Who uses it: Politicians
What it means: Redrawing the borders of a political district in order to create a demographic profile that favors one political party. "Gerrymander" comes from Elbridge Gerry, Republican governor of Massachusetts in the early 19th-century, whose legislature redrew district boundaries to favor Republicans over the Federalist party. Ironically, Gerry himself had nothing to do with this, and privately opposed the plan.
How you can use it: When you're reorganizing for a purpose.
I moved while I was away. My apartment building is in the same place as it was, and so are all my things, but my street address changed on March 1.
I discovered this when I went to pick up my mail yesterday. "You know your address changed yesterday?" the postmistress said. "Uh -- no," I said. "We notified your landlord, he was supposed to tell you."
The new address is on the same street as the old, but the number is different by about 200 -- I'm not going to post it here, but I'll send it around to anyone who needs it. I use the P.O. Box for almost all of my mail, and that address hasn't changed. The postmistress couldn't give me an explanation for the change, and I can't help but wonder whether two blocks of my neighborhood disappeared into some black hole.
Anyway, here's What I Read This Week.
Tab Hunter and Eddie Muller, Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star. Eddie Muller is a charming guy and an excellent writer (one year I gave copies of his Dark City Dames to several friends for Christmas). This collaboration is a fascinating history of Old Hollywood, and Tab Hunter emerges as a nice guy with a great sense of humor about his adventures in the screen trade. Hunter takes no cheap shots and has no axes to grind, though some of his story -- his blighted romance with Anthony Perkins, for example -- is quite sad.
Karen Armstrong, A Short History of Myth. Armstrong packs a great deal into 120 pages -- enough, in fact, to make me wish this book had been about twice as long. Early in the book she asserts that humans are the only species that create myths, which made me wonder for days about what sort of myths Dizzy might come up with, if dogs were mythmakers. The point of this book is that Myth is so powerful in the human psyche that it resists all attempts to suppress it, and reinvents itself with each civilization.
Jane Smiley, The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton: A Novel. Jane Smiley too is a wonderful writer, and I've been working my way through her Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel for some time now. I was completely enthralled with the first half of this book, about a young woman who marries a Massachusetts abolitionist and lights out for Kansas territory. I expected great things from the second half, and was sadly disappointed. Lidie takes risks and has adventures that not only end in failure, but seem to teach her nothing terribly profound. The book doesn't so much end as stop, and it left me feeling flat and empty, having learned nothing except that life in Kansas Territory was really, really hard. Really. Really. Hard.