|Rich Cohen, right, at Harry Caray's on Kinzie.|
Rich Cohen is having a better life than I am. He's younger, handsomer and his books sell better. Keith Richards thinks Rich Cohen is cool. The only whisper of coolness I can claim is that I know Rich Cohen.
Most galling, he's a better writer than I am. His recent book — he's written 11 — was about the Rolling Stones. I ate it up, even though I have no interest in the band. That's the definition of a good writer: someone who can hold your attention on a topic you otherwise care little about. I had zero curiosity about Lyndon Johnson until Robert Caro hooked his fingers into my nostrils and led me through three thick books about LBJ like a drover pulling an ox with a ring through its nose.
Before the Stones, Cohen wrote "Monsters" about the 1985 Bears. I enjoyed that, and know little about football and care less. I spent more time reading Cohen's book about the team than I've spent watching Bears games over the past decade.
How does he do it? Sharp writing spiked with fascinating facts, like the unexpected connection between the name "Bears" and the Cubs, the topic of his latest book, published Wednesday, "The Chicago Cubs: Story of a Curse.
In it, he offers three things: first, a history of the team filled with amazing trivia — Zachary Taylor Davis was the architect of both Wrigley Field and Comiskey Park — and unexpected juxtapositions. I knew Hack Wilson lost a ball in the sun, and I knew he had a great season, hitting 56 home runs. But I didn't realize one followed the other, that the standout season was poor, sodden Wilson's desperate attempt to erase the shame of missing that ball.
Second, Cohen, who grew up in Glencoe, chronicles his own lifelong love of the Cubs, despite their curse, "a futility that lasted so long we turned it into a religion."
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