(first published by me, John Lake, at:..)
There are many among us who have a fancy for writing articles. The subject matter as we know is limitless. The fun is in the production and in the sharing. Now, I don’t ordinarily write book reviews, but today I make an exception.
There is one writer of articles who stands head and shoulders above the rest, a man whose political savvy is matched only by his humor and his readability. If you haven’t heard of Russell Baker, you are in for a pleasant surprise. The work now in review contains his collected articles (many, many), under the title, There’s A Country In My Cellar.
The example for this day will involve the payment or non-payment of taxes. The Baker article in point, “Just Keep It For Yourself,” is about a young man who hires an outfit in the “tax-dodging business” to show him how to keep his money instead of contributing some of it “to help defend the country, make life less miserable for the afflicted, and provide police protection for the luxurious community he infested.”
When Russell Baker approaches the subject of “tax dodging” he doesn’t start his piece by a mention of tax dodging. Don’t worry; he eventually gets there. He is much more likely to begin with the image of a young gentleman — say, 23– wearing a $500 Jacket and a cashmere sweater “that would have had “Big Bucks” written all over it if it hadn’t been too highbrow to carry on like a T-shirt.” With the young man, a dog that had been to one of the “..best dog finishing schools”, as you could see “from the blasé way it conducted itself in the company of a $500 jacket.”
Baker knew that the man would start talking before he got very far, “probably about dog biscuits, I figured, or tick removers.” Baker (who wrote this some few decades ago) knows that when you see a man walking vigorously, during the television commercial pauses, it’s a “lead-pipe cinch” he is going to start “chewing your ear.”
The article continues. Ed ‘” the man’s real name is Edward. He likes to be called Ed, hates being called “Eddie” ‘” mentions “something like, ‘What matters is not how much you make, you half-wit. It’s how much you keep.’ “
I cannot recommend There’s a County in My Cellar too highly. It may make a great addition to your library. It might even make a great gift.