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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Pages and Pages of Regrets

Posted by on December 28 at 6:43 AM

Our Year-end Regrets issue hits this afternoon. It’s one of my favorite issues of the year.

For starters, I love New Year’s. I dig time and history and lists and staying up late and regrets and making new goals and alcohol. On New Year’s Eve, everyone’s on my wavelength for one night.

For me, the annual Regrets issue has become another satisfying element of New Year’s. I think an account of miscues and failures is an optimistic exercise and a smart conceit for making sense of the year.

I write about most of my regrets in this afternoon’s paper: reporting mistakes about the monorail, Mayor Nickels, and the 2005 election. However, while 2005 was, for me, defined by local politics, it was also a year I’ll remember as the time I read an unusual number of excellent books. So, I want to add a regret that I didn’t put in today’s issue.

On several occasions this year, as I talked on and on (to anyone that would listen) about the latest book I’d read, the Stranger’s books editor, Christopher Frizzelle, asked me if I’d write up a book review. I could never find a news peg for the review, though. The books I fell in love with this year didn’t seem germane: two books about the infamous Depression-era outlaws, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow; two books about the 1979-80 Hostage Crisis in Iran; a book about the NBA in the 1960s, with a focus on the rivalry between Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell; and a Pulitzer-Prize-Winning book called Bearing the Cross, a mammoth month-to-month history book about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and `60s.

And so, every time Frizzelle asked me to channel my latest obsession into a review, I demurred, asking him (and myself) something like: “What do Bonnie and Clyde have to do with anything, really?ā€¯

Now, I regret not attempting to answer that question. Or even worse, not trying to write one of those psychedelic essays that run in the New York Review of Books where I could have connected Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini with 1934’s Bonnie Parker with Wilt Chamberlain with MLK.

I didn’t just stumble onto these topics in 2005. I have been an amateur 20th-Century American history weirdo for as long as I can remember—with the ‘79 Hostage Crisis, Bonnie & Clyde, `60s and `70s pro basketball, and the Civil Rights movement, being pivotal chapters (among several others) in my brilliant 4,000-page masterpiece explaining 1994’s Republican Revolution.

But the fact that my favorite lessons from the past were front-and-center for me at the same time that dramatic stuff like the War in Iraq, politicized Evangelicals, intelligent design, Jack Abramoff, NSA eavesdropping, Roberts, blogs, Alito, Katrina, Valerie Plame, torture, and Tom DeLay’s indictment were all making headlines, makes me regret that I didn’t take up the challenge to write and think more topically about books like My Life with Bonnie & Clyde; The Crisis: The President, The Prophet, and the Shah—1979 and the Coming of Militant Islam; Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; and The Rivalry: Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and the Golden Age of Basketball.