The Unifying Turkey

Jokes are made about the difficult family interactions on Thanksgiving. The stock character is the uncle with politically incorrect views. I am sure that many versions of this person exist, but I have also known many people with crazy leftist conspiratorial views. Don’t uncles with such baseless opinions also go to Thanksgiving dinners? 

However, even though there may be arguments over the table, Thanksgiving is truly one of our most unifying days. Not everyone likes it, but almost every American, no matter their politics, their religion, their ethnic origins, or their age, eats, or in some way deals, with turkey on the fourth Thursday in November. Over 45 million turkeys are consumed then, which must mean that the majority of the country has the bird. Some French cook said something about you are what you eat. You are an American when you eat turkey on Thanksgiving.

Of course, not everyone does. It may surprise you, but sometimes vegans or vegetarians are regarded as Americans, and they still celebrate the holiday. Asked what they eat, they might reply, “Instead of turkey, I am making a mushroom Wellington.” Small families might find that a turkey is too large and say that instead of turkey they will have a roast duck or a roast chicken. I have known some people who say that they can’t abide turkey and say that they will have salmon or roast pork instead of turkey. (The two examples that come readily to mind, however, were a Mexican American who planned to return to his birthplace after saving some money and a single man born in Germany.) The point is that even the minority who don’t eat turkey say what they will eat instead of turkey. Just as others deal with turkey by considering wet brining, dry brining, no brining, frozen, heritage, low heat, high heat, dark meat, white meat, wings, and drumsticks, the minority who do not eat it, deal with turkey on Thanksgiving. Can you give any other explanation for a tofu turkey?

We should give thanks for the unifying turkey, just as we should give thanks for anything that helps unify America. After all, Thanksgiving should not only be a day of feasting but also a time for giving thanks. After the onslaught of Covid, we give thanks for what the Puritans gave thanks for: that they (with the help of the original Americans) survived. In addition, I am going to give thanks that America has mostly, or at least partially, survived the Puritans.

I expect to be recovering on Friday and will take time off. The blog will be back next Monday.

Snippets

Many modern editions of classic novels have an introduction before the text written by a critic or scholar. I don’t read these introductions until completing the book. I recently read Beware of Pity by Stefan Zweig in a New York Review of Books edition. It had a thirteen-page introduction by Joan Acocella. Half her introduction gave me biographical information about Zweig and useful context for the novel. All of that might have been helpful before reading Beware the Pity, but the other half of the introduction summarized the novel with quotations of key paragraphs from the book. If I had read this introduction before reading the novel, I would have known much of what I was later to read, which would have undermined the power of Zweig’s creation. I don’t understand these prefatory essays It’s why I only read them after I finish the book.

Does sleeping under a weighted blanket make you taller in the morning?

Is there a difference between a “price point” and a “price”?

The stakes are high in the Georgia Senatorial runoff election. Many in the House and Senate from Lauren Boebert to Tommy Tuberville are desperate for Herschel Walker to win. If he does, then they can finally be confident that they are not the most ignorant politicians in Congress.

A wise person said: “Remain silent and others suspect that you are ignorant; talk and you remove all doubt of it.”

Elizabeth Holmes was just sentenced. As a young woman, she claimed to have developed a revolutionary medical test where one drop of blood would be enough for a wide range of diagnostics. Using family connections, an imitation of Steve Jobs, and a wonderful publicity machine, she was able to get many famous and important people to be on the board of and investors in her company Theranos. She became a rich person and a feminist icon until it became clear that she and her company were frauds. She then dropped the strong woman persona and adopted the little girl one. She was not responsible for the blatant lies and cheating, she said, since she was suffering from the emotional and sexual abuse from her decade-long partner who also was a head of Theranos. Even so, a jury convicted her. What most struck me about her sentencing last week was that she quoted Rumi. It may (perhaps) not always be gag worthy to quote the mystic thirteenth century Sufi poet, scholar, and mystic, but it should be natural for the sentencing judge to add a few months onto the planned sentence for such a performance.

Against my better judgment, I watched a few minutes of a Green Bay Packer game, and I wondered if there are studies confirming that a vaccinated quarterback is more capable of throwing a ball to a receiver than an unvaccinated one.

A student of human nature said: “It seems perfectly natural to attribute our failures to luck, our success to good judgment.”

First Sentences

“There was a time when the world’s largest airport sat in the middle of western Pacific, around 1,500 miles from the coast of Japan, on one of a cluster of small tropical islands known as the Marianas.” Malcolm Gladwell, The Bomber Mafia.

“In those days, I was the one who came down from Nazareth to be baptized by John in the River Jordan.” Norman Mailer, The Gospel According to the Son.

“In the U.S. elections of 1834, the balance of power in Congress was up for grabs, and the tide was turning against President Andrew Jackson.” Mark Clague, O Say Can You Hear? A Cultural Biography of The Star-Spangled Banner.

“Have you ever seen a town fall?” Fredrik Backman, Us Against You.

“To understand a civilization, consider its heroes.” David Gelles, The Man Who Broke Capitalism: How Jack Welch Gutted the Heartland and Crushed the Soul of Corporate America—and How to Undo His Legacy.

“Otto Burke, the Wizard of Schmoose, raised his game another level.” Harlan Coben, Deal Breaker.

“Of the many times John C.Frémont visited St. Louis, the most auspicious came in 1845.” Steve Inskeep, Imperfect Union: How Jessie and John Frémont Mapped the West, Invented Celebrity, and Helped Cause the Civil War.

“Money, Mississippi, looks exactly like it sounds.” Percival Everett, The Trees.

“Throughout the spring morning of April 14, 1876, a huge crowd, largely African American began to assemble in the vicinity of Seventh and K Streets in Washington, D.C.” David W. Blight, Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom.

“Mike always teased me about my memory, about how I could go back years and years to what people were wearing on a given occasion, right down to their jewelry or shoes.” Ann Packer, The Dive From Clausen’s Pier.

“In the winter of 1921, Knud Rasmussen invited about one hundred of Copenhagen’s eminent citizens—politicians, artists, journalists and business leaders—to join him at the city’s prestigious Palace hotel for a special dinner.” Stephen R. Brown, White Eskimo: Knud Rasmussen’s Fearless Journey into the Heart of Arctic.

“Like a beast, the net came steaming up the ramp and into the sodium lamps of the trawl deck.” Martin Cruz Smith, Polar Star.

“The first thing I need to do is convince you something has changed.” Ezra Klein, Why We’re Polarized.

“That winter was the warmest in a hundred years.” Robert Stone, Outerbridge Reach.

“Legend tells us that the gerrymander originated in early nineteenth-century Massachusetts.” Nick Seabrook, One Person, One Vote: A Surprising History of Gerrymandering in America.

Lessons in Life and Calculus

(Guest Post from the Spouse)

I was always good at math…well, in high school. As you know from my previous guest blogs (ajsdad.blog, June 17, 2020, and March 5, 2021), I like puzzles of all kinds, and math is a particularly elegant aspect of the genre. Puzzles are intellectually satisfying because when you have the right answer, when you fit the right piece, when the down word fits comfortably with the across word, you KNOW it’s correct. There’s a shot of dopamine that gives you a small moment of satisfaction. In high school I was particularly fond of and adept at trigonometry.

So imagine my chagrin when I got to college and Calculus overwhelmed me. I must have passed it, but I don’t see how I did. As an adult, I might have been able to muddle through a quadratic equation, but couldn’t find a derivative if my life depended on it.

Things got even worse as my career in neuroscience proceeded. I became aware of “computational neuroscience” sometime in the early aughts of the 21st century. One of my colleagues was a founder of the field. I was pleased to congratulate him on his many well-received publications, but could not understand a single concept that was in them. At one point I said to him, “Maybe I should take a first-year course in Calculus.” “Why?” he countered. “It’s so easy.” (!!!).

Twice. Twice! I ordered Calculus courses from The Teaching Company. To get an idea of the eras of these efforts, one course is on VCR tapes, the other on CDs. I would start a lecture, realize I didn’t know what a radian was and abandon the effort.

Time passed. Retirement came. And I looked around for things to make myself useful. I can read, so I thought maybe I could teach young people to read. That’s an essay for another day. But I also decided that I could probably manage to tutor 6th or 7th graders in math, so I connected with a volunteer tutor group and found myself tutoring a young man in beginning algebra.

Having never TAUGHT math, I sought advice on what to teach and what order to teach it in. That’s how I discovered Khan Academy. This wonderful — free! — online service, founded by Salman Khan, is a treasure trove of 6500 teaching videos in math, science, reading, statistics, economics, history and I don’t know what all. It’s an extraordinary resource for teachers and students alike. Sal seems to have prepared the bulk of the math videos, and he is indeed a gifted teacher. Each video is no more than 10-12 minutes long — usually shorter — and covers a single concept. After 3-4 videos, there is a short quiz to check a student’s progress.  At the end of each unit there’s a slightly longer test to check progress. If one answers all questions correctly, confetti is thrown and trumpets sound. But even if the performance is less than perfect, there are encouraging words (“You’ve made progress” or “Keep practicing”). You can take the quizzes as many times as you need to (they change with each attempt).

So, I thought, I’ll have Sal teach me Calculus.

I started with Pre-calculus, a review of algebra and trigonometry concepts. Sal actually taught me what a radian was so that was exceedingly helpful. After 3-4 months of prep, I felt I was ready for THE CALCULUS. I’m 2-3 months in now and can actually perform derivatives on all types of mathematical situations, she says proudly. Would I say “Easy”? Not so much, but certainly not insurmountable. I have started reviewing the CDs from The Teaching Company. I can understand them now!

Any number of people ask me why in heaven’s name am I taking Calculus? Good question.  A) It’s a great puzzle, but B) I want ultimately to learn what Calculus is good for besides determining velocity and acceleration. So I’m eager to move into the “applications” part of the course which is coming up soon. And, of course, I haven’t even begun to study integral calculus. I haven’t the first clue of what that’s good for. I’ll let you know next semester. Stay tuned.

Snippets

It was only after the midterms that I learned the Urban Dictionary definition of “Red Wave”: “When a close group of girls sync their periods, which can be quite dangerous for everyone else.”

Another year where I was passed over for the title of sexiest man alive. And again I wondered how sexy someone is if they are dead.

Why is it I have never called any of my doctors by a first name?

You can praise a child after a completed task by saying, as many do, “You are so smart.” But then the child may see intelligence as fixed and feel stupid when they cannot do something. You can also praise the child by saying “You did a good job figuring that out.” Isn’t the message then that knowledge and intelligence are expandable with hard work?

“Don’t limit a child to your learning, for he was born in another time.” Rabbinic saying.

“I pay the schoolmaster, but ‘tis the schoolboys who educate my son.” Ralph Waldo Emerson.

On a recent walk, I passed within a few blocks of each other The Den of Splendor and The Gospel Den. I wondered if there was a correct order to visit these places.

When I first came to New York, before bagel shops or at least places selling Bagel Shaped Objects were ubiquitous, the owner of my local deli was offended if a customer asked for a toasted bagel. A bagel was only toasted if it was stale, but in a good shop, of course, no stale bagel was sold. Instead, they were warm from the water bath and oven so that butter or cream cheese would melt into the chewy interior without toasting. Since then, I never have a toasted bagel in a shop, but the other day, I bought a bagel at a place where I had not been before. I should have had it toasted.

Invariably after I watch what I was looking for on YouTube, I spend too much time on the accompanying recommendations. The other day I went looking for Josephine Baker dancing and ended up with the top thirty songs of 1965. But I was happy that I had. I knew the music, almost all of which was great, and I felt that my life had not been entirely wasted.

In a football game, sometimes after a penalty flag has been thrown and the play concludes, the referee announces, as happened the other day, “There was no penalty on the play for offensive holding.” That phrasing seems to imply that there might, however, been an infraction for offensive pass interference or some of the other myriad football possibilities. I think the official should click off the microphone and say, “There was no penalty on the play.” Full stop.

In a glance in the mirror, which are always kept brief, I thought I saw incipient jowls. On the one hand, I thought, jowls add gravitas to some men. On the other, they make Basset hounds look ridiculous.

Sweet Dreams Aren’t Made of This

          I don’t ever remember being a sound sleeper, the kind who falls asleep (funny expression, falling asleep; It sounds sort of dangerous) and then wakes up eight hours later refreshed. Instead, from childhood to today, I wake up multiple times during the night with the hope each time that I will quickly return to slumberland, a wish that is not always fulfilled.

          I have read that in times past cultures had what was called a first and second sleep. After waking up after several hours sleep, a person would get up and do some non-strenuous activity—read, catch up on correspondence, knit a shawl, sharpen quills—and then go back to bed. This sounds appealing, and I have told myself many times I should try that, but I never have. I did not have projects to occupy me for an hour or so before the second sleep. I would probably have found it hard to resist going to an electronic device, and I have read many times that one should not do that before going to bed. (Although I have seen that admonition, I have never seen the data on it. Do the studies exist?) Instead, when I wake up that first time or any other time, I go to the bathroom, get back under the covers, and, on a good night, fall back to sleep quickly.

          Sometimes, however, sleep does not come easily again. Then my mind seems to go into overdrive, and that has been occasionally useful. Let’s say that I had been working on some mental activity–trying to write an article for the blog, for example– but had reached an impasse. As I lie sleepless in bed, a thought might pop up that breaks the logjam. Sleeplessness well spent, it then turns out.

          However, it is more often the case that I cannot fall asleep easily again because my mind seems caught in an endless loop about something I can do nothing about that has pissed me off. And because my mind won’t let go of the slight or absurdity, I then get angry at myself for allowing myself to work myself into such a state. And when the same thing merry-go-rounds in the middle of the night several times in the same week, I really get upset with myself and that makes it even harder to sleep. I would love suggestions on how to stop this behavior. “Just get over it,” doesn’t seem to do the trick.

          Sometimes I senselessly stay awake not from a past event but a future one over which I have little to no control. This has been the situation over the past fortnight. During a sleepless night, I often try to fall asleep again by listening to the radio set on a timer to a news station. But almost all the news recently was about the upcoming election and just the briefest mention of the midterms would set my mind racing with my concerns about the country’s future. And even if I did not listen to public radio programs as I tried to end the day, news that I had consumed earlier in the day would pop into my consciousness and set my mind racing. Even though I have been a news junkie for as long as I can remember, for the past few weeks I have tried to avoid the news, and that did help my sleep. On the other hand, I wondered how bizarre I had become. How many other people lie awake at 3 am tossing and turning and thinking about midterms when their only influence over them is their one vote?

          However, sometimes my mind races at night about a future event, and I am sure that others face the same problem in similar situations. I have had about two dozen medical “procedures” and even more tests leading up to them, and often my nervousness concerning the next day, keep me awake. For example, I needed a new heart valve, and I was part of a clinical trial, which meant that I had to undergo more than a few examinations and tests before the “procedure.” I wanted it over with, and I did not sleep well on the night before my last test. I had discomfort in my lower abdomen with an occasional sharp pain. As I lay–awake–in bed, I convinced myself that I had a kidney stone. My mind raced. I didn’t need to go to the emergency room, did I? Maybe the stone would pass naturally with a modicum of pain and blood. Did I know of a doctor to go to? Did the spouse? Could I postpone my stress test? Would this postpone my valve replacement? Surely, I had to deal with the kidney stone first. Finally, I fell asleep but fifty minutes later I was awake again with a racing mind. What should I do about the kidney stone? How do I cancel my heart appointment? Finally, back to sleep again but awake an hour later. So it went all night long until I finally got up to go to the hospital for the test, and the worries about the kidney stone dissipated. I came to the convincing, and loud, conclusion that it was only gas.

Snippets

Friends from Pennsylvania said that they do not like John Fetterman, the Lieutenant Governor who is running for the U.S. Senate. When I asked why, they only said that they just don’t like him. None of his positions was mentioned. When asked if they were going to vote for his opponent, Mehmet Oz, they were adamant that they would not. They abhor his political stances and said that he was a charlatan. I concluded (without solid evidence) that my friends’ visceral reaction against Fetterman had something to do with the way he looks. He does not appear to be the kind of refined person that they have worked and socialized with. Tattoo-covered, he is generally seen in a sweatshirt and shorts, neither of which could be described as designer wear. Supposedly, he owns but one suit, which he wears when he presides over the Pennsylvania Senate to satisfy its dress code. I thought my friends intolerant, thinking a bit about Martin Luther King, Jr., since they were judging a person not by his political positions and beliefs but by his appearance. I also, however, acknowledged to myself, that I was less likely to vote for someone if I knew that they wore Brooks Brothers suits. This isn’t because (or not just because) Brooks Brothers got started by ripping off the government and the soldiers during a war. (Is it an exaggeration to say that behind corporate success is a corporate crime?) Instead, it is because when I started in my professional career, Brooks Brothers suits, drab, boxy, and generally unstylish, were the hallmark of corporate conformity. They made young men all look alike. The clothes signified that the wearer was interested more at fitting into a corporate world and advancing in it than anything else. That feeling from years ago still lingers. Ok, you might think that this, too, is a prejudice based on appearances. I can only answer that some prejudices have a firm grounding.

Ted Cruz was born in Canada. A decade ago he was a Canadian citizen.

“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.” Abraham Lincoln

Does this scare you, too: 10% of U.S. children are Texans?

I had not noticed the Manhattan establishment before. It was named something like Chubby, and the window told me that I could get “Injectables and Cosmetics” there. I immediately thought of my clients from yore who went to jail for selling injectables, but I quickly realized that the store sold legal substances that would tighten my skin in some places and plump it up in others. I wondered, Why weren’t people afraid to inject such stuff into their bodies for such purposes? And I then thought that too many people have too much money. I looked through the window. Behind a counter where a couple of people stood was a board that apparently had a menu (without prices) of services. It offered “East Coast Lips” and right below it “West Coast Lips.” I was, and remain, mystified by the difference. And I wondered if Midwesterners don’t have lips. Once again, elite Easterners treating flyover country as if did not exist.

“It is only rarely that one can see in a little boy the promise of a man, but one can almost always see in a little girl the threat of a woman.” Alexandre Dumas fils.

First Sentences

“I sometimes think of the Supreme Court oral arguments in Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt on March 2, 2016, as the last truly great day for women and the legal system in America.” Dahlia Lithwick, Lady Justice: Women, the Law, and the Battle to Save America.

“I hear the crack of his skull before the spattering of blood reaches me.” Colleen Hoover, Verity.

“No one knows where America’s Northern Border begins.” Porter Fox, Northland: A 4,000 Mile Journey Along America’s Forgotten Border.

“The coastal steamer attends faithfully to its course, slipping down the middle of the fjord between the mountains, taking its bearings from the stars and peaks and arriving on schedule at Óseyri in Axlarfjörður, its horn blasting through the blowing snow. In the first-class smokers’ lounge, two smartly dressed travelers from Reykjavík are discussing the village’s faint gleams of light.” Halldór Laxness, Salka Valka.


“In this soundless film, it is winter in Arkansas.” Sridhar Pappu, The Year of the Pitcher: Bob Gibson, Denny McLain, and the End of Baseball’s Golden Age.

“Mrs Palfrey first came to the Claremont Hotel on a Sunday afternoon in January.” Elizabeth Taylor, Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont.

“In the weeks following the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, a group of Chinese executives traveled to Los Angeles for a crash course in influence.” Erich Schwartzell, Red Carpet: Hollywood, China, and the Global Battle for Cultural Supremacy.

“When Cal comes out of the house, the rooks have got hold of something.” Tana French, The Searcher.

“As a little boy, lying in his bed, my father would hear the planes overhead.” Malcolm Gladwell, The Bomber Mafia.

“It was an unmarked car, just some nondescript American sedan a few years old, but the blackwall tires and the three men inside gave it away for what it was.” Stephen King, The Outsider.

“The results of Wisconsin’s 2018 election had to be seen to be believed.” Nick Seabrook, One Person, One Vote: A Surprising History of Gerrymandering in America.

“Brown Dog drifted away thinking of the village in the forest where the red-haired girl lived.” Jim Harrison, Brown Dog Redux.

“The sun that rose for the rest of the world that morning was not the one that rose for Lanah Sawyer.” John Wood Sweet, The Sewing Girl’s Tale: A Story of Crime and Consequences in Revolutionary America.

She Introduced Me to Tom Reiss

I told the literary agent how much I had enjoyed a recent book by one of the authors she represents. I should have added that at least four of my friends had also raved about The Bomber Mafia. This was not just cocktail chatter sucking up to an attractive woman. In the past I have also told her that I did not particularly like one of her author’s books. In that case, though, I had to concede that the rest of my history book group (reading yet another book about Lincoln) liked it very much.

The agent and I both have “cottages” in the same summer community. I first became aware of her a decade ago when she was instrumental in bringing Tom Reiss to the community to talk about his then-recent book, The Black Count: Glory, Revolution and the Real Count of Monte Cristo. I have told the agent that I admire that biography of Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, who was the son of a French nobleman and a Haitian slave and who was the father of Alexandre Dumas, author of the Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers. Reiss not only presented a fascinating portrait of this biracial man who became a French general during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic era, he taught me a lot about the French and Haitian racial relationships. The Pulitzer Prize the book garnered was deserved.

After Reiss talked, I went to have my copy signed and mentioned something that was in the acknowledgements—I think it was a comment about his mother. He seemed genuinely surprised that anyone had read that section of the book. I felt a bit embarrassed to say that I was OCD enough to always at least skim the acknowledgements to see if I recognized any names. The author wrote a nice inscription, which included a comment about my thorough reading, and signed with a legible signature.

Sadly, I no longer have the book. A young woman who was pulling beers at my local Brooklyn biergarten was named Dumas, with the “s” pronounced. I gave her the book telling her she could learn about her ancestors. On the other hand, I was quite confident that the family of this Ivy League graduate from upper crust Charleston society was unlikely to have a biracial identity. Shortly afterwards, my barkeep Dumas moved on, and I never saw her or the book again. But I digress.

At this recent cocktail party, I asked the agent if she had book recommendations. She said that I might like an earlier book by Tom Reiss, The Orientalist: Solving the Mystery of a Strange and Dangerous Life. I had never heard of this biography but set out to read it. Instead of having my local bookstore get it for me, I borrowed it as an e-book from the New York Public Library. (I felt a little guilty about that. I don’t know how these things work, but I assume there are no royalties for the author or his agent when I download a book from the library.)

The Orientalist is a biography of Lev Nussimbaum, but in the book Reiss also recounts his own search to discover the facts of his subject’s life. During his research, Reiss encountered a coterie of colorful characters, often of suspect veracity. Even after Reiss’s extensive research (its copiousness astounded me), much about Nussimbaum remains murky or disputed. However, it does seem clear that Lev was born in 1905 to a Jewish family and was raised in Baku, Azerbaijan, by an oil-rich father after his mother committed suicide when Lev was five. Father and son fled Baku permanently when the Soviet Union annexed Azerbaijan in 1920.

Nussimbaum, who died in Italy at age 36 during WWII, claims to have converted to Islam (the where, when, and even the if of that is disputed). Nevertheless, he is known to have adopted the persona of a Muslim prince and wrote a truly amazing number of books and articles about a wide range of topics under the name of Essad Bey. Many of the books were best sellers. (The accuracy of much of what he wrote is now disputed.) These books are mostly forgotten, but Nussimbaum still fascinates because, according to Reiss, he wrote (under the pseudonym Kurban Said) what is considered a classic of world literature, the novel Ali and Nino. The authorship of the novel is disputed in some circles, but I thought Reiss was convincing in concluding that Kurban Said was Essad Bey who was Lev Nussimbaum.

I learned much from Reiss’s book. I had known little about the world in and around Baku in the aftermath of World War I.  

The Orientalist also reminded me why I have not become the book writer I thought I wanted to be. I am the author or co-author of several books about the law.  A commonality in those books was that I was asked to do them—by a university press, by a co-author, or by an organization. There were other books that I thought I could write if only someone had asked me to write them. Alas, that is not how book publishing works. I did not care enough about any of the topics to drive me to do the months or years of work to put a book proposal together in hopes that a publisher would find it of interest. Such a proposal requires extensive research and a precis of the completed work. The agent told me that a good part of her job was helping the author to shape such a  proposal, which may be forty pages long. The agent also told me that a writer has to be obsessed to do this, and it was clear that Tom Reiss had been obsessed about finding every possible nugget of information about Lev Nussimbaum. I have never had a comparable obsession, and thus, while I have written many law review articles that I knew I could get published, the book portion of the CV is scanty. (However, one of my books still appears to be in print. You could buy it and swell my royalties, which sometimes break the three-figure level in a year.)

Reiss’s book, however, also gave me the pleasure of discovering Ali and Nino, which I again got as a New York Public Library e-book, this time without any guilt since I knew no one involved with it. It is a love story of a Moslem man of Persian ancestry and a Georgian Orthodox Christian young woman set in Baku in the waning days of World War I and its aftermath. There are good reasons for its being regarded as a classic. It was marvelous.

The agent also suggested that I might like a new book by an author she represents, Dahlia Lithwick’s Lady Justice: Women, the Law, and the Battle to Save America. I bought a copy from my local bookstore, but for now I don’t feel like writing about it. It left me depressed.