The University Press of Kansas has published Vietnam's High Ground, a really fine history of America's war as it was fought in the Central Highlands that made up a considerable portion of the country's land mass, and that spread into Cambodia and Laos. Sparsely populated, and long shunned by the lowland Vietnamese, it was the perfect hiding place and training ground point for North Vietnamese infiltrators all through the war. (Indeed, the first and final major battles of the war were fought in the Highlands.) Paul Harris of the British Army's academy at Sandhurst wrote the book from U.S. and Vietnamese sources, and -- a rarity in Vietnam histories -- salted it with excellent maps. Highly recommended.
The Flight in question is the roughly 4,000-mile jaunt from New York to Paris in May 1927 that made Charles Lindbergh the most famous man in the world. Dan Hampton's account is the fifth I have read, and the first to focus on the pilot rather than the man. It's a book for pilots, by a pilot, with relentless attention to the endless, tiny adjustments that must be made to fly an unstable aircraft. (Had Spirit been stable, I doubt it would have reached Europe, for even the disciplined Lindbergh would surely have fallen asleep.) Short of spending forty hours in a simulator, reading these 250 pages is the closest we can get to his ordeal through the two days and a night he spent in the air. It is, therefore, a bit of an astonishment to discover, toward the end, that a thief made off with Lindbergh's logbook soon after he landed at Le Bourget, and that it has was never recovered. So what did I just spend forty hours reading, a work of fiction?
I almost let this one go by, but Facing Ali is a magnificent documentary about prize-fighting -- and when you see those giants slamming each other, you know why boxing used to be called a prize fight. Cassius Clay, later Muhammad Ali, did indeed "float like a butterfly," but he also delivered and received some awful blows. What impressed me most was the intelligence of some of these men, especially the Canadian George Chuvalo, and the affection that they display toward the man who beat them in the ring -- or whom they defeated, notably Larry Holmes. Watching the footage of the Holmes-Ali fight in Las Vegas is a painful thing. At thirty-eight, Ali is an old man, no longer floating like a butterfly or stinging like a bee. Indeed, he alread seems unable to speak clearly, an affliction that torments several of the fighters featured in this docco. Blue skies! — Dan Ford
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