Commentary From the Mile High City

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Joshua Sharf

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October 27, 2008

Tony Hillerman, RIP

Tony Hillerman, author of the Joe Leaphorn/Jim Chee mysteries, set on or near the Navajo Indian Reservation, has died at 83.

I started reading these mysteries when I moved out here, as Colorado's far southwest corner includes both old Anasazi ruins and the Southern Ute reservation. Hillerman's trick, common to many mystery writers, is to make
descriptions of his real subject matter - the remote land, and the Navajos' relationship to it, and their attempts to adapt to modernity - palatable by mixing them in with a gripping story and interesting characters. (Certainly, the notion of Jim Chee as a sort of "modern orthodox" Navajo had some personal resonance; the best characters are the ones that are like you in some way, but different enough to permit some distance and objectivity.)

In b-school orientation, we did a childish little "multicultural" exercise where we were each given slips of paper describing one of two different "cultures." One of the cultures was very loud and in-your-face, the other tended to avoid eye contact and be more reticent in general. The extreme contrast reminded me of the Navajo aversion to eye contact and willingness to let conversational silence go unfilled (but that could just as well have been a New York-Minnesota culture clash as well). Naturally, the lesson had long since been learned.

Hillerman's later novels suffered a little from age, I think, although I kept buying them. The perpetrators were usually obvious by mid-book, the Navajo story line itself a little played out, and the personal stories of the characters seemed to have settled to conclusions of sorts. But that doesn't obviate the value of his earlier work, even until 2000 or so.

July 3, 2008

The Once and Future King

You probably already know about the Sword in the Stone. But don't be fooled. The rest of T.H. White's Once and Future King is decidedly not a children's book. It's classic mid-century internationlist liberalism, also an exploration of how private foibles can affect public life, and a textured discussion of the motives of the personalities involved in one of our great mythic tragedies.

The post-Sword business is split up into three books which focus on 1) "Queen of Air and Darkness," about the Orkneys and Arthur's original sin that produces Mordred, 2) "The Ill-Made Knight," about Lancelot, particularly Lancelot and Guinever, and 3) "Candle in the Wind," about a childish, publicity-seeking princess. Well, actually "Candle in the Wind" is about the climactic, tragic, confrontation with Mordred.

What makes White's telling so compelling is the way he invests the characters with motivation and humanity, and because he weaves his tale over the course of decades as one coherent story, not simply a collection of events that takes 25 years to happen. Lancelot's not merely the greatest knight, he's the greatest knight because he's spent his life training to be merely worthy of upholding an impossibly high standard. And when we see Guinevere and Lancelot together, just before their downfall, it's as a couple entering middle age, whom we've seen spend a lifetime deepening their love from youthful passion.

The political story - and this is White's real purpose - is likewise developed over decades. The younger generation of knights is restless because they've never known any king other than Arthur. And Arthur's increasingly desperate and sophisticated efforts to channel evil into something constructive follow, loosely, the path of western civilization as a whole. White is desperate himself to find an answer, but his answer - with the hindsight of over 60 years - is ultimately unsatisfying.

White was writing during some of the darkest days of WWII, and was thinking not only about the horrors of war, but also about its fundamental causes, and how to avert future ones. But he was also a typical mid-century liberal. Mordred is, in The Once and Future King, a stand-in for Hitler. As such, he must be fought. By the time White published the Book of Merlyn in 1958, Mordred was Stalin, and need be accomodated. And the ultimate answer, naturally, is to subsume national ambition to the UN. Of the three approaches, only the first - confrontation with evil - proved to be effective.

White never realized that the answer to his problem had already been discovered. Sure, we needed to establish the rule of law, but Arthur did that and found his kingdom unable to survive its logical inconsistencies. While Arthur was able to tolerate the deception of his wife and friend, the law couldn't tolerate their subversion. The problem was the fusion of the personal and the state. Depersonalize the state, and those particular inconsistencies disappear.

And so we're left with a strange disconnect: we care deeply about the characters and mourn for their losses, and we mourn for Arthur's failure as king. But we don't really mourn all that much for the idea, because by the end of the book, we're not so sure we understand or like the idea at all.

June 25, 2008

Broadway Babies Say Goodnight

Today, the 121st anniversary of the birth of George Abbott, is as apt a time as any to post the review of Mark Steyn's history of Broadway and the Broadway Musical, Broadway Babies Say Goodnight.

The Broadway musical didn't really evolve from European opera so much as take a century-long detour from it. In fact, I'd argue that it replayed the evolution of opera, taking about 100 years to cover the territory that opera covered in several centuries. But it's still distinctively American, relying on stories of common, everyday people rather than the mistaken identity of royals of various middle-Europeans principalities. The beat of Viennese operetta was 3/4. The beat of Broadway is 4/4.

The story is one of every-tightening connection between the song and the book, until the book, for all intents and purposes becomes the song. At first, the Broadway musical was little more than a straight play with Tin Pan Alley-type songs stuffed in at intervals.

Over time, the songs started to be more scene-specific. Consider the Student Prince. Written in the mid-20s, it still has a Tin Pan Alley feel to it, but the songs are in character. And yet, "Deep in My Heart, Dear," and "Serenade" would fit right into Desert Song, another Romberg show.

The big change occurred in 1927, with Show Boat. Kern & Hammerstein changed the nature of the show. The songs now not only reflect the feelings of the characters, but actually advance the plot and give broader commentary. Even "After the Ball," is used to effect: it was a huge, huge hit for decades, and it was used to evoke an earlier age. It completely changed the game, but it wasn't really matched again until Hammerstein got his second immortal writing partner.

The apex of this kind of musical came with My Fair Lady. The songs are all character- and scene-specific. They all advance the plot, and they all are seamlessly integrated with the book. But the book still carries the lion's share of the plot. The acting matters as much as the singing, and the dialogue is sparkling.

And's almost as though they ran out of things to to say. The form would change again with the blockbuster musical, but also with what's called the "sung-though" musical. Think Scarlet Pimpernel. The singing barely stops, mostly just to let the actors catch their breaths. All the plot movement is done through song, and even the dialogue is mostly sung, a la operatic recitative. We've come full-circle, back to opera.

Likewise, the relationship between words and music has changed over time. The Tin Pan Alley music was usually little more than a vehicle for a story. Even by the time of the Student Prince, the songs might stand on their own, but the words and the music fit together. Now, Cole Porter songs sound like Cole Porter songs because the music is almost incidental to the words.

But by the mid- and late-50s, the words and music fit together so perfectly that you can't imagine the words going to any other notes. Or any other words, going with those notes. The words are clever, the rhymes inventive and lyrical in their own right. If you miss what the singer is saying, you miss about half the story.

Now, listen to just about any song from Pimpernel. Do you really care about the words? No, it's the music that sets the mood. And just as nobody cares who Mozart's librettists were, nobody really cares who's writing the words for Andrew Lloyd Weber, at least not since Tim Rice left.

In fact, nobody really seems to care much about Broadway now, anyway. The shows are expensive to produce, so the number of new shows each year is pitiful. The genre seems played out, even if new, original musicals like Curtains evoke the older-style musical rather than the sung-through pseudo-opera. The new ideas are all in Hollywood, and now Broadway, incapable of producing stars of its own, borrows them from TV and the movies.

If the first half of the book chronicles the rise of Broadway's music, the second tells the tale of this slow, painful decline. Perhaps the saddest comment he makes, is that if they really wanted to reproduce Sunset Boulevard in a musical, the Norma Desmond should be a fading Broadway diva, forced to act in current musicals.

Steyn's erudition about the musical theater shows in his analysis of songs, rhyme schemes, play structure. He's an endless wealth of anecdotes and analysis.

It's just a shame that all the grist for his mill is old.

October 14, 2007

In A Cardboard Belt!

“I interest myself.” That was Joseph Epstein’s motto during his 23-year run as editor of The American Scholar. Not a bad philosophy, when your interests are as broad as his. He interests us, too, in his latest collections of essays, In a CardboardBelt!

Epstein just turned seventy, so his age has finally caught up with his writing. His essays have always had an air of maturity about them, both in subject and in tone. His two collections of short stories were both about characters a decade older than himself at the time. Even the titles of his books – The Middle of My Tether, Narcissus Leaves the Pool, With My Trousers Rolled – evoke age. So it’s not surprising that some of his themes begin to reflect age. He writes of his own age, his leave-taking from lecturing at Northwestern, his father, and memorial and obituaries in general.

His topics are, as the Table of Contents indicates, Personal, Attacks, Literary, and Intellectual. Epstein’s writing is fluid, light, witty but not gut-bustingly funny. He’s mastered the art of letting the essay flow from one aspect of the subject to the next. He writes so well that a cursory, 10-minute review yielded 14 Post-It notes. Memorable lines, but not necessarily quotable ones. Even the anecdotes require context to make sense.

There are a few darts. In his essay on Proust, he remarks about one reader-turned-memoir-writer:

…[Phyllis] Rose offers an example of the limits of education and culture, for in her a vast overlay of both has not been able to cover up the inexhaustible shallows of a confident but unoriginal mind.

While the cover promises “savage” essays, those looking to read, or have the easy pickings of responding to, Ann Coulter-like screeds will be disappointed. The essays in the Attacks section are essentially the same as the ones in the Literary section: smart, insightful dissections of people or their careers. None of these really goes beyond his earlier essay on Robert Hutchins of the University of Chicago, the “Boy Wonder.”

The exception is his slicing up and serving of Mortimer Adler, which even then, is done in typical Epstein-like style. The impression one has is of one of those cartoon swordfights, where one character flicks his sword through the other a few dozen times, while slices of the filet, eyes still blinking, slide neatly into piles on either side. Beginning with Adler’s myth, he neatly, methodically reduces him to a figure of fun.

I do not know of any genuine contribution that Mortimer Adler made to serious philosophy, though before he went into big-time indexing he was though a serious Thomist… Sidney Hook once told me that it was proof of Dewey’s honorableness that not even Mortimer Adler could drive him into anti-Semitism.


The personal essays are among the most fun, possibly because they shed light on common experiences. His essay on how, after 70 years, he’s figured out that he really doesn’t like to travel, is brilliant.

“I hereby sentence you,” runs a standard judge-and-defendant cartoon in a recent New Yorker, “to the Vermeer show on a Saturday afternoon.”

Not funny, McGee. Not if you have, as I have, woken in the Jan Luyken Hotel in Amsterdam at 4 A.M. to drive to The Hague to stand in line in the cold drizzle of a Dutch morning to get tickets to see twenty-six paintings by Vermeer as part of a crowd that was even more wall-to-wall than the carpeting.

Unlike most 57-word sentences, you get to the end remembering where you started. Extra points, too, for knowing who McGee is.

On eating out, in the 1970s: “One would go to a party and be asked, not what one thought of the latest Robert Altman or Woody Allen flick or (more important) what Pauline Kael thought of it, but if one had been to the recently opened bistro on Halsted Street or trattoria on Southport.” The joy, the choices, the trendiness, the shallowness.

Epstein’s essays are rich because he makes serious points tangentially: “The Brothers Ashkenazi remains a magnificent novel, one in which the villain is no less than the country of Poland, and the first book in which I learned, a lesson often repeated, that the one thing the far left and the far right always come around to agree upon is hatred of the Jews.”

On cleaning out his library, getting rid of thousands of books: “The Russians did not do well in this purge.”

The set also includes his final essay for The American Scholar, must-reading for anyone who wants to understand the ravages of political correctness and identity politics. Epstein writes without rancor or malice about the decision to force him out. Indeed, he focuses more on the board and its historic personalities, who turn out to be a lot like everyone in every board meeting of any organization you’ve ever attended.

One can’t help but share Epstein’s evident more-sadness-than-anger about the board’s decision to sack him in the face of identity politics – in this case, animosity over using the word, “homosexual” instead of, “gay” in a submission. That decision then led Phi Beta Kappa, which publishes the journal, to sit on and then reject a $2 million gift – and all the good it could have done – from a conservative organization, supposedly out of fear that it might save Epstein’s job. So much for fiduciary responsibility.

Still, Epstein is turning seventy, not dying. Even if The American Scholar doesn’t want him around, here’s looking forward to the next book.

October 10, 2007

The Founders On Immigration and Citizenship

Last year’s immigration debate left quite an impression on the body politic. It certainly left an impression on the Congressional switchboard operator. But for all the sturm und drang, the discussion barely left the realm of conventional partisan politics. We spent a great deal of time arguing fences and paths to citizenship and ID cards, and very little time on what citizenship means, and what it means for immigration.

We again forgot that the Founders thought about these problems when setting up the country. We also forgot that the Progressives had their own vision for immigration, thoroughly at odds with the Founders.
Into this breach of historical myopia steps the Claremont Institute, with The Founders on Immigration and Citizenship, a collection of four essays by Institute scholars.

While the Claremont Institute is commonly thought of as a conservative think-tank, it’s one with a unique point of view. Stressing the unique and original ideas of America’s Founders, it specializes in what has come to be called Originalist legal and philosophical thought. For Claremont, the great tragedy of American history isn’t the 60s, or even the 70s. It is instead the betrayal and subversion of those ideas by the post-Civil War Progressives.

For the Founders, immigration was to be based on the kind of citizen an immigrant was likely to become. That men had a natural right to emigrate was assumed. That a society had the right, by virtue of the social compact, to decide whom to accept, was just as evident. Included in that calculation was his moral character. Immigrants from more free societies were more likely to have the habits of thought of free men, thus more likely to become better citizens. Those from more despotic regimes would have to be accepted in lower numbers, hopefully to be dispersed throughout society to help speed assimilation. They were more likely to be comfortable with a government dispensing favors. Either way, emigration and acceptance attached to the individual, not to a group identity.

The Progressives planned to re-shape the government into a centralized administrative state, informed not by reason but by science. The saw the government not as a means for securing individual natural rights, but rather for creating rights, and distributing their fruits on the basis of group identity. Making common cause with the nascent socialists and eugenicists, they saw race and class as the most important defining groups. (Convicted by their own writings, the Progressives resented and belittled the Constitution’s restrictions on their plans.) To the Progressives, it made perfect sense to choose immigrants by race and class, rather than culture and ideals.

The book contains four essays: and introduction, a legal case against birthright citizenship, an examination of the historical effects of immigration policies, and the Progressives and immigration. The most legal is Ed Erler’s attack on birthright citizenship. Policy-wise, Erler is worried about anchor babies serving as the bridge to transplant entire Mexican towns to the US, but he makes two critical points. First, the notion of birthright citizenship derives from British common law, which in turn derives it from the feudal relationship between lord and serf. The British held that to be born in Britain was to owe eternal allegiance to the Crown. Put that way, it’s not surprising that a bunch of revolutionary separatists would have a dim view of that basis.

Second, the authors of the 14th Amendment, which is quoted in favor of birthright citizenship, never intended for mere geography to determine citizenship. Children of visiting diplomats, for instance, and members of semi-sovereign Indian tribes, were not considered to be subject to the jurisdiction of the US, in the Amendment’s own language. Whether or not 100 years of contrary interpretation can or should be overturned is another matter.
The two other essays persuasively set out the differences between the Founders and the Progressives, relying largely on their own words. Impressive because they need to show not only the differences, but also their radical nature. West also has a disturbing answer to a question that has bothered me for some time: why was an American population that had soundly rejected Progressive revisions in the 19th Century willing to put up with them in the 20th?

The entries overlap a little, repeating primary sources and quotes, especially from the Founders. While a bit tedious, this actually serves the book’s purposes, reiterating what sources are important.

More frustrating is the number of secondary sources cited for primary quotes, unnecessarily complicating efforts to trace sources, or to check their context. Given Claremont’s reputation for probity, it’s unthinkable that the quotes are unrepresentative of their authors’ thinking. It represents un-Claremont-like editorial sloppiness.

Claremont has no specific policy recommendation at the end of the book, at least not an explicit one. Ed Erler would be happy to get rid of birthright citizenship, and there’s no question that the Claremont guys are uncomfortable with the transplantation of whole sections of Mexican society to the United States. Essentially, the country is setting itself up for trouble, clearly unwilling and possibly unable to assimilate this population into American political and economic ideals.

To their credit, they recognize that this is not, at heart, a partisan issue. Liberal Democrats who want votes have conspired with Republicans, who cater to business’s desire for cheap labor, to keep the border open. Likewise, both parties contributed to the racist revisions of the immigration laws in 1924. Indeed, when the Wall Street Journal’s Dan Henninger said that for many conservatives, the issue was culture, not economic, it represented a split between traditional Republican allies (and a comment that the traditionalists should have embraced, rather than defensively accusing Henninger of accusing them of racism). And while conservative activists may have forced stronger enforcement provisions into last year’s comprehensive bill, it succeeded in peeling away enough liberal Democrats to help defeat the measure.

As usual, the Claremont Institute shows that for those willing to listen, the Founders have something valuable to say on a topic of current interest.

March 29, 2007

Baseball Between The Numbers

Just in time for baseball season - a new review.

September 21, 2006

The Looming Tower

I've been reading Lawrence Wright's The Looming Tower. Your friend and mine Mark Steyn has written a review:

In an Islamist grievance culture, the tower doesn't have to be that tall to loom. The tragedy in Wright's book is that across little more than half a century a loser cult has metastasized, eventually to swallow almost all the moderate, syncretic forms of Islam. What was so awful about Sayyid Qutb's experience in America that led him to regard modernity as an abomination? Well, he went to a dance in Greeley, Colo.: "The room convulsed with the feverish music from the gramophone. Dancing naked legs filled the hall, arms draped around the waists, chests met chests, lips met lips . . ."

In 1949, Greeley, Colo., was dry. The dance was a church social. The feverish music was Frank Loesser's charm song Baby, It's Cold Outside. But it was enough to start a chain that led from Qutb to Zawahiri in Egypt to bin Laden in Saudi Arabia to the mullahs in Iran to the man arrested in Afghanistan on Sept. 11. And it's a useful reminder of how much we could give up and still be found decadent and disgusting by the Islamists. A world without Baby, It's Cold Outside will be very cold indeed.

But read the whole thing.

September 10, 2006

Auditing the Books

Tagged by Jared:

1. A book that changed my life:

Good to Great by Jim Collins - Like the best writing and analysis, it moves past the complex to the simple, drawing not just from business but from all walks of life. Key insight: the hedgehog concept: what's the one thing you love doing, that you can be the best in the world at?

2. A book I have read more than once:

The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov - Everything science fiction is supposed to be: an epic of galactic proportions, real thought about technology, human nature, and human ingenuity.

3. A book I would take to a desert island:

Any book of essays by Joseph Epstein. Probably the only frustration would be having to look up the cultural references. Great, literate essays.

4. A book that made me laugh:

Up Front by Bill Mauldin. Life as a dogface. Great cartoons, greater stories.

5. A book that made me cry:

1939: The Lost World of the Fair by David Gelernter. A story of lost optimism. I first read this book before September 11. I fight to remain optimistic, but now wonder if we can recapture that hope.

6. A book I wish had been (hope will be) written:

Almost Armageddon: How the US Government Averted Terrorist Disaster, Saved American Icons, and Delivered Iran to a New Generation of Leaders. There's still time for this one, though.

7. A book that should have never been written:

Protocols of the Elders of Zion. This book has been responsible for more mischief and Jew-hatred than even its authors could have imagined.

8. A book I am currently reading:

Blow the House Down by Robert Baer

One of the first War on Terror spy thrillers. I'm a little suspicious of the overdrawn conclusions and paranoia about the "neocons," but it's full of great tradecraft and you can't put it down.

9. A book I am planning to read:

The Clintons: An American Tragedy (published 2009 by the Free Press). A detailed description of the smallness that was the Clinton Presidency, and the stunning failure of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.

10. People I will send these questions to:

John Andrews, Clay Calhoun, Michael Alcorn, and Richard Duston

April 4, 2006

Book Review - Animals In Translation

A review of Colorado's own Temple Grandin's Animals in Translation is here, and also available by extending this entry.

It's quite good, but a little difficult to review. It's basically applied evolutionary biology, applied in this case, to your dog. Or your dinner.

Continue reading "Book Review - Animals In Translation" »

March 17, 2006

Just Arrived

Baseball Between the Numbers: Why Everything You Know About the Game is Wrong. I've been a Bill James fan for a long time, and this sort of thing never ceases to fascinate me. It'll be interesting to see how well it holds up against the baseball blogs.

March 9, 2006

Not Your Kids' Spychips

The review of a more technical book on RFID, O'Reilly's RFID Essentials, is up over on the book review section.

March 6, 2006

A Stadium of Davids

Sure, the title sounds like a John Kruk at-bat, but if you've ever wanted to be your own Bill James, this is the book for you.

February 14, 2006

Book Review - Analyzing Business Data With Excel

One more book review. This one, not so good. As always, you can read it below, or read it here.

Continue reading "Book Review - Analyzing Business Data With Excel" »

Book Review - Learning to Read Midrash

Simi Peters of Nishmat has published a fine, fine introduction to reading Midrash. Read the review (below, or here), then, if you're at all interested in rabbinic Biblical interpretation, read the book.

Continue reading "Book Review - Learning to Read Midrash" »

February 13, 2006

Beer, Bands, and Blogs

A book review of the forthcoming Instabook, An Army of Davids over there. Read it here, read it there, but buy the book.

Continue reading "Beer, Bands, and Blogs" »

February 7, 2006

Book Review: The Spychips Threat

It's up over at the book review site, but I'm going to try publishing them here as well, under the "Read More," to allow comments.

Continue reading "Book Review: The Spychips Threat" »

February 5, 2006

New Book Review

A few years ago, John Keegan published a short biography of Winston Churchill. As an introduction to the man's life beyond the War, it's pretty good.

January 24, 2006

In the Mail...

Glenn Reynolds's An Army of Davids and two versions of Spychips, the secular and the apocalyptic.

Size Matters

Oh, cut it out. A review of Joel Miller's Size Matters is up.

November 30, 2005

Book Review

Another book review is up, this one of Deals From Hell, wherein Robert Bruner turns his gimlet eye to the world of M&A.

October 28, 2005

A War Like No Other

New review posted, of Victor Davis Hanson's latest.

October 15, 2005

Book Reviews in the Hopper

Good news about Yom Tovim: lots of time to read. Bad news about Yom Tovim: no time to write the reviews. Awaiting review: In the Company of Soldiers, An Empire of Wealth, Rubicon, and that old chestnut, The Foundation Trilogy.

I'm sure there's a place in the Yom Kippur confession for a lack of patience, and I already need to say it next year.

October 3, 2005


by Jack Welch

In Good To Great, Jim Collins discusses companies' Hedgehog Ideas, their core, driving business: what can we be the best in the world at, that we love to do? GE posed a particular problem for him. It didn't enter a market where it couldn't be first or second, and nevertheless it was in a tremendous number of different markets. Collins finally decided that GE's core business was developing CEOs, and indeed, GE alumni are all over the country's executive suites.

Given that, you expect a lot from a management book by the CEO of CEOs, Jack Welch, who ran GE for over 20 years. Given that, Winning is surprisingly uneven, yet still manages to deliver a fair amount of wisdom to the aspiring executive.

Welch divides the book into four parts: the underlying company attitude, managing people, managing organizations, and managing yourself - your career. He argues that the company's attitude is defined by three things: its mission, its values, and candor coming from the top. Too often companies confusion vision with mission, and the mission statement either doesn't say enough or drifts off over time. A good mission statement needs to be concrete, usually inspiring with ideals, while giving concrete behaviors to follow. The same is true of the values statement.

But Welch's passion really comes through when he's discussion candor - and nobody can doubt he means it. Welch was an engineer by training, and clear-cut straight talk is indispensible when discussing what chemicals will or won't do the job. Remember also that the clearest thinkers are also usually the clearest speakers, whether or not you agree with them. You know when someone's giving you a line, and so do their employees. In addition, candor is the only thing that will get people involved in those contentious debates over strategy, budgeting, and the million other decisions you want all your employees contributing to. And an executive who's committed to speaking candidly will find it easier to act decisively, rather than becoming a politician who's more interested in splitting differences.

The sections on hiring and firing, mergers, and budgeting also stood out. Welch never got an MBA, so his concern with mergers focused much more on dealmaking and corporate culture than on accounting. As a result, his list of red flags is a must-read for those looking to merge or grow by acquisition. Most of these deals fail, and while Deals From Hell covers the ground in more detail, Welch outlines it nicely here.

As for career management, Welch doens't cut any corners, especially when discussing work-life balance. Some of us moved out West for a better balance, but Welch makes it clear that no matter how understanding the company, it's really up to the employee to make that work. My guess is that he's right when he says that efficient workers probably also set up efficient processes at home, so they're less likely to need special dispensations, and more likely to get them.

What does come through is the tremendous joy that Welch got from business. He clearly loved coming in, solving problems, dealing with people, making the business work. While Welch doesn't harp on it, the fact is that dealing with these problems cheerfully rather than grumpily is half the battle.

One of the more disappointing sections in on strategy. "Figure out what to do, and then implement the heck out of it," is about as far as he gets. One gets the feeling that this was a publisher-driven, rather than an author-driven chapter. It's not like this is a neglected subject - my personal favorites are Jim Collins and Michael Porter, but that's hardly an excuse.

Winning is not Jack Welch's autobiography, but not surprisingly it does draw extensively from personal and second-hand experience running GE. Welch manages to come across as supremely self-assured without being a jerk. Probably half the stories are about mistakes that he made as he learned the ropes - in order to show what those mistakes cost him and the organization. But an equal number are about successes, and GE is a tremendously successful company.

Don't believe the jacket blurb - there will be other management books needed. Still, there are a lot worse places to start.


Power, Faith, and Fantasy

Six Days of War

An Army of Davids

Learning to Read Midrash

Size Matters

Deals From Hell

A War Like No Other


A Civil War

Supreme Command

The (Mis)Behavior of Markets

The Wisdom of Crowds

Inventing Money

When Genius Failed

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Back in Action : An American Soldier's Story of Courage, Faith and Fortitude

How Would You Move Mt. Fuji?

Good to Great

Built to Last

Financial Fine Print

The Day the Universe Changed


The Multiple Identities of the Middle-East

The Case for Democracy

A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam

The Italians

Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory

Beyond the Verse: Talmudic Readings and Lectures

Reading Levinas/Reading Talmud