I just finished this wonderful book by Kati Marton. Marton was an NPR and ABC news correspondent, who was widowed twice. Her first marriage was to ABC News anchor Peter Jennings, with whom she had two children. Her second was to Richard Holbrooke, who at the time of his death was the Obama administration’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. I was turned on to this book when I read her newest one entitled Paris: A Love Story (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012).
This book centers upon Budapest, Hungary, which is her native country. She dedicates it to her parents, who were both journalists in the World Wars and beyond.
The nine Jews the book features are:
four scientists – Edward Teller, John von Neumann, Leo Szilard, Eugene Wigner
two motion picture directors and producers – Michael Curtiz, Alexandra Korda
two photographers – Robert Capa, Andre Kertesz
one writer – Arthur Koestler
The stories of all nine are brought to life as I have previously never experienced it. The book is non-fiction, of course, but it is almost novel-like in its appearance and presentation. For example, Capa was known as the greatest war photographer of all time. He was the first photographer to go ashore at D-Day in Normandy. Curtiz directed Casablanca, which Marton says “is still the most popular, the most familiar,. the most discused, and the most dissected romantic film in history” (p. 145). Koestler wrote Darkness at Noon, which “is the story of the first half of the century, in which the old institutions – social, economic, and spiritual – have broken down” (p. 135), and was the most important anticommunist novel ever written. All four scientists discussed in the book were heavily involved in either advances toward the computer age or the nuclear age, where progress in both were deeply entrenched in politics and personal and professional jealousies.
We can’t do this one at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas. It is too old, and it is not an exclusive business book. So, it does not fit our current context. But that shouldn’t stop you from reading it.
First, however, you have to find it. Unfortunately, the book is out of print. To obtain it, you must visit secondary sellers. But, if you look hard enough, you will find it and be rewarded with an amazingly readable and exciting work.
Before I resumed going to church, every Sunday morning we would watch “This Week” on ABC, hosted by David Brinkley, with Sam Donaldson and George F. Will. Will, while a conservative and unexcited Republican, was always quick and to the point, and very knowledgeable about current affairs. A Chicago Cubs fan, while in working in Washington D.C., he was a part-owner of the Baltimore Orioles. He left ABC in 2013 to join Fox News. He usually wears a bow tie, but I couldn’t bring myself to publish one of those pictures.
He wrote one of the most influential books that I have read in my life, entitled Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball (New York: Macmillan, 1990). That book should be read by anyone who thinks baseball is just a game, and that players and managers are overpaid. The book demonstrated that this is game is not played by the “boys of summer,” but rather by men, applying intensive decision-making, examining complex variables, and exhibiting extraordinary skill in their jobs.
So, I anxiously awaited his next book about Chicago’s famed baseball yard. It is called A Nice Little Place on the North Side: Wrigley Field at One Hundred (New York: Crown Books, 2014). We can’t present it at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas because although it reached the best-seller lists, it is not a business book.
You can read a review of this book from the Wall Street Journal by clicking here. Joseph Epstien concludes that review with this:
George Will has achieved a fine balance in “A Nice Little Place on the North Side” between his heartfelt allegiance to the Chicago Cubs and his recognition of their status among sports fans as a national joke. As fodder for humor the Cubs have been inexhaustible. The morning after the Cubs lost the 1984 National League Championship Series to the Padres, owing in good part to Leon Durham, the team’s first baseman, allowing a dribbling grounder to go through his legs, I was shopping in my neighborhood grocery store. The owner asked if I had heard about Leon Durham’s attempted suicide. “Really?” I asked, genuinely shocked. “He stepped out in front of a bus,” the man said, “but it went through his legs.” Lots of laughs, those Cubs, and, as George Will neatly puts it, “a lifelong tutorial in deferred gratification.”
From Amazon.com, where it is # 1 on the sports best-selling list and # 224 in overall books, you can read this summary:
Winding beautifully like Wrigley’s iconic ivy, Will’s meditation on “The Friendly Confines” examines both the unforgettable stories that forged the field’s legend and the larger-than-life characters—from Wrigley and Ruth to Veeck, Durocher, and Banks—who brought it glory, heartbreak, and scandal. Drawing upon his trademark knowledge and inimitable sense of humor, Will also explores his childhood connections to the team, the Cubs’ future, and what keeps long-suffering fans rooting for the home team after so many years of futility. In the end, A Nice Little Place on the North Side is more than just the history of a ballpark. It is the story of Chicago, of baseball, and of America itself.
Who hasn’t seen outfielders diving after a ball into the famous ivy on the outfield wall? Or the story about Steve Bartman, who on October 14, 2003, allegedly interfered with Cubs outfielder Moises Alou catching a foul ball, extending an inning and opening the gates for an 8-run watershed for the Florida Marlins in a playoff game? Or, hearing about first baseman Ernie Banks, who excitedly would proclaim, “let’s play two.” Or, all the controversies and barriers to renovating the park for a more modern and comfortable appearance?
Forget politics. Forget what you think about George Will’s philosophy, opinions, and dress. Immerse yourself in this book. You will be a better fan. You will also find something else to reference about an American icon. The stories here are abundant. Wrigley field is certainly not one of the wonders of the world, but its loyal fans who are accustomed to losing and tight quarters to watch baseball games, are a unique part of American culture.
NOTE: I am aware that I have done a very poor job with these posts, especially concerning my views about advances in technology. Those posts were highly misaligned with the books we have presented about technology, so I will not write about that subject anymore. However, I will share some thoughts about some of the books that I have read recently in order to inspire some of you to consider reading them.
Kati Marton is a veteran ABC and NPR news correspondent. She has written seven books, and I have two of them. In this post, I will call your attention to her newest best-seller that I read over the holidays entitled Paris: A Love Story (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012). Before all of you guys reading this think that book must be too “mushy,” it is actually less about loving people, and more about loving her experiences in the wonderful Parisian context.
You may remember the feelings that I expressed about David McCullough’s work in the same setting. In 2011, he published The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011), in which he shared experiences from politicians, artists, and other entrepreneurial Americans who visited, lived, and worked in Paris at the turn of the century. The experiences were spellbinding, and he wrote the book so well that you wanted to jump out of your chair, get on an airplane, and wind back the clock to join them.
There is something magical about Paris. I was there once, but only for 36 hours, and as a member of a whirlwind tour party. That is not how to see Paris. In fact, that is not how to see anything.
But, Marton’s Paris is special, because it documents experiences with her two famous late husbands. The first was Peter Jennings, ABC’s news anchor, who divorced her in 1993, and died in 2005. The second was Richard Holbrooke, a diplomatic troubleshooter who worked for every Democratic president since the late 1960s, and who at the time of his death, still married to Marton, was the Obama administration’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Holbrooke died in 2010.
Paris was an important place for both of these relationships, and in her book, you see it as both foreground and background to important events in her life, the lives of both men, and the troubles of America and the world. While she loved both her husbands, the book also includes brutal honesty about her extramarital affairs while in both relationships.
Paris became Marton’s refuge. After settling all the affairs of the estate, she writes, “I need to get away. Paris seems the right place. It is where Richard and I started our lives together and lived our happiest times. But, well before that, it is where I became who I am. In a life of multiple uprootings, Paris has been my one fixed point. Once before I found happiness and beauty in Paris. I was a young girl then, the child of political refugees who settled in America….Paris is the place where good things seem to happen to me. In a way, every story with Paris at its heart is a love story. So is mine. It is where I fell in love, first with the city, then with the man who became the father of my children. Then, in middle age, I found lasting love in Paris with Richard. So, in Paris, I will relearn how to live” (pp. 32-33).
And, thus, the story ends with Marton celebrating Christmas with her family in Paris. The final photo caption in the book reads, “the start of a new life, alone, in Paris.”
This book was so well done that I ordered a book she wrote in 2006, entitled The Great Escape: Nine Jews who Fled Hitler and Changed the World (New York: Simon & Schuster). The book is out of print, so I had to order a copy from a used book service. The context is Budapest, Hungary. The story has deep familial roots for Marton, as both her parents were Hungarian journalists for AP and UPI, and who were imprisoned during the war. I have not yet finished this one. I am reading it slowly to fully absorb the context and bravery that jumps off every page. When I finish, I want to share some insights that I am gaining from that book.
Over the last few weeks, you have undoubtedly heard the publicity surrounding the newsest revealed mistress during the presidency of John F. Kennedy.
Her name is Mimi Alford, and over the past three weeks, she has appeared on practically every news and talk program that you can access.
I read her book this weekend. It is entitled Once Upon a Secret: My Affair with President John F. Kennedy and its Aftermath (Random House, 2012). You can read one of many reviews of the book here, published in the Wall Street Journal on February 13, 2012.
I found the book to be very personal, reflective, and insightful. If you are looking for a “kiss-and-tell” book, it has those elements. You will read the details of her first sexual encounter with JFK in Jackie’s bedroom, and how months later, he pressured her to perform oral sex on his key aide, Dave Powers. But that is not what this book is about, nor does it focus on sex.
Instead, you will find a revealing narrative about key elements and events in the Kennedy administration through a different set of eyes. Those are the eyes of a naive, but bright 19-year old White House intern. I have read many books about Kennedy and his thousand days in office, and can honestly tell you that I read things here that I had not known before. This book covers 18 months, from 1962-1963, and then, shifts to the rest of her life through two marriages.
She is now 68. Her back cover picture makes her appear more attractive than what you see on talk shows. You can find many of those interviews on YouTube if you want to see them, including her appearance on ABC’s The View, with its illustrative panel.
Is this worth buying and reading? I think so. It is overpriced at $25, in that it is less than 200 pages long. But, I read enough. I finished satisfied that my time was well-spent.
Maybe we have finally met the last JFK mistress. At least, there are no other remaining footnotes or cryptically identified characters such as produced Mimi Alford. Maybe not. That’s not the point.
Her book gives us insight into an unsettling yet exciting time. And, this book makes it clear she found both.
What do you think? Let’s talk about it really soon.
I was disappointed in a recent article in B&C (Broadcasting and Cable) magazine. In the July 11, 2011 issue, the feature article was “Women in the Game” (pp. 8-16). The message of the article was that “the TV sports business is hardly an old boys’ network. Meet the women making big plays behind the scenes.”
That is exactly what the article chronicles – women behind the scenes. It includes highlights about the careers of:
Karen Brodkin – Senior VP, Business and Legal Affairs – Fox Cable Networks
April Carty-Sipp – Senior VP, Creative Services – Comcast Sports Group
Teresa Chillianis – General Manager – Cablevision MSG Varsity
Christine Godleski– COO – WNBA
Debra Honkus – CEO – NEP Broadcasting
Jodi Markley – Senior VP, Operations – ESPN
Lorie McCarthy – Senior VP, General Sales Manager – Turner Sports
Deborah Montiel – VP, Marketing – GolTV
Rebecca Schulte – Senior VP and General Manager – Comcast Mid-Atlantic
Suzanne Smith – Producer/Director – CBS Sports
Molly Solomon – Coordinating Producer – NBC Olympics and Talent Development
Melinda Witmer – Executive VP and Chief Video and Content Officer – Time Warner Cable
I am thrilled at these stories. I am elated that these women have broken the glass ceiling in one of the most difficult business contexts that exists in the world.
But, why not include women in front of the scene? For years, women have filled the role of sideline reporters. But, now look at Pam Ward, who calls play-by-play for college football and basketball for ESPN. Or Doris Burke, who is a prime analyst for men and women contents in college basketball for ESPN and ABC. There are others. I can’t include them all. But, on the sidelines we have seen Pam Oliver for FOX, Andrea Kremer for NBC, Lesley Visser for CBS and ABC, Suzy Kolber and Michele Tofoya for ESPN, among many others.
The one that I am the proudest of is Erin Andrews from ESPN. She has remained resilient in the face of an awful, invading peephole video expose by a cowardly stalker, shot through a keyhole of her hotel room. In spite of the negative publicity and occasional “cat-calls” from fans in the stands, she has continued to do her job. She covers football, baseball, basketball, and other sports, and has not flinched from any of the pressure created by the negative incident. She asks tough questions and seeks out stories. She even now hosts a weekly college football show with Andre Ware that airs on ESPN, and is featured on College Game Day every Saturday morning.
I refuse to watch the peephole video. It is widely available on the internet for free. Not that she isn’t attractive – she’s actually beautiful. I just think that if she wants to show us her body, she should be the one who decides to do it. The uninvited and imposing stalker who invaded her privacy has no right to show us anything about Erin Andrews that Erin Andrews does not want us to see. Make no mistake – I will look at her if she makes herself available. But, notice that in that case, she would have decided to feature herself. That’s the only way that I am going to participate as a viewer.
But, Erin Andrews is not about looks. She does her job. She does it well. There are other women who do this work well. We should see more articles about “Women in the Game” who are in front of the scene, not just behind it.
In September at the First Friday Book Synopsis, I will feature a book about ESPN. It is called These Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN. It’s not all about guys, and I will have some content from Erin Andrews. I hope that someday soon she will write her own book.
What do you think? Let’s talk about it.