What I’ve Been Reading Some of the books I’ve been indulging in as 2014 closed and 2015…commences… In the Moment- Ben Gazzara Always one of my favourite actors…it has been a joy to read his memoirs that were published right before his death a few years ago. Gazzara was a definitive NYer from the old school and went through his interesting and successful acting career in a straight forward “what ever will be will be” attitude. His approach is a victory for all of us soft-spoken, honest and caring folks that don’t waver when people try to take advantage of our niceness. Gazzar was never a “big” star in the modern sense- he was too quick to turn down big films and too “not full of himself” to kiss up to some Hollywood mogul. As a result he fell off the pop culture radar when he was supposed to be a “superstar” and only sporiadically claimed the limelight as the years went on. But make no mistake he was a giant and knew and rubbed shoulders with anyone and everyone from the 1950’s on. One of his cherished roles was in the late 70s oddity ‘Saint Jack’ which was produced by Roger Corman and directed by Peter Bogdonavich, who also starred in the film. Gazzara plays an American stranded in Singapore in the early days of it being a republic and decides to set up a brothel to cater to expats and Vietnam GI’s….Bogdonavich plays a CIA plotter who tries to convince Jack (Gazzara) to secretly take pictures of a US Senator’s (played by George Lazenby!) sexual escapades. Try to find it if you can it probably isn’t on Youtube…but was issued on a DVD. Gazzara was cool, classy and profound…in a personal way….his memoirs were epic!
Although I find it hard to find fault with any book on the Mets , there is something oddly horrible about this late ’90s Peter Golenbock volume: Amazin’ The Miraculous History of New York’s Most Beloved Baseball Team. (Notice how ‘Mets” is absent from the title) For one thing there are numerous factual mistakes that any proofreader with knowledge of the Mets would have found and corrected. Also for some reason Golenbock gives us detailed and intense chapters at the very beginning of the book on New York baseball from the 1880s on up to 1951. Interesting history but not about the Mets at all. His method of giving the actual history of the Mets is also questionable as he relies on verbatin quotes from only a handful of players. A lot of the quotes are overblown and not worth reading. And for some reason he insists on giving us detailed accounts of Dwight Gooden and Daryl Strawberry and their struggles with alcohol and substance abuse that took place in the 1990s…after their glory days with the Mets…weird …Perhaps this book would have been good as Met Memories or something…. but as a book on “Met history” it fails. Oopsie.
My final book for this week is a 1968 educational volume entitled ‘Manifest Destiny’-edited by Norman Graebner a collection of the original documents and speeches that led the US to claim the land west of the Mississippi in the mid 1800s. This is powerful stuff and presented without much comment, dry like a strong martini -this one grew on me as I continued to find interesting facts and serrendipities about US history. Highly recommended for those of you curious as to why Texas was a Republic before it entered the States and why California was seized with nary a drop of blood being spilled. (Special thanks to the State Library Hawaii USA)