Shelf Life

Honoring Halberstam

“Bird Strike’’ examines the 1960 crash of an Eastern Airlines plane after it collided with 10,000 starlings during take-off. “Bird Strike’’ examines the 1960 crash of an Eastern Airlines plane after it collided with 10,000 starlings during take-off. (Boston Public Library)
By Jan Gardner
Globe Correspondent / October 3, 2010

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The late David Halberstam, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author who wrote about power, politics, and professional sports, will be honored this week in the city where his journalism career began.

Halberstam, a 1955 graduate of Harvard College, died in a car crash in 2007. As an undergraduate, he worked long hours at the Harvard Crimson, first as sports editor and then as managing editor. At the time of his death, he was on his way to an interview for a book he was writing about the NFL championship football game in 1958.

The Cambridge City Council will dedicate the corner of Bow and Mount Auburn streets as Halberstam Square during a ceremony at 4 p.m. Wednesday. A reception at the Crimson offices will follow.

At 6 p.m., a panel discussion at Harvard’s Kennedy School will explore Halberstam’s legacy as a reporter. His coverage of the war in Vietnam and his critique of US policy angered the nation’s leaders and raised doubts that the war could be won.

Finding ‘Exley’
In his new novel “Exley,” Brock Clarke, who lives in Portland, Maine, has created a young narrator as winning and wise as Christopher Boone in Mark Haddon’s 2003 bestseller, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.”

In Clarke’s novel, being released Tuesday by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 9-year-old Miller Le Ray’s dad has left home, and the boy reasons that he can make his family whole again if he can locate Frederick Exley, his dad’s favorite writer. Exley is the author, in real life, of the 1968 cult classic “A Fan’s Notes.”

Miller’s search, like that of Christopher’s in “Curious Incident,” underscores the gulf that can exist between parents and their children.

A call to action
Fifty years ago tomorrow, an Eastern Airlines plane taking off at Logan International Airport collided with 10,000 starlings and crashed into Boston Harbor. Only 10 of the 72 people onboard survived.

The disaster remains the most deadly air crash in US history involving a bird strike. It stayed with Michael N. Kalafatas, who was a student at Boston English High School at the time. After he retired in 2002, he set out to discover everything he could about the crash. The result is a compact history and call to action titled “Bird Strike: The Crash of the Boston Electra” (Brandeis).

Kalafatas criticizes the media for focusing on human interest stories following the so-called Miracle on the Hudson crash landing last year. He suggests that reporters should have paid more attention to the issue of bird strikes and what is being done to prevent similar accidents. The Federal Aviation Administration does not require pilots to report bird strikes even though the National Transportation Safety Board has urged it to do so and the data might help the agency improve air safety.

Coming out
■ “Eden on the Charles: The Making of Boston” by Michael J. Rawson (Harvard)

■ “The Great Movies III” by Roger Ebert (University of Chicago)

■ “The Next Queen of Heaven” by Gregory Maguire (Harper)

Pick of the week
Tova Beiser of Brown University Bookstore in Providence recommends “Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter” by Tom Franklin (Morrow): “[In a] spellbinding novel about friendship, honesty, and race relations in Mississippi . . . [two] childhood friends who have been separated by circumstance and time . . . are thrust in each other’s path again when a girl goes missing and the past must be confronted. . . . A thriller as well as a character study, this [is a] powerful and redemptive novel.’’

Jan Gardner can be reached at