Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Best Lead of the Month

'In choosing our teachers,” Garry Wills once observed, “we do not have to depend on lucky accidents—on finding the one person among our contemporaries who has the time and will to enlighten us: the great Academy of the Past is open to all who would use it.” And use it Wills has. There may not be a historian or critic in America of greater breadth—his subjects range from George Washington to Jack Ruby, from Saint Paul and John Wayne to Pius IX and Ronald Reagan—or greater acuity. A former Jesuit seminarian (and still a Catholic), Wills reads Latin and Greek and moves easily across the millennia. Religion, politics, ideology—these are his staples. He was trained as a classicist, but a book about the 37th president (Nixon Agonistes) landed him on the infamous “enemies list.” For Wills, even romance has a scholarly tinge. He met his wife of 50 years, Natalie Cavallo, a flight attendant, on the New York–Washington shuttle in 1957. She had noticed Henri Bergson’s The Two Sources of Morality and Religion in his lap, and asked, “Aren’t you a little too young to be reading that?”'
--from a brief piece on the impressively prolific writer Gary Wills, in the current Vanity Fair. We thought this better captures the man, in but a single paragraph, than most writers could accomplish in thousands of words. You can review earlier best leads here.


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