April 24, 2011
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Small Globe

The Boston Globe, the small-town newspaper that now inhabits the remains of a paper by the same name, runs a Sunday feature called Bibliophiles in which a notable Bostonian is interviewed about their reading. Boston was once the hub of the intellectual universe and is still home to lots of fascinating writers and teachers, and this could be a good idea. But to deliver a good idea, one has to try.

This week, Globe correspondent Amy Sutherland interviews Ana Sortun, who owns a couple of good restaurants. She wrote a cookbook. I’m sure she’s a nifty cook and that her five year old is cute as a button.

But she doesn’t read.

I don’t read a lot. I just don’t have time. And I can only read a few pages before I fall asleep. There are some nights especially after it’s been busy, when you’re over-tired and the adrenaline kicks in. Those are the nights when I get some reading in.

Think about it: you're a major newspaper, you've got a column about what people are reading, you can pick up the phone and talk to just about any professor, scientist, writer, artist, physician, or plumber in New England. We’ve got Brahmins who have been reading every important book since the Hemingways came to dinner that time – such charming little girls! – because what else can one talk about after Friday afternoon at the Symphony? We’ve got a tradition of self-taught intellectuals to rival any city in the world, with vibrant new communities from distant lands to pick up any slack from the Irish, the Italians, and the Jews.

Instead, the Globe sends Sutherland to talk to a cook who seems very nice, but who doesn't actually read very much. What she does read, for the most part, are well-known books about cooking and recent novels about cooks. Who would have guessed that a celebrity chef might read Blood, Bones & Butter ?

At a seder last week, I met a young man who was, I think, about five years old. He’d just had a meeting with Obama; Hilary was waiting outside but the President was busy. This town overflows with people who read and write interesting, obscure, delightful stuff. Some of them aren’t famous, but the book page isn’t for party pictures. It’s for readers.

For extra point: start at the home page. Now, find the masthead. Go ahead. I think that Nicole Lamy is still the Globe’s book editor, but this shouldn’t be a hard fact to check, even on Sunday afternoon.