Book Report: Another word on former presidents; waxing poetic on the death of a fly
Three American presidents lead off this week's roster of books: Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon. You could fill libraries with what has already been written by these guys, but leave it to the scholars -- they can always find a niche that's unfilled.
Such is the case of Jeffrey Frank's "Ike and Dick" (Simon & Schuster, $30).
You have to wonder how these two incredibly diverse personalities got along when they held sway. Subtitled "Portrait of a Strange Political Marriage," this new book gives lots of answers. We learn of Nixon's skill as a political tactician and that Eisenhower was a cool, even vain, cucumber. Frank surmises they got along, despite flurries of misunderstanding (the Checkers speech) because they were both adverse to confrontation.
Richard Breitman and Allan J. Lichtman tackle a very tough subject in "FDR and the Jews" (Harvard University Press, $29.95). In recent years, critics have been hard on the popular president for his presumed ignoring of the plight of European Jewry during World War II. Breitman and Lichtman admit that on the face of it FDR's critics have a point, but ameliorate the situation by pointing out that FDR was ever the politician and in many cases was forced to make pragmatic choices.
North Star Press of St. Cloud has snared a New Jerseyite poet, Marion Goldstein, and has just published her second book, "Architecture of the Unpronounced," ($12.95). For downright grabbing you at the throat immediacy Goldstein is a winner. Here's a sample:
After tunneling in my hair
he lighted, a black blob
on the white cabinet.
I had a dish towel in my hand
and the thought of his demise
erupted naturally as water
from a spring.
It wouldn't take much effort
to slap him senseless with one swing.
I had stalked before
when murderous intention crossed my mind
before a plan or weapon was devised
had watched a gossamer thing
lift its papery wings and fling
itself to the ceiling
but this one seemed to linger, preoccupied
on the deathbed of the door.
One swat--he fell onto the countertop
near a bowl of marinating mushrooms
tried to lift himself and fell again--
back shuddering, hocks clawing
I couldn't bear to watch
the opulence of death
and yet cessation of that buzzing buzzing
was restorative and I could think again.
I swiped him off the counter
and ground his heart and blood and lungs
in the sink eradicator
and it was then
the God who made me
and I wondered about creatures both winged and flawed
who sense impending doom from afar
aglow with a future yet to flower
knowing more than could be known
Dave Wood is a past vice president of the National Book Critics Circle and former book review editor of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Phone him at (715) 426-9554.