[MR. CROTCHETY, our guest expert on the power of books, reviews Hannibal and Me by Andreas Kluth. No sweat. Pure sprezzatura.]
We are reminded, in a recent book published by Riverhead, of a (disputed) quote by Eleanor Roosevelt:
“Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people. The smallest minds discuss themselves.”
I became familiar with Hannibal and Me after sending a pithy letter to The Economist. My letter didn’t get printed, which is odd because it was brilliant. But Mr. Andreas Kluth, writer for The Economist, sent me an e-mail. Desperate for followers, Mr. Kluth pointed me to his Hannibal Blog. (This was Mr. Crotchety’s coming out almost four years ago.)
Loyal followers of the Hannibal Blog have waited a long time for Hannibal and Me. Recently, we have suffered the rave reviews of complete strangers. Those professionals will never love it or hate it the way We do.
Fair to my calling, I offer something shallow and negative.
I would like to see more maps in the next edition.
I dog-eared two places:
- One place was at the description of Jung’s symptoms of midlife crisis. What do I know about Jung? (you laugh) But I suddenly see a dear friend as a midlife train wreck. (It’s not Mr. Crotchety. Really.)
- The other place is the metaphorical center of gravity. I’ll be ruminating on that. You should too. There’s a whole other book. Right there.
The description of Wang Guangmei was just plain tragic. Don’t be Chinese circa 1966.
If I had not been anticipating this book, I might have put it down without finishing. Amy Tan is a badass, but introducing her at the early stages made me impatient. The first appearance of a list nearly scared me off. But, I gathered my wits, massaged myself with oil, and soldiered on. (You’ll understand after you read the book.)
I prefer a tedious read. H&M is breezy. I’m the sort who could sit in a meat locker and read The Pickwick Papers. I can spend days mining for something interesting. H&M has a nugget on every page. A lesser man could read H&M at the beach and return to the boardroom as an agile negotiator and a scholar of Roman history. No book club required. No embarrassing self-help books hiding on the Kindle.
It seems a shame to eat in minutes a feast that took days to prepare, just as it took only a few sittings to read a book that took years to publish. The good news is that Hannibal and Me offers a lifetime of sustenance.
By the way, I wrote this using only my left pinky.