Running for Your Life: “Considers”

When it comes to animals – giant crabs, the common swift, the hedgehog, to name a few – “Consider” the writings of Katherine Rundell, who pens the “Consider the (fill in the blank)” column on an intermittent basis in the London Review of Books.

A fan of David Foster Wallace’s “Consider the Lobster” essay, I find we don’t train our attentions enough on what animals can teach us. (More on this topic soon; am finishing a superlative book called “Our Wild Calling” by nature writer Richard Louv).

I say, Consider the Black Bear, my totem mammal.

The reason is twofold -- during hibernation, what scientists call carnivore lethargy (although as my pal K points out, bears are omnivores, but whatever), the black bear …

After three months, their bladders are empty -- they recycle water through their kidney systems. And the quality of their blood is so pure that there has never been a recorded blood clot (I’ve had some doozies in my time) in a black bear during carnivore lethargy.

Next: Running for Your Life: Our Wild Calling

Running for Your Life: “OK, Boomer” Mood

Imagine yourself 40 years, even 50 years, younger than you are today.

In an economy with media commentary that divides the nation into two bitter, closed fields of ideological combatants.

Where the rules of the game are easy to learn and follow: conservatives are corrupt and immoral to liberals; liberals are corrupt and immoral to conservatives.

Meanwhile, the economy, retirement savings and stock portfolios are held hostage to Silicon Valley enterprises, the worst (and most “growth” upside among them) devoted to a business models within which our privacy and democracy are relinquished for the material good of, primarily, Boomers, who have most at stake to lose, from their 401 (k)s and their stock portfolios.

Where, Boomer, is the political voice that takes our side? That sees the denigration of our privacy, our voters’ right to live in a true democracy?

Without taking on this dilemma, our all news all the time is nothing but noise, a clammering soundtrack to the rise of our stocks and retirement portfolios.

“OK, Boomer,” you got that?

Next: Running for Your Life: “Considers” by Katherine Rundell

Running for Your Life: Urban Forestry is Not An Oxymoron

Author Jill Jonnes takes a dry title, “Urban Forests: A Natural History of Trees and People in the American Cityscape,” and makes a terrific read.

She has done something pretty special for me. I am lucky to live in a place where street trees are treated with respect by owners, neighbors and passersby alike. No longer will I think of them as just more “furniture” on the street, decorative during leaf season, or in the case of the Callery pear, gorgeous in their white-ish blooms.

Now, after reading “Urban Forests,” I find myself looking up to the canopy above me. Streets in Park Slope, Brooklyn, can be seen as forests first, the homes just part of the scenery. Of course, this is even truer of Prospect Park, where some trees are hundreds of years old. They are the true old-timers; the rest of us, just passing through.

Next: Running for Your Life: “Considers” by Katherine Rundell

Running for Your Life: “American Dirt” Thrown

It takes a lot for a dust-up surrounding a literary novel to make headlines beyond the publishing trade journals.

But here it is. The publisher, Flatiron Books, has cancelled the rest of the book tour for Jeanine Cummins, the author of “American Dirt” due to “specific threats to booksellers and the author.”

Bob Miller, the publisher, says the company was “surprised by the anger that has emerged from members of the Latinx and publishing communities.”

All this for a book that no less of a figure than celebrated Latina author Sandra Cisneros crowed, “This book is not simply the great American novel; it’s the great novel of las Americas. It’s the great world novel! This is the international story of our times.”

It turns out the Cummins herself has stepped in some pretty deep dirt herself, aka a “brownness” wish, and a claim to Latina heredity that sounds squeamishly Elizabeth Warren-esque, in a lame attempt to appease the surprising threat that emerged.

Which brings me to an observation from Hannah Giorgis of The Atlantic, who, by my lights, did the best to boil down the takeaway, saying:

“Cummins’ responses have nonetheless underscored the pernicious and widespread belief that won “American Dirt” fanfare in the first place: that empathy exists for the benefit of the spectator, not the afflicted.”

That said, it seems to me that every writer should use this cogent takeaway as a test, especially when she is writing about disadvantaged communities that she doesn’t have firsthand knowledge about.

Next: Running for Your Life: Urban Forestry is Not An Oxymoron

Running for Your Life: The Power Broker Vol. II

It’s a joke really, there is no Vol. II.

“The Power Broker” by Robert Caro could use one, though.

Few books in my life have impressed me in the way of this one. The life of New York State power broker Robert Moses laid bare.

It’s dense. At 1,162 pages in paperback, I’ve been reading it since the summer.

I’m an avid, even passionate reader, and I didn’t skim any of these pages. Indeed, the richness of the prose, the depth of the reporting, the insight. Fallen out of love with journalism, with journalists? Read “The Power Broker.”

And here’s the best part. As much as you learn about Robert Moses, there is so much more to say. Thus the idea of a second volume.

There are more files to dig through that promise a whole other level of meaning surrounding how and why – and more important, for whose benefit – decisions were arrived at during the decades that Robert Moses shaped the urban environment in New York State, from Niagara to Massena to the Bronx and Staten Island.

Publishers will tell you, of course, that committing to a book the size of The Power Broker (Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, anyone?) is a fool’s errand.

Well, this fool want’s more of it. With material this rich, the mining should go on, and with it, hopefully a restoration of what it means to be a journalist. How noble the calling can be.

Next: Running for Your Life: Urban Forestry is Not An Oxymoron