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Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Jan 17, 2018

A winter reading rundown

By Curt Swarm | Dec 14, 2016

Here’s three books that should cure the winter doldrums if you have’m. If you don’t, get’m. These books are worth the effort. The first book I recommend is “Alexander Hamilton” by Ron Chernow. I’ll award it an Empty Nest nine out of a possible ten. The second book is “The Devil in the White City” by Erik Larson. I’ll give it an eight. And the third is “Moonglow” by Michael Chabon. I’m back up to a nine for “Moonglow.” The first two books are historical, the third is fiction, like two slices of rhubarb pie, followed by strawberry: they’re both good, and even better if you mix’m!

Are you frustrated about not being able to see the musical “Hamilton” that everyone is gaggling about, like farm geese when a stranger pulls into the barnyard? Well, read the book. I guarantee you it’ll last longer, cost less, and give you more satisfaction than any one-night stand, New York musical.

Do you think our recent presidential election was the raunchiest political campaign ever? Well you need to get a load to the politics of our founding fathers. When they got hacked off at each other, which was most of the time, they could actually kill their opponent, and did occasionally, as dueling was legal. Do you think our founding fathers were a group of sweet old patriarchs who were visionary entrepreneurs, with George Washington the beloved grandfather figure? Think again. The camp of Madison and Jefferson, pitted against Adams and Hamilton, with Washington the frustrated referee, would put mud wrestling to shame.

Hamilton, our first Secretary of the Treasury, was a self-made man. Against incredible opposition, back stabbing and slander, he was solely responsible for creating our national bank, treasury, and coast guard. Get this: one of his beliefs was that a national debt was crucial to a healthy economy. And morals? The womanizing of our founding fathers makes today’s trysts look like sandbox play. Great reading.

The World’s Colombian Exposition of 1893 had nothing to do with Colombia, as one might think, and as I thought. It was held in celebration of Christopher Columbus arriving in the New World 400 years earlier, and was also known as the Colombian Expo. New York City was incredibly jealous of Chicago being selected as the site of the World’s Fair, calling it a Midwest slaughter house and other derogatory names. In fact, it was at this time that Chicago became known as the Windy City, not because of strong air currents, but because Chicago residents were said to be full of hot air. Wanting to outdo the previous World’s Fair in Paris that built the Eiffel Tower, Chicago’s closest approximation may have been the world’s first Ferris wheel. It is against this backdrop that Chicago also outdid the world in producing one of the most notorious mass murderers, surpassing, by far, Jack the Ripper. Henry Holmes, AKA Herman Mudgett, took advantage of the World’s Fair to lure young women and others to Chicago to meet their death—maybe as many as 30. “The Devil in the White City” will keep you nice and warm on a cold winter’s day.

Get tired of facts, like I do? Well, intersperse your reading with some quality fiction. (I jumped around while reading.) Writing is art with words. “Moonglow” by Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon might best be described as modern art, only with words. His stories don’t reach any traditional conclusion, but his prose sure is pretty, which is art at its finest. Speaking from the Jewish experience, tradition, and vernacular, this book sucked me in so deep and hard I couldn’t put it down. It’s been the only book I’ve been able to read while a passenger in a car—you know those long holiday road trips? That might be the highest compliment I can give.

If these three books don’t keep your toes warm and brain functioning this winter, you might take up knitting.

 

Have a good story? Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, email him at curtswarm@yahoo.com, or find him on Facebook. Swarm’s stories are also read at 106.3 FM, in Farmington.

 

 

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