what i'm reading: seymour hersh, buster olney

I finally finished Reading Lolita In Tehran, and can now concentrate on Chain Of Command. Because I expect the Seymour Hersh book to be difficult emotionally, I'm going to read The Last Night Of The Yankee Dynasty, by Buster Olney, at the same time.

Olney was The New York Times Yankees beat reporter during the years that I followed the team obsessively (as opposed to just constantly): 1996 through 2002. He's an excellent writer, and not a Yankee fan by birth or nature, so he tends to be more objective than other New York sportswriters. In the depths of winter, with single-digit temperatures and a foot of snow on the ground, it's definitely time to read about baseball.

Reading Lolita In Tehran was disappointing. I liked about half of it. Reading about the everyday lives of women living under a totalitarian regime - this particular one of the pseudo-religious variety - is very eye-opening. But the conceit that distinguishes this book from ordinary memoirs - the literary analysis Nafisi weaves in - didn't work for me. She's supposedly making connections between her life and the fiction she reveres, but I didn't get it.

Also, much of the literary criticism is incomprehensible if you haven't read the books. I've read some of them, but umpteen years ago, in college, and some I don't know at all. The book is on the Times's best seller list, and I wonder how casual readers understand this part. On the other hand, if Lolita In Tehran moves people to read Nabokov, Henry James, Saul Bellow and Jane Austen, then Nafisi is a genius.

Speaking of which, I noticed that Devil In The White City, which I mentioned in this "what i'm reading" post, is also on the paperback best seller list. This is probably the first time two books I've read are on that list at the same time; my reading tastes don't usually coincide with popularity. It's great to see well-written, substantial books are being read by that many people.

Heaven will wait. I was so excited when Handheld Evangelist emailed me a story about the digital collection at the New York Public Library. You can check out e-books online, from any computer. When they are due, the file will no longer open! Brilliant!

The idea of being able to check out books from home really jazzed me, since my goal in life is to do every errand from my computer. (I'm making good progress.) I sat down with my book list, ready to download a few titles, and found... nothing. Not one book from my very extensive to-read list was available digitally through the NYPL. Chain of Command is on the iPAQ, but I'll be reading Buster Olney the old-fashioned way.

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