Friday, August 04, 2006

Statistics and Why I Love Them...

Theodore H. White's path-breaking book The Making of President 1960 broke away from his wonderful narrative to note that only once every 20 years does a Presidential election coincide ,with a Decennial Census. He went out to the Census Bureau in Sutiland Md., home base of the Census Bureau, to check it out. It was a stunning chapter, and set my mind on fire.
I was a young publisher at the time with a partner --- a savvy publisher, but more than a little nutso --- who was financing an enterprise, called Bold Face Books.
I ran into his office and said, "Dave, Let's do a whole book this by a novelist or a poet." He said: "That is the worst idea I ever heard." Later, we split up the company.
So with a collaborator, psephologist (look it up...) Richard M. Scammon, we set to work on This USA --- which circuitously brought me to The White House as speechwriter, and a different life.
I read things like The Historical Statistics of the United States, which --- for example --- tells a fascinating story of "lynch law" in America. Apparently as many whites as blacks were strung up --- the data --- I think --- was assembled very carefully by scholars at the Tuskeegee Institute. But there were whites than blacks in the South.
Best,
Ben

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