Weekly Download Vol. IV No. 29

Wakin on a Pretty Day by Kurt Vile

WD Book Club – Non-Fiction addition

Presidents Club1.  The President’s Club: Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy  I’m not finished with this book yet, but I know I love it.  I’m an admitted presidential history nut, dork, and am generally fascinated by the office of the presidency (N.B. Blame West Wing).  But this book scratches an itch I didn’t know I had.  The President’s Club isn’t long form history; it’s anecdotes about presidents’ interactions with former presidents and how they helped shape their presidencies. Given what I’ve learned about history, something about the peaceful transfer of power (N.B. all four times it’s occurred in my cognizant life) strikes me as uniquely American and cool. George Washington, maybe unintentionally, created the club by declining to stand (N.B. you didn’t run back then) for a third term.  However, the President’s Club (given life expectancy limitations) only really picked up speed since Democrat Harry Truman enlisted reviled and Republican Herbert Hoover to marshal the post-war potential catastrophe of feeding war ravaged western Europe.  Hoover was successful, both in the organization of the effort and cajoling his own party and was the principle reason history speaks of the Eastern-Bloc countries and not Soviet Europe.  This salvaged Hoover’s reputation and began to establish the rules of the Club (N.B. Former presidents don’t talk shit, always have a place to stay in D.C., and always answer the phone when the person currently in the Oval Office needs a hand).  I’m only to Eisenhower and LBJ (N.B. who leaned on the universally loved war hero a bit too much re: Vietnam), but the book is a fascinating look into something I knew existed, and didn’t realized how much I wanted to learn about (N.B. and don’t you know that Billy Jeff and W’s shit will be great.)  Recommended for fellow history dorks.

Gulp2.  Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach.  I loved this book.  Highest recommendation, but prepare to be grossed out.  Gulp is about being human, experiencing life at its most basic concepts.  Mary Roach addresses the entire consumption-digestive-elimination process with informative wit, sarcastic humor, and unapologetic curiosity (N.B. and brilliant footnotes!).  She hilariously addresses social/mental taboos regarding consumption (e.g. If we had a bowl of soup, delicious soup, in front of us, why would it gross us out to spit our own spittle into it, and then eat it? Because it grosses you out to think about it, doesn’t it?)(e.g. Organs are demonstrably the healthiest parts of cows we can eat.  Why do they weird us out?), what the human body is capable of (N.B. She interviews an inmate serving a life-sentence and adept at smuggling contraband past prison guards up his ass (N.B. a procedure known in the yard by the fantastically hilarious slang “hooping.”  The Babe Ruth of hooping in the prison she visits is – equally hilariously- referred to as O.D. for Office Depot.)), and the myriad ways we, laymen and “professionals, fail to understand how the human body works, and how this failure, born of disgust, actually prevents us from treating curable ailments (N.B. Gastric Colitis (a potentially debilitating disease) can be cured – with a 90%+ success rate – by transplanting bacteria from a healthy person’s feces up into the colon of afflicted patients.  Yet it’s inventors can’t even get a grant to study it.)  But in the end, Gulp is about the biological mysteries and wonders of being human and is driven by Roach’s whimsical curiosity to know and maybe to understand, and it’s a gift. I’m going to read the rest of her books, and I hope she writes 30 more on everything I’m curious about, but don’t yet know that I am.  Gulp is that good.  Read it.


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