Saturday, January 19, 2008

Michael Oriard

Michael Oriard is Associate Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Distinguished Professor of American Literature and Culture at Oregon State University. His books include Brand NFL: Making and Selling America's Favorite Sport (2007), King Football: Sport & Spectacle in the Golden Age of Radio and Newsreels, Movies & Magazines, the Weekly & the Daily Press (2001), and Reading Football: How the Popular Press Created an American Spectacle (1993), all from University of North Carolina Press.

Last week I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
The best book on football that I've read this fall is Sally Jenkins's The Real All-Americans, which nicely balances a Hollywood-ready triumphal tale of college football's ultimate underdogs, the Carlisle Indians of the 1890s and early 20th century, with a nuanced portrait of the school's superintendent, Richard Henry Pratt, a genuinely altruistic and rightly beloved father figure who nonetheless believed that the best thing he could do for his Indian students was to exterminate their native languages and cultures.

With a new day job in recent years as an associate dean instead of a professor of American literature, I have been reading impulsively outside my discipline in the evenings: Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel; Charles Mann's 1491; Walter Alvarez's T. Rex and the Crater of Doom; Tony Judt's Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945. I found Judt's nearly 900-page tome continuously engrossing, for reassembling the fractured map of post-Soviet eastern Europe but even more so for bringing home to me, over and over, the powerfully attractive alternative that western European social democracy poses to American capitalism -- and how neither system was inevitable but rather the consequence of political decisions made over the past half-century.
Learn more about Michael Oriard and his more recent books.

--Marshal Zeringue