Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Details and Convergences

Good non-fiction books generally offer a succession of interesting details in the course of developing an argument that stretches from beginning to end. Facts, anecdotes, and descriptions presented in the space of no more than a few lines sustain the reader as he or she pursues a thesis that requires tens of thousands of words to articulate and defend.

James Carroll is, in my view, a wonderful writer in part because he attends to details. One such detail in House of War, which I find interesting because it links a favorite Los Angeles summertime venue with the subject of Carroll’s book, is this: The lead architect of the Pentagon, G. Edwin Bergstrom, also designed the Hollywood Bowl. (For an early architectural drawing of the Pentagon, go here.)

Incidentally, Carroll makes much of convergences in House of War. He notes, for example, that ground was broken for the Pentagon on September 11, 1941, sixty years--almost to the minute--before American Airlines flight 77 crashed into the west side of the building.