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The Secret Parts of Fortune :
One part intellectual and one part journalist, Ron Rosenbaum offers a thick book full of his writing from Esquire, Vanity Fair, The New York Times Magazine, and The New York Observer (where he is currently a columnist). Perhaps not every selection will interest every reader--the diversity of topics is incredible--but there is probably something, or many things, for everyone in The Secret Parts of Fortune.
An outstanding entry is an excerpt from his celebrated book Explaining Hitler. Other highlights include a hilarious interview with Robin Leach (entitled "The Frantic Screaming Voice of the Rich and Famous"), an explanation of why Murray Kempton "is the best prose writer in America," and a short history of computer hackers. One of Rosenbaum's finest pieces focuses on the cancer-cure underground: "False hope springs eternal," he writes, describing how phony cancer "cures seem to spring up and sweep the nation like religious revivals, a new one at least every decade." Yet he's sympathetic--or at least mildly understanding--of the motivations behind the fake healers: the movement isn't "composed mainly of cash-hungry charlatans and snake-oil salesmen eager to make an easy killing off the sufferings and hopes of cancer victims. In fact, among the healers, the prophets, and the alchemists, you find less greed than evangelical fervor--the rapturous conviction of religious visionaries."
Rosenbaum is rougher with Bill Gates; he lights into the billionaire's fabled high-tech home, which he says "exhibits the distinctive feature of the totalitarian mind: the inability to distinguish between private and public spheres. It suggests this isn't just the way he wants to run his house, it's the way he wants to run the world: total surveillance, enforced entertainment, everyone isolated in programmable pods." Yet another standout is Rosenbaum's article on Kim Philby, the British intelligence officer who spied against his native land on behalf of the Soviets. Or did he? Rosenbaum considers the fascinating "possibility that Philby had been not a Soviet double agent but a British triple agent." And there's so much more. This rich book is full of provocative and gripping prose, and highly recommended. --John J. Miller [via]