Thursday, December 16, 2010

Dear Great Book Guru, Last week I attended an amazing production of The Nutcracker in the Children's Library. Dan DiPietro was a very yogic Drosselmeyer and the Stroppel family served as a great production team, but in the midst of this holiday treat, I realized I had some serious gift shopping ahead. Do you have any recommendations you would like to share with me? Bewildered Gift Giver

Dear Bewildered, Just this very weekend my son Daniel suggested a book that you should include on your Christmas shopping list: Garry Wills' OUTSIDE LOOKING IN. Do you remember Woody Allen's Zelig-where the character Zelig turned up in every major historical event over a thirty-year span? Well, Garry Wills is our generation's Zelig. Wills' book is an autobiographical record of his life and times, and he was everywhere, with everyone, and into everything. Each chapter is devoted to a person who played an important role in his life- from Barry Goldwater to Studs Turkel, from Ronald Reagan to Beverly Sills, from Hillary Clinton to the Berrigan brothers. Richard Nixon's chapter is particularly interesting since it was Wills' biography of him- Nixon Agonistes- that laid bare the intricacies of the Nixon psyche and predicted his tragic fall. Another featured figure is William Buckley, the archetypical conservative writer, publisher, his first employer, and long time friend; in contrast, Wills describes in detail his time in prison with fellow Vietnam War protesters. A devout Catholic, he has written on the gospels, the rosary, the saints and Jesus… but he finds himself strongly at odds with most papal directives. The book is short -less than 300 pages- but the reader comes away with a strong sense of the last fifty years- all from a man who while being the outsider, became the confidant of scores of this country's icons- conservative and liberal.

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