A Nice Little Place on the North Side -- Wrigley Field at One Hundred by George F. Will, Crown Archetype '14, $25, 223 pages, ASIN #0385349319. Index, bibliography, b&w images sprinkled through text.
You don't have to be a fan of the hapless Chicago Cubs and their home at Wrigley Field, to raise a toast to its centennial, which happens this week. Author George Will, who is as learned about America's Pastime as he is about public affairs, has used the occasion to revisit the old head-scratcher of why the Cubbies haven't managed to scratch out a World Series championship in all that time.
Part of the club's mystery is that its woeful win/loss record doesn't seem to affect its attendance, a circumstance that some owe to the philosophy of early Cubs' owner, Philip K. Wrigley, who explained in 1932 that other reasons than good baseball exist for going to a ballpark: "The fun....the sunshine, the relaxation. Our idea is to get the public to go see a ball game, win or lose."
Wrigley wasn't exactly alone in feeling that way. The lyrics of "Take Me Out To The Ballgame," the national anthem of baseball, are instructive: "Take Me Out To The Ballgame, Take Me Out With The Crowd, Buy Me Some Peanuts and Cracker Jack, I Don't Care if I Never Get Back. Let Me Root, Root, Root for the Home Team......(you'll note there's not one word about winning up through now, but here comes the afterthought)....If They Don't Win It's a Shame. For It's One, Two, Three Strikes You're Out at the Old Ball Game."
George Will is nothing if not studies and statistics, so he has immersed himself in data about whether attendance at Cubs' games decreases if the team is having a losing streak or year, and he finds it doesn't. But his most useful stat is that attendance at big league games in general varies inversely with the price of beer they serve. He concludes by quoting two statisticians of the game, that "Cub fans will tolerate bad baseball and high ticket prices but draw the line at bad baseball and expensive beer."
Author George Will has written 13 books, is a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary, and writes a syndicated column which appears in more than 500 newspapers and online news sources.
American Crucifixion -- The Murder of Joseph Smith and the Fate of the Mormon CHurch by Alex Beam, PublicAffairs '14, $26.99, 334 pages, ASIN #1610393139. Index, bibliography, notes, glossary, chronology, b&w images sprinkled through text.
"Joseph Smith thought he was giving America two great gifts," writes author Alex Beam in his Introduction. "First, he created a new Bible, the Book of Mormon, which recounted Jesus's appearance on the North American continent. The Old Testament, the New Testament, and the New World merged into one seamless, divine narrative handed down by Joseph.
"Second, he brought news of the Second Coming and a restoration of God's rule on earth. Joseph preached that a theocratic Kingdom of God would appear on American soil, possibly within his own lifetime. He had already chosen the men to administer the new, universal government."
But fast-forward many years. "On June 27, 2844," the book's jacket copy reads, "a mob stormed the jail in the dusty frontier town of Carthage, IL. Clamorous and angry, they were hunting down a man they saw as a grave threat to their otherwise quiet lives: the founding prophet of Mormonism, Joseph Smith. They wanted blood." In between is "a gripping story of scandal and violence, with deep roots in our national identity."
Alex Beam, a columnist for the Boston Globe andInternational Herald Tribune, has written two nonfiction works. He lives with his family in Newton, MA.
Five Came Back -- A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War by Mark Harris, Penguin Press '14, $29.95, 511 pages, ASIN #1594204306. Index, bibliography, notes, two groupings of b&w glossy images.
From the dust jacket:
"In Pictures at a Revolution, Mark Harris turned the story of the five movies nominated for Best Picture in 1967 into a landmark work of cultural history, about the transformation of an art form and the larger social shift it signified. In Five Came Back, he gives us something even more remarkable: the untold story of how Hollywood changed World War II, and how World War II changed Hollywood, through the director's lens.....
"When war came, the propaganda effort to win the hearts and minds of American soldiers and civilians was absolutely vital. Nothing else had the power of film to educate and inspire. But the government was not remotely equipped to harness it -- so FDR and the military had little choice but to turn to Hollywood for help.....
"The effort was dominated by five directing legends: John Ford, William Wyler, John Huston, Frank Capra, and George Stevens. They were complicated, competitive men, gifted and flawed in equal measure, and they didn't always get along, with each other or with their military supervisors. But between them they were on the scene of almost every major moment of America's war and in every branch of service...."
Author Mark Harris wrote Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood, which was named one of the 10 best nonfiction books of the decade by Salon. A graduate of Yale University, Harris lives in New York City with his husband Tony Kushner."