cover image Any Day

Any Day

Henry Mitchell. Indiana University Press, $24.95 (272pp) ISBN 978-0-253-33308-7

""Any Day"" was the general-interest column the late Mitchell wrote for the Washington Post from 1973 to 1991, where he expounded on everything from a rumored romance between Nancy Reagan and Frank Sinatra (""at their age--they were both born in the Jurassic--why would they want to carry on with each other?"") to his beloved dog, Sheba, who ""had a broken back and not very good teeth and about as much charm as a wet sock."" Mitchell's charm comes largely from his candor; calling things as he sees them, he displays no fear of puncturing an ego or aiming a well-honed barb at a beloved institution. Consider his take on Wonder Bread; upon learning that the dough ""relaxes and rises three times in its four-hour manufacturing period,"" he writes, ""I thought they just blew up library paste with gas and sent it to the oven."" Mitchell can be a curmudgeon, but his targets seem deserving of his quiet literary lashings. Like when he discovered the artist Christo's plan to spend $2.5 million wrapping some islands with pink plastic: ""It's a superb example of the combination of American monetary extravagance and spiritual poverty."" These 75 essays are a superb example of the opposite: acute observations by a writer whose sharp eye and grace with words are a blessing to those fortunate enough to read them. (Oct.)