Men on Missions
Love him or loathe him, Elon Musk, the world’s wealthiest individual, is worth reading about. Walter Isaacson, best-selling author of biographies of Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Henry Kissinger, and Benjamin Franklin, was given extraordinary access to shadow Musk for two years. It’s his insider view of the man that makes Isaacson’s “Elon Musk”, a truly absorbing biography.
The 53-year-old entrepreneur, Time magazine’s 2021 “Person of the Year”, builds electric cars and rockets. Musk has fathered 11 children with three different women and is obsessed with colonizing Mars and the letter “X” (which is the new name of Twitter as well as one of his children). Isaacson describes his subject as a “man-child” still haunted by being bullied in the playground as a young boy, and emotionally scarred by a volatile father whom he and his brother do not speak to. He also calls him “one of the great innovators of our time.”
Musk owns six companies. He pushes employees to extremes by dictating punishing deadlines and issuing compulsive cost-slashing demands. He’s notorious for maniacal and mercurial behavior and going into what’s dubbed “demon mode”. Isaacson chronicles how Musk takes an almost-dead Tesla and, 18 months later, makes it America’s hottest new company. “But would a restrained Musk accomplish as much as a Musk unbound?” the author asks.
After buying Twitter, Musk’s impulsive and inflammatory and conspiracy theory tweeting garnered considerable controversy. He also exerted influence in the global arena by first providing, then limiting, satellite internet coverage in Ukraine. Isaacson ponders whether Musk accrues power so that he can make the rules.
Musk’s three epic quests — save mankind by colonizing Mars, create a sustainable future, and protect humans from the potential threat of an AI takeover — are complex, transformative, and arrogant. Visionary or villain, there’s no denying his impact. Isaacson echoes a Steve Jobs’ thought throughout the biography: “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”
When the giant carcass of a dead whale descends to the sea bottom, the “whale fall” becomes a bounty of life-sustaining nourishment for a vast ecosystem of ocean creatures. Death yields life in a dramatic and poignant marine biological occurrence.
This phenomenon is a reflective refrain in Daniel Kraus’s entertaining new thriller, “Whalefall”. Kraus, who co-wrote Guillermo del Toro’s Oscar-winning film “Shape of Water” and George Romero’s horror classic “The Living Dead”, delivers another tense and immensely cinematic tale, one you can easily imagine on the big screen.
Seventeen-year-old Jay Gardiner sets out to find the remains of his father who committed suicide a year earlier. Drowning in guilt over the fraught relationship they had, Jay decides a scuba-diving mission is the only way he can redeem himself from his estranged family and reclaim a foothold in his life. But when he is swallowed by an 80-foot, 60-ton sperm whale, and trapped with waning oxygen, he finds himself in a literal fight for his life.
Casting aside the doubtful chance of a man being swallowed whole by a whale and surviving to tell even part of the tale, Kraus’s story is scientifically accurate, and imbued with a humane respect for the majesty of the sea.
“Whalefall” a gripping and tender struggle. Will this young man be the Biblical Jonah who’s saved from drowning by a “great fish” that swallows him? Or is the captain of his demise?
Colson Whitehead, two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize (“The Underground Railroad” and “The Nickel Boys”), returns with “Crook Manifesto”, the second installment in his Harlem trilogy, and sequel to his 2021 “Harlem Shuffle”.
We meet again, in the late 1960s, with Ray Carney, a Harlem native who comes from a long line of small-time criminals. From his furniture shop window, Ray looks out on a neighborhood and society in turmoil. The streets are filled with rage; the battles among the rising Black Panthers and Black Liberation Army and the police lead to chaos and violence.
Ray, a man with big dreams, is simply trying to survive in this shifting world. He secures long-sold-out tickets to a Jackson 5 concert, hoping to make his daughter see him as relevant, important. However, the purchase reconnects him with a corrupt cop and forces him to embark on a perilous mission.