The manufacturers of Crocs rubber-like, clog-like shoes sent me a promotional pair, red, size 11 (my size, almost). Crocs wants a promotional testimonial from me, but I don't wear red, rubber-like shoes.
I was not surprised by Crocs' approach. I regularly receive eagerly proferred gifts, unasked for, from manufacturers of vodka made from soy beans, inedible krisps from South Africa that are about to break through in the American market, whole multi-colored tea sets made of plastic and just right for your summer picnic, T-shirts, pens, calendars, and on and on. Never substantial financial incentives, no fancy dinners paid for by sleek lobbyists, no all expense paid trips to Bali. Maybe such attractions are reserved for politicians and daily newspaper editors. Anyway, Tia Williams, the public relations manager for Crocs Inc., tells me that the arrival of my gift is part of the company's much anticipated "new spring palette ... in the season's hottest colors - lime, fuchsia, chocolate and purple." And she adds, fetchingly, "We have enclosed a beach shoe for you to try and hope that you will love this unique footwear offering." I tried to interest Moll and Alix, but the offerings were too big for the women. For Christian, they were just right, but he's not a follower of fashion trends (at least, not with any that I'm familiar with), even those made of a "special proprietary closed cell resin [that] warms and softens with your body heat and molds to your feet." Besides, red rubber clogs don't complement his daily wardrobe. No sale.
Tia Williams explains why Crocs will be everywhere this summer: "This shoe is a great choice for any age and incorporates fashion, function and fun in the most comfortable shoe in existence. It's the perfect shoe for lounging around all summer long. All you have to do is try on Crocs once and you will understand why, in less than two years, they have become a phenomenon all their own - loved by doctors, chefs, athletes, outdoor enthusiasts, families, boaters, and of course, celebrities - including Chris Rock, Ben Affleck, Drew Barrymore and Mario Batalli."
I don't know if it's the same for Chris or Ben or Drew, but for me, apart from the phenomenon that has, I admit, caught me by surprise, the absolutely mesmerizing but unfathomable mystery that survives Ms. Williams' blandishments is why these footwear offerings smell like bubblegum, or maybe the inside of a teenage girl's makeup kit. I can't figure it out, but it's certainly not the smell I associate with my own footwear offerings.
The mail this week yielded Zeb, Celebrated Schooner Captain of Martha's Vineyard, published by Insiders' Guide, a unit of Globe Pequot Press, 2005, paper, 160 pp., with many photographs, $16.95.
Polly Burroughs, who lives in Edgartown, has republished her charming, anecdotal 1972 biography of Zebulon Tilton, the Vineyard seafarer, storyteller, and captain of the coasting schooner Alice Wentworth, a familiar vessel in Vineyard Haven and alongshore in New England. But while Ms. Burroughs's story features Captain Tilton, it also encompasses late nineteenth and early twentieth century Martha's Vineyard, the increasingly popular summer resort, and the coastwise schooner trade in bulk commodities such as cordwood, coal, lumber, bricks, salt, ice and so much else, between New York and the Kennebec.
Zeb Tilton, born in 1867, was an immensely powerful, cross-eyed, woman loving, story telling, seafaring master of the blunt and witty epigram. He lived on till 1952, on into the post-war boom, and he cultivated some of the celebrated visitors who summered on the Vineyard. They found him fascinating, admirable, amusing, and unique - a story worth the telling.
If you like biographies written by scrupulous, sharp-witted, history-minded writers whose researches have led them to fall hard for their subjects, you'll appreciate John Adams, Party of One, by James Grant (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2005, 530 pp., $30).
Mr. Grant is not a historian in the conventional sense. He is the editor of Grant's Interest Rate Observer, a financial tool for the investment- and finance-minded. He has previously written on finance and financial history. Here, he tells Adams's remarkable story, balancing admiration with meticulous research and a lively, straightforward prose style. Mr. Grant's Adams is a valuable partner to David McCullough's powerful portrait of the second president. Mr. Grant adds wonderful detail to the efforts Adams made in his own determined, impolitic, but vastly intelligent way to find financial support for the infant American nation in France and Holland.