Chapter and verse
Fall and Christmas are the seasons for new books. As an author myself, I admire and appreciate the effort that goes into researching and writing a book. Here are brief reviews of three recent books that I enjoyed.
The Duel: Diefenbaker, Pearson and the Making of the Modern Canada. The thing that bothers me most about John Ibbitson’s book is that Pearson and Diefenbaker – warts and all – are far more interested in the welfare of Canadians than today’s leaders. Dief’s populism overshadows Pierre Poilievre’s poor attempts to align himself with voters. Pearson’s fertile brain makes Justin Trudeau look like a schoolboy. “The House was different then,” Ibbitson quotes Jean Chrétien as saying many years later.
Ibbitson’s writing style is fluid and his thesis is fascinating. Rather than just be foes when they took turns running the country in the 1950s and 1960s, Ibbitson sees Pearson and Diefenbaker building on each other’s work. Pearson gave the country the Canada Pension Plan, begun by earlier regimes, but then made more generous by Diefenbaker. In Ibbitson’s mind, The Duel could almost be The Duo.
George Harrison: The Reluctant Beatle. Author Philip Norman must surely be the authority on the Beatles. He has written Shout about the group as well as biographies of Paul McCartney and John Lennon. Sex acts feature widely in this book. Harrison took up with Maureen, wife of Ringo. Meanwhile, Pattie, George’s wife, was with Eric Clapton who wrote “Layla” for her. Said George, “I’d rather she was with him than some dope.”
Harrison wrote twenty-two Beatles songs including “My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Something in the Way She Moves,” and the most-played Beatles song of all, “Here Comes the Sun.” George calls himself “the quiet Beatle” and Norman describes him as “elusive” but the author never really proves his thesis as set out in the title: “Reluctant.”
Elon Musk. Walter Isaacson, following his triumphant book about Steve Jobs and Apple, has written a terrific book about Elon Musk, the most prolific inventor of the age. He’s also the most demanding and least lovable. Musk has Asperger syndrome so has no empathy. During one visit by his mother, he disappeared for hours to play a video game on his phone. His ideas and driven ways have replaced NASA with SpaceX, led electric car sales with Tesla, and brought about Neuralink, which has done a brain implant. Isaacson had total access to Musk for two years. If a meeting collapsed amid shouting or a rocket blew up, Musk never once said, “Don’t put that in the book.” For all his success, the proof of Musk’s capability may come with his purchase of Twitter, now called X. While his co-workers had to accept his many foibles, the world may well take umbrage with the heavy-handed way he is running the popular social media site.