Sunday, May 07, 2006

Early Week Musings

Neil MacFarquhar’s novel, The Sand Café, got a wonderful review from Christopher Dickey in the New York Times Book Review on Sunday.

“Set in Saudi Arabia after Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, MacFarquhar's depiction of the life and work, the pettiness, jealousies and corrosive frustration of the press corps is so accurate that it's hard to brand as satire. War is hell, to be sure, but when it's not, it's boring as hell: this is the sad, funny, ironic, infuriating truth about the kind of job we do, and the way we do it when the guns are mostly silent.

"News," Evelyn Waugh wrote in "Scoop," "is what a chap who doesn't care much about anything wants to read. And it's only news until he's read it. After that it's dead." MacFarquhar's book, albeit fiction, exhumes with great wit and disquieting accuracy those long-forgotten headlines and many of the true stories behind them. He recounts what Waugh would call the "heroic legends" of hackdom, "of the classic scoops and hoaxes; of the confessions wrung from hysterical suspects; of the innuendo and intricate misrepresentations, the luscious, detailed inventions that composed contemporary history." And few writers since Waugh have done it any better.”

Neil will be speaking Wednesday at 7 pm at A Great Good Place for Books on LaSalle Avenue in Oakland. He’ll also be talking at Cody’s in Berkeley on June 6. These are his first appearances in the Bay Area. He is now based in San Francisco and will be covering American Islam for the New York Times. I’ll be there on Wednesday and hope others will come for what will definitely be an interesting evening.

ANNE LAMOTT a contributing editor to West, has her first long piece in the Los Angeles Times’ revamped Sunday magazine. The examines her son Sam, who at 16 is a perfect angel at his friends’ houses, but is a bit slothful at home.

It’s very disturbing to see that a federal grand jury in San Francisco has subpoenaed Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada to make them reveal where they got grand jury testimony about steroids and professional baseball players.

The Bush administration has adopted this legal manuver to compel reporters to reveal the identities of anonymous informants. It’s a craven technique, one that borders on bullying. It also denies that the trading of information is vital to a democracy.

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