1. Daydreams and Nightmares: Reflections on a Harlem Childhood – Irving Louis Horowitz. Horowitz reminisces in this slim 1990 memoir about growing up in a Jewish family in Harlem during the 1930s and 40s. The introduction is what grabbed me. Horowitz wrote that he tried to keep Mencken and Orwell in mind as models when he wrote this book. How could I resist such a bold statement of right intention?
2. Make-Believe: The Story of Nancy & Ronald Reagan – Laurence Leamer. Published in 1983 during Reagan’s first term, this book set my teeth on edge as soon as I started reading. Written in that gossipy and breathless tell-all style, the book incessantly refers to Reagan as “Ronnie” and his first wife, Jane Wyman as “Janie”. He goes the other way with Frank Sinatra, archly referring to him as “Francis Albert” whenever he makes an appearance. Reagan comes off pretty well, but Leamer doesn’t seem to have much to say about Nancy except detailed descriptions of what she wore and when. Sometimes he tries to be cool and play with similes, but they’re cheesy, lame and often misplaced. Occasionally Leamer settles down and writes fine, straight prose, as when detailing Reagan’s brush with death during the 1981 assassination attempt by John Hinckley, Jr. but most of the time he seeks refuge in trashy and repetitive writing. This was almost a DNF, but I powered on through, making this my first finished book for October. I must be homesick or something.
3. The Dustbin of History – Greil Marcus. In this 1995 work, Marcus, best known as a music critic, explores and discusses cultural events in music, literature and cinema.
4. The American Earthquake: A Chronicle Of The Roaring Twenties, The Great Depression And The Dawn Of The New Deal – Edmund Wilson. This book is a compilation of columns Wilson wrote during these tumultuous years with a 1957 postscript. It’s the heavyweight of the bunch, coming in at 576 pages.