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In 1998, Ron Rosenbaum published Explaining Hitler, a national bestseller and one of the most acclaimed books of the year, hailed by Michiko Kakutani in The New York Times as "lucid and exciting . . . a provocative work of cultural history that is as compelling as it is thoughtful, as readable as it is smart." Time called it "brilliant . . . restlessly probing, deeply intelligent."
The acclaim came as no surprise to those who have been reading Ron Rosenbaum's journalism, published widely in America's best magazines for three decades. The man known to readers of his New York Observer column as "The Edgy Enthusiast" has distinguished himself as a writer with extraordinary range, an ability to tell stories that are frequently philosophical, comical, and suspenseful all at once.
In this classic collection of three decades of groundbreaking nonfiction, Rosenbaum takes readers on a wildly original tour of the American landscape, deep into "the secret parts" of the great mysteries, controversies, and enigmas of our time.
These are intellectual adventure stories that reveal:
¸ The occult rituals of Skull and Bones, the legendary Yale secret society that has produced spies, presidents, and wanna-bes, including George Bush and his son George W. (that's the author, with skull, on the cover, in front of the Skull and Bones crypt)
¸ The Secrets of the Little Blue Box, the classic story of the birth of hacker culture
¸ The Curse of the Dead Sea Scrolls; "The Great Ivy League Nude Posture Photo Scandal"; the underground
realms of "unorthodox" cancer-cure clinics in Mexico; the mind of Kim Philby, "the spy of the century"; the unsolved murder of JFK's mistress; and the mysteries of "Long Island, Babylon"
¸ Sharp, funny (sometimes hilarious) cultural critiques that range from Elvis to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, Bill Gates to Oliver Stone, Thomas Pynchon to Mr. Whipple, J. D. Salinger to the Zagat Guide, Helen Vendler to Isaac Bashevis Singer
¸ And a marriage proposal to Rosanne Cash
Forcefully reported, brilliantly opinionated, and elegantly phrased, The Secret Parts of Fortune will endure as a vital record of American culture from 1970 to the present.
Rosenbaum's third collection of articles and essays (he's "The Edgy Enthusiast" columnist for the New York Observer) shows again that he is one of our most original writers of nonfiction. His two previous compilations made sense, respectively, of the 1970s and '80s; this much thicker volume collects a dozen or so pieces each from these decades, and adds 33 from the 1990s. Prefaced by a long anecdotal introductory essayDin which the journalist explains both his own history and the story behind the compiled articlesDthe book offers up consistently lively and thoughtful writing that combines investigative reporting, cultural context, humor, self-deprecation and erudition. A Yale graduate with a degree in English, Rosenbaum (Explaining Hitler) started contributing in the 1970s to such publications as Esquire, New York, Harper's and the Village Voice almost by accident; later, propelled by his interest in finding out what is hidden beneath the surface of things, more essays appeared in Vanity Fair and the New York Times Magazine. His pieces tackle the theories of conspiracy buffs (Rosenbaum aptly calls himself a "buff buff")Dfrom rumors about the real motivations of notorious double agent Kim Philby to the possible existence of Shakespeare's lost works. He also meditates on the link between Yale's Skull and Bones Society and the CIA; J.D. Salinger's walled-in house; the Zagat restaurant guide; Borges's efforts to disprove the existence of Time; and a score of other hidden aspects of American culture. Filled with literary allusions, ruminations on the motor of human history and a straightforward sensitivity, Rosenbaum's essays are gems of narrative nonfiction.