So somebody gave me The Nine for Christmas, which is one of the new Supreme Court books, and one that I was pretty eager to read. But one of the reasons I was so eager to read it was that a friend who had already read it told me it had all kinds of dirt about the justices, including the fact that David Souter eats a yogurt and an apple for lunch, which is kind of a striking fact.
David Lat has made a career out of collecting this stuff -- the fact that it's out there isn't news, nor, I guess, is the kind of hand-wringing I'm about to engage in.
Why the hell do I care what David Souter eats? Do I care because he's a justice of the Supreme Court, or do I care because I like collecting facts about other people, especially facts that seem weird? Is there any difference between my interest in David Souter and Britney Spears? How about the guy across from my apartment who yells at his girlfriend?
It's always fun, although I guess maybe it used to be more fun, to pick the perfect subjects of the New Yorker Talk of the Town piece. The stained glass restorer, the last maker of hand-crafted bricks, the person who tracks the migration of some particular kind of bunny rabbit. And then you could do your best to mimic the New Yorker style of discussion, the bland presentation of personal eccentricity. But there's some of the same thing there -- what's the point of knowing these things about these people? Is it that there's some particular merit to the stained glass profession? Is it another way of contemplating human variety?
Or is it just some kind of drive to know what's going on with other people, whoever they may be? We want to be behind the scenes, we want to wrap our hands around some kind of vision of who these people are, really.