ON a crisp autumn day several years ago Atlantic senior editor Jack Beatty took one of his writers out to lunch: the business thinker and social philosopher Peter Drucker, then eighty-five, the author of the cover stories "The Age of Social Transformation" (November, 1994) and "Really Reinventing Government" (February, 1995). Beatty returned some three hours later,
Drucker's conversation having loped among such subjects as the difficulties of conducting an orchestra for opera, the Japanese health-care system, and the outbreak of the First World War (Drucker was a boy in Vienna when he overheard his father talking about the terrible news just received from Sarajevo -- the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand).
Soon after that lunch Beatty embarked on what has become (The Free Press) -- the first "interpretive introduction," as Beatty describes it, to the work of a man The Economist has called "the greatest thinker management theory has produced." The book, Beatty says, "tries to pass on to others the pleasure I took in reading Drucker." Actually, it goes one better, providing as well the pleasure of reading Beatty. Those familiar with his earlier book, a biography of the Boston political legend James Michael Curley, know what (besides lucidity) to expect: a deep appreciation of history and politics, a taste for portraiture and anecdote, and an acute allergy to dullness and cant.
When J. E. Lighter, the author of the "Word Improvisation" column
that appears thrice yearly on the magazine's last page, brought out the first volume (A to G) of his in 1994, the work was hailed by language scholars as the most significant lexicographical tilt at slang ever attempted. Lighter has now published the second volume (H to O). A professor at the University of Tennessee, Lighter converses with a dry yet playful sense of humor, in a distinctive drawl that somehow blends NYU and Knoxville. His dictionary, too, is at once dry and playful, but also of immense value -- and, in a country like the United States, beyond hope of true completion. "Slang is unrestrained and undignified," Lighter says, "but that's precisely why people use it. And the bigger and more diverse a society becomes, the more slang there's going to be."
-- THE EDITORS
The Atlantic Monthly; February 1998; 77 North Washington Street; Volume 281, No. 2; page 6.
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