Book reviews for a Sunday
The Washington Post Book World is on fire today. Great reviews of varied and interesting books, including children's books. The adult ones of interest to me included:
1. A biography of a writer from the so-called Harlem Renaissance period, Ella Larsen. The review explains the pain of racism and those blacks who were "almost" white. I keep waiting for someone to write a biography of George Schuyler, who wrote one of the most amazing and brilliantly written American novels of the 20th Century, "Black No More" (1931). For those also interested in the 20th Century's "color line" as applied to the USA, I heartily recommend Sinclair Lewis' "Kingsblood Royal" (1947), which has been re-released with a very favorable introduction by a current black writer, Charles Johnson.
2. A biography of Curt Flood, who helped break down the odious "reserve clause" used against baseball players. The biographer and the reviewer correctly believe Flood is almost as important Jackie Robinson. The reviewer implies our society's still lingering racism may be to blame for Flood not being better known. This is wrong in my view because the one player who finally succeeed in killing the reserve clause altogether in 1975 was a white player, pitcher Andy Messersmith. The reviewer does not mention Messersmith's name, while noting the arbitration proceeding Messersmith instituted that led to the voiding of the clause. The bottom line though is that baseball players, and even players in other professional sports in America, should pay annual homage to both Flood and Messsersmith. For without Messersmith and Flood, the pay scales would be decidedly low and the owners would have still pocketed most of the profits in any event.
3. A book about the now infamous US Tiger Forces in the late 1960s in Vietnam, and how brutality often comes out of frustration and fear. For those who are surprised about the latest atrocity committed by US soldiers in Iraq, this book should show why it is no surprise. The book reviewer, the legendary Vietnam War reporter, Stanley Karnow, also takes pain to remind us that most American soldiers don't commit atrocities--but when multiple atrocities are happening, there is a context.
4. Here is a helpful, but not quite insightful enough review of an important book trashing aid efforts over the past 50 years. Reviewer David Ignatius fails to grasp what should be the main criticism of William Easterly's "White Man's Burden": It's not that aid is by itself bad. It is that the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) disasterously told formerly colonized nations to start one crop economies and borrow with no plan for diversification and true internal development. The book and now organization "50 Years is Enough" should be consulted and read concurrent with (or perhaps instead of) Easterly's book. Easterly's book is important, however, because it exposes, from an elite, insider's perspective, the horrid policies of the IMF and World Bank, including those institutions' disasterous "shock therapy" administered to Russia and its surrounding nations during the 1990s. Easterly also begins to understand that those nations, such as South Korea and Taiwan, which followed what our elites derisively call "protectionist" policies developed far better than those nations, such as many in Latin America, following the nostrums and endless borrowing from the World Bank and IMF. However, Easterly has no business offering cheap shots against Bono for the failure of most nations under the IMF/World Bank tutelage to develop. That's like blaming the Vietnam War on Jane Fonda, which I hope readers of this blog would agree is terribly and maliciously wrong.
PS: Re: George Schuyler: Alicia Keys is going to play Schuyler's daughter, Phillippa, in a film version of Phillippa's salutary and tragic life. Phillippa was a pianist of some fame who was killed in a plane crash in 1967 in Southeast Asia. Phillippa often went to Vietnam during the 1960s as...get this...a war correspondent. Amazing, no? She was, I must admit, a right winger as her father had become by the 1960s. The idea of a film of Phillippa's life sounds great. Perhaps a bio pic of father George Schuyler would then finally be made.