitle should have been the title.

As part of an agreement with Bryan Caplan, I’ve also started an attempted reread of Catcher in the Rye, and hope to report back to you on that one…

1 derek July 1, 2014 at 1:28 pm

The US exports it’s manufacturing capacity, Canada exports Celine Dion. To the US.

Put another way the average IQ of both countries increased with the exchange.

2 mkt July 1, 2014 at 1:32 pm

/1: Coincidentally, this month’s issue of _Atlantic_ is about creativity and genius and has a cover article about Lennon and McCartney. The author claims that contrary to the accepted wisdom that songs by “Lennon-McCartney” can usually be truly credited to just one of them, they did improve each other’s songwriting by working together.

3 prognostication July 1, 2014 at 8:58 pm

Do people really make that argument? Neither of them were ever half as good as solo artists. Paul wrote a lot of saccharine garbage with lousy lyrics, and John released a lot of half-finished or ill-considered material that should have been reworked or shelved. (Of course, there are some very good songs in the solo output of both.) I always thought this was strongly suggestive of the theory that they needed to bounce off each other.

4 Vanya July 2, 2014 at 6:57 am

Given that the creative output of most rock musicians declines precipitously after 10 years or so, I never saw the mediocre solo work as necessarily proof that they needed to collaborate. Another angle might be that the mediocrity of their post-Beatle’s work reflects how important George Martin was to the Beatles’ sound.

5 Tyler Fan July 1, 2014 at 2:24 pm

What is the other end of the agreement with Caplan? Your initial instincts were right: it’s dreck.

6 Lee July 1, 2014 at 2:32 pm

“John and Paul were even more obsessed with each other than we used to think.” Absolutely. Way too many Beatles books have been written — most of them awful and filled with inaccuracies, and most of them written by Lennon fanboys who overestimate John’s importance in the Beatles and underestimate McCartney’s. But I’m STILL waiting for the Beatles book to be written that sheds light on John and Paul’s utterly intense, needy, obsessive, complicated relationship. Doyle’s book doesn’t do that — it’s a bio of only one decade in McCartney’s life — but, aside from its own merits in focusing on this strange decade in Paul’s life, Doyle’s book does make me eager for the day when some astute writer will the John-Paul “love-hate” story with some nuance (rather than the usual “John was the genius, Paul was the craftsman” BS).

7 So Much for Subtlety July 1, 2014 at 3:40 pm

a successful Swiss attempt at being clever and punchy.

Is it just me or is TC trying to tell us these are all crap? As endorsements go, being funny *for*a*Swiss* is not exactly enthusiastic.

8 Donald A. Coffin July 1, 2014 at 3:45 pm

Good luck with re-reading The Catcher in the Rye, When I read it the first time 9at age 13, in 1961), I thought it was perhaps the most insightful book I’d ever read. When I tried to re-read it a couple of years ago (2010, I think), I couldn’t get past the first 25 pages. It’s really not, I think, a book for middle-aged (and older) people.

9 Brian Donohue July 1, 2014 at 4:07 pm

I think it was more of a zeitgeist thing.

I read it as a young man in the early 1980s.

The book was incredibly hyped- maybe that was part of the problem.

Probably the biggest literary letdown I’ve ever experienced.

10 Benny Lava July 1, 2014 at 7:13 pm

I tried reading it for the first time a few years ago and stopped around the same point. Never read it at a young age, thought it a very poor read. Not sure why people like it other than identifying with a stupid angry young man. Hey, maybe that was me at 15 too?

11 J July 2, 2014 at 10:13 am

I once thought Fight Club was such a good movie when I was 15 or so, so you’re not alone.

12 PD Shaw July 1, 2014 at 8:34 pm


13 prognostication July 1, 2014 at 9:01 pm

I hated it even as a teenager, but it’s often suggested that people who hate it as a teenager see too much of themselves in Holden and are uncomfortable with it. Which, in hindsight, may be true.

14 John Mansfield July 2, 2014 at 8:31 am

Holden Caulfield was no Huck Finn.

15 dearieme July 1, 2014 at 5:05 pm

“Pretty good, not great”: ‘great’ has suffered from severe grade inflation over the years. In sports commentary, it seems to mean “routinely competent”.
(Contrast “average, “ordinary”, and “mediocre” which now mean incompetent.)

16 Ian July 1, 2014 at 9:37 pm

Well, average is over.

17 dearieme July 2, 2014 at 6:55 am

+100 (Grade inflation).

18 Krigl July 1, 2014 at 5:18 pm

>I’ve also started an attempted reread of Catcher in the Rye, and hope to report back to you on that one…

That way madness lies.

19 dirk July 1, 2014 at 6:00 pm

Much better to reread Franny and Zooey. Salinger wrote great prose but you don’t get much of it in Catcher because the style gets in the way.

20 David Wright July 2, 2014 at 4:10 am


21 Donald A. Coffin July 2, 2014 at 1:37 pm

Or “Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters/and/Seymour: An Introduction.” “Seymour” is an amazing piece…a nervous breakdown from the inside…

22 Max July 1, 2014 at 7:00 pm

Tyler, a general fan message. I like your site a lot, although the economics exocticism often leaves me scratching my head, even after Wikipedia visits, More to the point, I like your book recommendations, I’ve bought several.

23 andrew' July 1, 2014 at 10:23 pm

Ask and you will get an answer. Many commenters have been reading the Ty leaves for years.

24 John Smith July 1, 2014 at 11:18 pm

I must say I’ve purchased a few Cowan recommended books myself and was more than pleased. Just finished Age of Ambition. Great read.

25 John Smith July 1, 2014 at 11:19 pm

That’s “Cowen”

26 emerson July 2, 2014 at 9:54 am

That’s Indonesia, Etc., not Indonesia, Inc.

27 everybodyswong July 2, 2014 at 11:20 pm

I was suggested to re-read Catcher in The Rye with the assumption that it came from the point of view of some one who might have been sexually abused. It felt like a valid interpretation that crystallized Holden’s worldview for me. It fit the trope of General mistrust of adults, conflicts on sexuality, and borderline behavior. Just food for thought.

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