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There's a little town in my home county called Trempealeau. Years back, while excavating for a new building, diggers found an old fur trading station from the early 19th century, long before Wisconsin became a state. In grade school our teachers told us about it over and over again and explained it was a fur collecting outpost sponsored by John Jacob Astor.
I read portions of "Heat," by Bill Buford when it appeared serially in the New Yorker. Now Knopf is out with it in book form, at $29.95. I'm a foodie who for more hours I want to admit is glued to the food channel. One of my favorite TV chefs is Mario Batali ("Molto Mario") and so when I saw that Buford wanted to work in his restaurants, where my wife and I have eaten, I dove in. The new book is a highly intelligent and humorous take on what fancy restaurants are like these days.
There's no lack of histories on specific subjects this summer. And they're not just coming out of the university presses. Little, Brown, for instance is just out with "The General and the Jaguar," by Eileen Welsome ($25.95). This book, which takes place in 1916 is as relevant today as it was 90 years ago. The general is Gen. John "Blackjack" Pershing. The jaguar is Pancho Villa. The U.S. considers Villa a dangerous renegade, so sends Pershing and troops to Mexico to hunt him down. This action alienates the local residents who respond with terrorism. Back home in the U.S.
I began visiting New York in the 1970s and loved it from the beginning. Back then it was dirty and dangerous but irresistible. Today it has calmed down and cleaned up and is still irresistible. I've always wondered what it would have been like back in the 1930s and 1940s when the city was in its heyday, before its infrastructure began to crumble and the upper crust moved out and their brownstones were split into warrens resided in by the less fortunate.