Our Critic’s Tip Sheet On Current Reading: Week of July 16th, 2007

Sam Tanenhaus, editor of The New York Times Book Review, steps out from behind the arras to play a nuanced round of connect-the-dots in his New Republic essay, “The End of the Journey: From Whittaker Chambers to George W. Bush” (July 2, $4.95). Mr. Tanenhaus, whose biography of Chambers was published 10 years ago, deplores the “suffocating unilateralism of the ‘Bush Doctrine’” and concludes that the Bush worldview is “precisely the one that Whittaker Chambers outgrew.” Yet he also warns that “the terrorist enemies we face are real—they are not figments, nor simply legions of the rightfully aggrieved, nor simply the victims (or the creations) of American overreach. To pretend they are, and to see the Bush administration as the sole author of our present troubles, is to become unwittingly complicit in the fanatical simplifications of those who mean to harm to us.”

It’s hard to top the first anecdote in Don Rickles’ strictly anecdotal Rickles’ Book (Simon & Schuster, $24): The scene is Las Vegas in the 1950’s, and Mr. Rickles, then a budding comedian and “desperate for any kind of female—a dog, a horse, anything,” has brought a girl to the Sands, where Frank Sinatra is headlining. Hoping to impress his date, Mr. Rickles goes over to Sinatra, who’s sitting with Dinah Shore, etc., and begs him to stop by his table; Sinatra, tanked up with Jack Daniels, agrees, and a few minutes later strolls over and says, “Don, how the hell are you?” Mr. Rickles waits a beat, turns, and in his loudest voice says, “NOT NOW FRANK—CAN’T YOU SEE I’M WITH SOMEBODY!”

It’s houseguest season, and here, courtesy of Joe Fox, the late legendary Random House editor, are the six essential rules:

• Never arrive early.

• Bring a house present the hostess will love.

• Stay to yourself for at least three hours a day.

• Don’t sleep in the wrong bed.

• Play all their games.

• Leave on time.

I stumbled across these in James and Kay Salter’s Life Is Meals: A Food Lover’s Book of Days (Knopf, $27.50), a beautiful book crammed with good food and good writing and the trademark Salter sophistication. Our Critic’s Tip Sheet On Current Reading: Week of July 16th, 2007