Tuesday, October 21, 2003

We're Back

Apologies to my loyal readers, but when paying projects attached to looming deadlines mount, I tend to let blogging go fallow for a time. At least, that is, till I run into a reader (as I did last night) who reminds me that there is actually an audience that checks back daily (thank you, Mark Geyman). But I'm back and recharged, with less time to write here, but even more enthusiasm for doing so in the time I do spend. And so away we go.

Another List. A few weeks ago I brought you the infamous list day. Today we return with but one list, but it's an especially interesting one (or at least I think it is). Britain's excellent newspaper The Observer, with a better literary sensibility than just about any of its U.S. counterparts (part of the reason why U.S. readers are hungrily clinging to the recent news that the paper is planning a U.S. launch), has just published its take on the 100 greatest novels of all time. Read it over, and then be honest (at least with yourself): how many of these classic books have you really read, or even meaningfully skimmed? My self-disclosure: it's not till the 21st spot (Moby Dick) that I can say I've kind of read it all (maybe half). And you have to go all the way down to #30, Henry James's splendid The Portrait of a Lady, before I find a book that I read completely and loved entirely. It's considered a truism of the book business that men don't read much fiction, and I'd have to say that this list bears that out for me.

Greider Does It Again. What I do read far more, however (as even occasional readers of this site have probably guessed by now) is history, public affairs, politics and the like. And one of my long-time favorite populist authors, William Greider, has a new one out that I plan to grab soon. Greider, whose writing career has followed an idiosyncratic arc--from covering economics for the Washington Post to writing about economics, politics and culture for Rolling Stone (as the resident old guy, replacing Hunter Thompson) and now The Nation--was on NPR's Diane Rehm show last week talking about his new book, The Soul of Capitalism--Opening Paths to a Moral Economy. The man who a generation ago demystified the Federal Reserve as completely as Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong demystified the Supreme Court has now returned his attention to another important corner of Wall Street power. "Here's how we're not as powerless as we think we are: The center of financial power is not in these 4,000 wealthiest people, but in the pension funds with fiduciary responsibilities," which are directly responsive to the average person, he said. "It's here where the edge of reform is getting traction." But, he went on to say, we've all got to begin getting ahold of our own finances, rather than passively letting mutual fund companies and the like treat us as widows and orphans who must be guided in investment decisions. The book also apparently delves into other examples of Americans taking control of their financial and working lives, like the self-owned temp agency in Baltimore whose owner-employees decided to purchase their own health insurance.

And yes, another veteran scribe has gotten the daily web-writing itch, at Williamgreider.com (I love his blog tagline: "For kindred spirits and curious skeptics." He told Rehm that while "I'm a novice at this," he loves the instant feedback from writing for the web. While on a book tour, he's buoyed by the way he can retreat to his hotel room each night and go online, only to be met with a dozen emails from readers. And isn't that what it's all about? So send me yours, at jettorre@voyager.net.


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