MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 20, 2021
...struck us as possibly odd: Back in March, the New York Times profiled Don Lemon's reading habits.
This profile appeared in the Sunday's magazine's weekly "By The Book" feature. The headline on the feature said this:
Don Lemon Organizes His Books by Color
Yesterday, it was Anderson Cooper's turn.
Cooper is very involved in the history of his family. (There's no reason why he shouldn't be.) The family is very famous on his mother's side.
Yesterday's feature was tied to the publication of his latest book on this general topic, Vanderbilt: The Rise and Fall of an American Dynasty, written with Katherine Howe.
How deeply is Cooper tied to his ancestry? This was yesterday's initial Q-and-A:
NEW YORK TIMES (9/19/21): What books are on your night stand?
On my night stand are two small, very fragile books that belonged to my grandfather Reginald Vanderbilt, who died in 1925. One is a Book of Common Prayer. The other is “The Gate to Caesar,” written in Latin by William C. Collar. My grandfather was 14 when he got the books. He wrote his name in them and the year 1894. He also doodled in them (he was not exactly a great student). They sit on top of a biography of Napoleon by Emil Ludwig published in 1926. It belonged to my mom’s maternal grandmother, Laura Kilpatrick Morgan, who was, in my mom’s words, “really kind of crazy.” She worshiped Napoleon and patterned herself after him. She always kept this biography by her bedside and underlined passages that were important to her. I didn’t know her or my grandfather but having these books, with their notes and scribbles, makes me feel connected to them and to all those in my family who came before me.
There's nothing "wrong" with any of that, though that isn't what the Times is typically looking for when it asks that question.
Four other questions produced responses involving family members. One such exchange is shown here:
NEW YORK TIMES: You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?
COOPER: I would ask my mom and dad and my brother, Carter. I know it’s not a very clever answer, but it’s the truth. Carter was an editor at American Heritage magazine and wrote book reviews for Commentary, and I think he would have become a writer full time if he had lived. It would just be us four for dinner, and it would be a long one. Maybe at some point I would invite Truman Capote to stop by. Truman and my parents were once very close, and I remember him very well, but they stopped speaking to him after he wrote some pretty cruel stuff about my mom in a story published in Esquire in 1975. I wouldn’t want Truman to stay very long though, and he couldn’t have any alcohol. Actually let’s make it Truman circa 1966, not the bloated Truman of 1975.
We humans tend to be strongly connected to our family histories. There's nothing "wrong" with any of Cooper's answers along these lines, though they're unusual by the norms of this weekly feature.
One of Cooper's statements did strike us as possibly odd. Here's the full exchange:
NEW YORK TIMES: Which genres do you especially enjoy reading? And which do you avoid?
COOPER: I don’t read a lot of nonfiction, except if it’s something someone has recommended to me, but when I find a great novel I love nothing more than just losing myself in it.
In theory, Cooper discusses national and world news for an hour or two on CNN every weekday night. Wouldn't you think that a person like that might be partial to works of nonfiction, seeing them as possible sources of wider comprehension? (There's no "correct" answer to that.)
For ourselves, we lost confidence in Cooper's work some time ago, though we'd say that others can be much, much worse. That said, it's almost impossible to capture the intellectual squalor which pervades the work of our upper-end press corps as it delivers "the news."
Shaky data, shakily construed in support of preferred Storyline? Sweeping generalizations about the undesirable qualities of The Others?
If it weren't for analyses of these types, would we have any analyses in our discourse at all? We'll try to give you samples this week, but we'll start by admitting defeat:
It's hard to convey the relentless D-minus performance of our upper-end press corps. On average, the group's skill levels are stunningly low. Storyline tends to be all.
We'll plan to offer examples this week, but such examples rarely undermine the general assumption of competence. Deference to authority tends to keep us from seeing this sorry situation as it actually is, or so major experts keep telling us, tearing their hair as they do.
Full disclosure: Until we read that first Q-and-A, it had never occurred to us:
One of Jackie Gleason's comic characters, Reginald Van Gleason III, may have been patterned on the grandfather of one of our cable news stars!