Aside from being John’s (younger, suaver and beardier) brother, what has the inimitable David Plotz done lately? Only hosted “The Slate Political Gabfest“, written two books (“The Genius Factory” and “The Good Book“) and left Atlas Obscura to found City Cast.
So, when John called him up in April 2020 for the Books in Dark Times series, what was his Pandemic reading? The fully absorbing “other worlds” of Dickens and Mark Twain tempt David, but he goes another direction. He picks one book that shows humanity at its worst, heading towards world war. And another that shows how well we can behave towards one another (and even how happy we can be…) at “moments of super liquidity” when everything melts and can be rebuilt.
He also guiltily admits a yen for Austen, Rowling, and Pullman–and gratuitously disses LOTR. John and David bond about their love for lonnnnnnng-form cultural history in the mold of Common Ground. Finally the brothers enthuse over their favorite book about Gettysburg, and reveal an embarrassing reenactment of the charge down Little Round Top.
Mentioned in this episode:
Charles Dickens, “David Copperfield“
J.R.R. Tolkien, “The Hobbit“
Mark Twain, “Huckleberry Finn” (1884)
Barbara Tuchman, “The Guns of August” (1962, but about 1914)
Emily St. John Mandel, “Station Eleven” (2014)
Jon Moallem, “This is Chance” (March 2020; on the great Alaska earthquake)
Isabel Wilkerson,. “The Warmth of Other Suns” (2010) (David delightedly discovers it on his bookshelf..)
J Anthony Lukas, “Common Ground” (1986) (the mothership of the long-form cultural history that DP and JP both adore)
Jane Austen, “Pride and Prejudice” (1813)
J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter series
Michael Shaara, “The Killer Angels” (1974)
Listen to the episode here.
Read the transcript here.