Monday, July 17, 2017


If even half of what this book says is true, Edison was one of the most unethical, revolting (no pun intended) men on the planet in the 1880s. Westinghouse wasn't much better; J.P. Morgan and the rest of the businessmen come off as soulless and, at times, petty. The book is told in 3rd person but focalized through Paul Cravath, the young and somewhat idealistic lawyer hired by Westinghouse, out to prove his chops in NYC. The fight was ostensibly about who created the first lightbulb; Edison sued Westinghouse 312 times to assert his claims. I lost track of all the countersuing. The other question was whether Direct Current or Alternating Current would prevail. At one point, Edison fed false facts to newspapers and tested Westinghouse's A/C on dogs, killing them to prove that it was deadly. There are some odd touches; at the heads of chapters, Moore includes quotes from Steve Jobs in this book about 1880s New York; they felt jarring to me. But overall, the historical details are well managed; it's a compelling story, and toward the end I was race-reading, wondering how on earth Cravath was going to manage it all.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017


There is a tender story buried in this book, but I found the question-and-answer format, between Anderson and his mother, clumsy, workmanlike, and hard to read (and to take as truth). Gloria Vanderbilt comes off as whiny and not terribly self-aware; there is no real trajectory of discovery or enlightenment; and Cooper's repeated "Wow, that must have been hard for you" sounds like something out of a superficial therapy session. Bummer, because I like Anderson Cooper, and Gloria had talent to spare.

Abir Mukherjee, A RISING MAN

I enjoyed this debut mystery about a Scotland Yard inspector transferred to India in 1919 and asked to solve a murder. The depiction of Calcutta was very good, and I was rooting for the main character. I did have a few quibbles ... At times the phrases seemed anachronistic; perhaps I'm wrong, but "We'll have to abort" doesn't feel quite right for 1919 Calcutta. Captain Wyndham's backstory of the WWI trenches seems a bit too casually used; to me, the trauma of it seemed not to be deeply interwoven into his psyche; I would have liked to see more of a connection between his backstory and his present actions. There are two "teaching" characters in the book, who each explain to Wyndham (and the reader) what we need to know about the corruption in India and the unfairness of British rule in what amount to monologues; this felt a bit heavy-handed, although I found all the information interesting. And Wyndham's "eureka" moments were, for the most part, very sudden and a product of him ruminating, rather than immediately following a new discovery; he'd realize something and dash off, and I was still standing in the room thinking, hunh? But these are minor points. The Captain is engaging; his Indian sidekick is a charming foil; the politics complex; and the wry humor tucked in is welcome. I'd definitely try another.