Katrina’s 20th-Century Rivals

I’m surprised that John Barry’s Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America is all the way back at nearly #8,000 on Amazon’s rankings but pleased to note the synchronicity of the first two “Capitalized Phrases” the online retailer’s search engine found in the book being “New Orleans” and “Red Cross.”

And, wanting a little break from the slow crawl of actual information amidst all the “look at us in the rain” antics from CNN and MSNBC the other morning, I turned to Sudden Sea: The Great Hurricane of 1938, which tore up most of the Northeast, especially Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Harry Shearer’s been doing an okay job blogging about the aftermath of Katrina for the Huffington Post, but I’m thinking of what I suppose is an idealized dream scenario wherein an alternative media outlet with the kind of funding I imagine HuffPo to have could find somebody with specific expertise to dig into this story on short notice–and no, Salon’s excerpt of a 15-year-old John McPhee book doesn’t count. Not that you’ll ever hear a bad word about McPhee from this corner…

31 August 2005 | uncategorized |

Self-Described Media Obscurity Gets Still More Ink

Despite my fervent hopes we might have heard the last of Paulo Coelho, but no such luck: NYT reporter Alan Riding is the latest witness to Coelho’s constant moaning: “I am not in the United States what I am in France or Spain or Germany…I have never broken the barrier of the press. In the United States, I am a great success, but I am not a celebrity.” Riding’s headline suggests that Coelho’s “writing in a global language,” to which one might well respond: yeah, that of the lowest common denominator.

As was the case with Eleven Minutes last year, I did actually open a copy of The Zahir and try to read it, but this is pretty godawful stuff, folks. I mean, I’d sooner finish John Twelve Hawks’ The Traveler than read even one more chapter of Coelho…and I’d seriously consider picking up Lauren Slater’s short story collection again, too.

31 August 2005 | interviews |

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