Long ago I joined the chorus calling Pete Hamill a New York City Treasure. I enthusiastically expand the geography to a National Treasure!  Pete Hamill again  earns those accolades  with  his new novel Tabloid City!  If you have an ounce of New York City in your DNA you will  be captured by Hamill’s intimacy with his beloved turf.

Tabloid City  is set within 24-hours of life in New York. Terrorist plot, a daily afternoon newspaper in its last days, the legendary editor, typewriters, reporters who can not write without a cigarette, society ladies, an embittered disabled veteran, lost love, misplaced affection and a very old man who in his dying days does the right thing!  There is a line in Tabloid City that perfectly describes Hamill.  The copy refers to Sam Briscoe, editor of the The World.   ” You’re such a lucky man, Sam. You didn’t get the world secondhand. You didn’t take a course in it.  You Lived it! ” That is Pete Hamill!  The Wood! ( You will see).

There are three other Pete Hamill books which I relished with wonder. Downtown, My Manhattan. The title says it all!  A moving memoir of Hamill’s days and nights in New York from Times Square to the tip of Manhattan.  Street corners, movie theaters,  the pulse of anger, rebellion, hope, enterprise, greed  and celebration. The writing of a newspaperman. Not a wasted word!

One of Pete’s greatest treasures is PIECEWORK (1996) a compendium of his best writings dating back to 1970. Men and women, small pleasures, lost cities within the city, Gotti, Sinatra, Vietnam, Lebanon, Tyson, Madonna, cigarettes, typewriters, linotype , deadlines and headlines.

Hamill’s novel Snow in August, ( 1997)  is a fabulous read.  A story that could only unfold in New York where people who shouldn’t get along do so and where relationships blossom out of  fear and mis-understanding.  Snow in August is about Catholics and Jews, hope and transformation through the creation of characters in a plot that is entwined in the culture of Hamill’s  town. These are just four of Pete Hamill ” treasures.” Others include North River, Forever, A Drinking Life and Why Sinatra Matters.   Summer is coming. Go for them all!


The Help by Kathryn Stockett has been on the New York Times Best Seller List since its publication in 2009! The Help has enjoyed its incredible success despite an unfavorable initial review by the Times Janet Maslin.

This August, Dream Works releases the movie The Help starring Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard, Octavia Spencer and Emma Stone.   Just as I suggested for Water for Elephants,  if you are not one of the millions who have already read the book, do so before seeing the movie !  This may not be an easy screen play. There is no  traditional love story as in Water for Elephants but the book is filled with villains, heroes, secrets, relationships, compassion drama and of course the underlying theme of race relations.  Considerable material  for the big screen.

I read The Help when the ink was barely dry and Stockett told her story with incredible insight!  The Help and their struggles within an imposed social structure are vividly reflected in what in reality is a memoir.  As in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, there is redemption! 

Read the book and then see the movie. We will  have answers in August! I am hoping for a blockbuster!

Gray Lady Down by William McGowan

 GRAY LADY DOWN, WHAT THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE NEW YORK TIMES MEANS FOR AMERICA (2010) by William McGowan  leaves little optimism for the newspaper that for generations has set the standard for American journalism.

In this book, McGowan longs for a return to a New York Times under the stewardship of the legendary Executive Editor and newspaperman A.M. (Abe) Rosenthal and Publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger.

McGowan lays the continuing problems at the Times squarely at the feet of Arthur Sulzberger Jr. who began his reign as publisher in 1991.   The author establishes through reference after reference that the Times continues an ethos of reporting with an “attitude,” something that Rosenthal would never allow. For decades, Rosenthal  with the full support of Arthur Ochs Sulzberger established and cherished independent news reporting at the Times, “clearly and sometimes defiantly separate from the editorial and opinion pages.”

Arthur Sulzberger Jr. according to McGowan brought his personal 1960s political views and attitude to the Times and hired and promoted reporters and editors who clearly supported his personal focus.  “The newspaper left the American mainstream to become obsessed with causes and societal change” to the point where McGowan establishes through the Times own reporting that during the 1990s the line between news and opinion was clearly crossed.  The “reporting with attitude” not only determined what was covered by the Times but who covered it and from what point of view.

As you read Grey Lady Down, you may think it to be a “hatchet job.”  Sadly, as you progress through example after example from the Times own pages you will see otherwise.  The reporting of  the Duke University Lacrosse Team rape accusation according to McGowan is one of dozens of unsettling  examples of how a story was covered by the Times based upon reporter’s perceptions.  McGowan makes strong cases in story after story that the “point of view” came from the “attitude” established in the corner office.

McGowan strongly believes that now more than ever America needs the Times of A.M. Rosenthal.  He correctly states that the New York Times continues to set the daily national news agenda. Whoever reports the news, print, broadcast, or cable ,the day begins with what is on the front page of the New York Times. “ The Times will continue to wield enormous influence over what the average American reads, hears and sees. Whether it appears in the paper or on a digital screen, it will continue to be the polestar for American journalism.”

Quoting Times Columnist Thomas Friedman  from Grey Lady Down, “The reason why Rosenthal was obsessed with keeping editors and reporters from putting their ‘thumbs on the scale’ was because he believed a ‘straight’ New York Times was essential to keeping democracy healthy and our government honest.”

McGowan does not see a return to the “Golden Age” during Times Executive Editor Bill Keller’s watch. 

McGowan also wrote Coloring the News, How Political Correctness Has Corrupted American Journalism ( 2001)

Another book of this genre I would commend to you is Bernard Goldberg’s Bias, (2002) an inside look at CBS News.  Goldberg spent three decades at CBS and came away with the belief that a CBS liberal slant on its reporting is not intentional but institutional!  Goldberg castigated television news reporting and reporters as being a product of the closed society in which the reporters themselves live and work.  The entire cast of TV news is present in Goldberg’s book and nearly all of the reviews took him seriously.


Heartstone, the latest in the C.J. Sansom Shardlake, Tudor England mysteries carries forward the authors great images and twists and turns of the reign of Henry VIII and the characters developed that  are always tangential to the Throne, the Queen and the Court. 

Heartstone is no exception and those of you who were introduced to this series by my earlier blog  ( April 2, 2011) will not be disappointed. Sovereign, and Revelation are  also excellent reads but my choice from among the series remains Dissolution. 

From a historical point of view, Heartstone is set against a background of Henry  VIII embarking on yet another war with France. Yes, there is the usual Sansom twist in the plot that I doubt you will guess until the very end.


VENU,  the highly acclaimed Arts/Culture/Style magazine serving Fairfield County, Connecticut and Westchester County, New York has chosen Gordon’s Good Reads  as a regular feature in this celebrated bi-monthly publication. 

The current May/June, 2011 issue of  VENU is available this week at leading arts, culture and style locations throughout the two counties.  Gordon’s Good Reads appears beginning on page 20. The year-old publication noted for its excellent content and rich layout was co-founded by  Creative Director Michael Woodside and Executive Director Tracey Thomas.

Among the features in the May/June issue of VENU are articles on music including Rod Washburn,  The Norwalk Symphony Orchestra  and Songwriter’s Showcase. Other features include Off the Vine in Spain, and a most enjoyable short story, Spontaneous Combustion by Stephen Rhoades. The Motoring section features Ferrari’s Little GTO and Boating highlights The Intermarine 55 Luxury Yacht.

Pick up a copy of  VENU and you will quickly see why we are proud to be included in this excellent and prestigious publication.

Did Stephen Holden of the NYTimes Read/See The Same Water for Elephants?

Last week I suggested you read Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen then see the movie.  I had read the book then happened to read Stephen Holden’s New York Times review  of the movie before I went to the theater.  I came away from the movie asking myself if Holden read the same book and saw the same movie I did?  I also ask, did he have a bad day on April 22 when the review was posted?

All of us who love books have read and enjoyed a wide variety of authors ranging from great novels, memoirs , to non-fiction and biographies.  Books have vastly different appeal to different audiences. However, for Holden to call Gruen’s work Water for Elephants a lightweight page-turner  is a travesty.  Certainly the work may not be of the calibre of Gone with the Wind, Grapes of Wrath  or For Whom the Bell Tolls but neither are many books that are great reads! 

When I read Holden’s overly negative review of the movie Water for Elephants my enthusiasm  for seeing the picture was diminished. However, when I left the theater I realized Holden was wrong on all counts! 

Water for Elephants the movie  did in fact capture Gruen’s book, certainly not in every detail, but a film seldom does.  Contrary to Holden’s view, the nitty-gritty and cruelty of the world of a traveling circus was abundant, as was the  survival instinct of a circus family.  Hal Holbrook as narrator did in fact place the movie in perspective and drove home the book’s message that at the end of the day, good or bad, the circus, Marlena and Rosie was the only family that Jacob had!  I only regret that time on the screen did not allow further development of the aged Jacob in the nursing home prior to the circus’ arrival in town, thus opening the flashback with  even greater impact.

Before putting a wrap on this I must express my amazement at Holden’s  comment  that the love scene between Marlena and Jacob was disappointing because is was “dimly lighted!”   In retrospect that remark  revealed that Holden missed it all, the book, the movie and the message.

Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson played extremely well both individually and in their roles together.  Surely the characters  we create in our minds from a book can never be totally replicated on-screen but that is why people read books! Despite Stephen Holden’s view,  I think Witherspoon did create an authentic period character and to suggest she was directed to do otherwise is foolishness!

If you have read  Water for Elephants you will enjoy the movie even more but see it whether you have read the book or not.   Don’t believe a word  of Stephen’s Holden’s review. I think he had a bad day and took it out on an enjoyable ” good read ” and a movie that did an admirable job with Sara Gruen’s novel.