Lee Wochner: Writer. Director. Writing instructor. Thinker about things.


Books of this week

This post, where I said that I read one to two books a week, was greeted with much curiosity by people I’ve run into around town. To paraphrase Dorothy Parker, the questions ran the gamut from A to B: “How do you do that?” and “Oh yeah? What were they?” The first is easy to answer: by doing that. The second is the reason behind this post.

I just finished The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. Five years ago, my brother Ray, who hadn’t read a novel in perhaps 20 years, marveled over it and warned me that it would make me cry (as it did him). He was right. It made me cry twice. That’s tough to do. (I’m very much of the school “Get over it.”) It had another result as well: Now I hate the Taliban more than ever. That’s the power of fiction.

A side note on this book. In that same post, I noted the conversation with businessmen who read No books. Nothing. None at all. Yesterday I had a meeting with three guys in pharmaceuticals, two of them owners of the company. They’re obviously smart men. I said to them what I say to a number of people I write corporate copy for: “I still read great Russian novels, but nobody else does.” This is shorthand for: The text has to be brief. But this time, still under the spell of “The Kite Runner,” I added, “Right now, I’m reading a novel by an Afghani.” Guy #1 says, “What is it?” I tell him. He says, “I read that.” Guy #2 chimes in: “I read that too.” Then we talk about the book, three men in their 40’s or 50’s who’ve been deeply moved by the same novel. (What are the odds?) And my brother being the fourth. One of the guys volunteers, re the author’s latest, “His new one’s even better.” On the way out, the one partner started to talk art with me — visual art. It turns out that all the paintings in the office are by him. And they’re really good. What did he want to discuss? German Expressionism. It was tempting to hang out just to talk about that further. (I almost brought up “The Testament of Dr. Mabuse,” my obsession for which continues (as I discussed here and here and here.))

I also read How The World Works by my friend Doug Hackney. This also made me cry, but for a different reason: I wish I knew then what Doug knows now. Doug was in business intelligence business before people knew what business intelligence was. If this book is any indication, beauty may be skin deep, but smarts go all the way through.

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