Friday LENs

Likeable, Enlightening, Nuts.  Here’s hoping, at least.

The Monks of New Skete love God, dogs, and writing about both subjects.  I & Dog is a great, short picture book for dog lovers, with text relating this simple but irresistable thesis: dogs help us lead better lives, because they show by example what really matters in life.

Dale Carnagie really knew his customers.  How To Win Friends and Influence People is actually a book about human relations, and I had forgotten how good it is. It also has a title and first-things-first structure for people who might only read the first 15 or 20 pages.  But that’s enough to get a lot out of the book, which is pretty impressive.

Some people gaze at me in wonderment when I express near-unreserved admiration for Ulysses S. Grant,  but for clarity of thought Grant has few equals.  Memoirs have never been my favorite genre, but Grant’s Personal Memoirs are a different matter. He covers the events of his life, but also comments on those events with a fair-mindedness that even now is impressive. After covering Lee’s surrender effectively ending the American Civil War,  Grant wrote that “I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse.”   After 150+ years that remains a pretty satisfactory summary.

One of the first and most illuminating books I read about Grant was written not by an American, but by the British author and miltary historian John Keegan, as one of his chapters in his book The Mask Of Command.  Keegan was a guy for big themes – The Mask of Command is about effective leadership, and he also wrote books about why men fight in the first place.  I have the impression Keegan wrote to understand these things for himself, and with questions that big his answers could be partial or confusing.  Still, just making the attempts was admirable.

Speaking of creative minds: it somehow makes sense to me, having autographs of Leonard Nimoy, John Le Carre, and Chuck Jones hanging together in my office.  I occasionally wonder how they would have liked each other in reality – I assume they would have gotten along. On the other hand, their creations – Spock, George Smiley, and Bugs Bunny – would have certainly and unreservedly despised each other.

Have a good weekend.

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