It's a cloudy day in May, and I am visiting Jared Diamond in his neo-Georgian house near UCLA. The kitchen table is laden with golden raspberries, jewel-like tomatoes, Greek yogurt, and honeyed halvah. For a moment, I miss the rabbit (now deceased) that once lived in a hutch at the end of the room. But the tiny grief passes quickly. Far more engrossing is the man before me: a scholar and friend I have known for 20 plus years.
On this morning, our meeting is social; I don't recall the conversation. What I do recall is Jared's delight upon spying a FedEx envelope at his front door as we are saying goodbye. “Aah!” he cries, “the jacket for the American edition!” That's when he, his wife Marie, and I first view its grave fonts and black-and-white photo of a New Guinea highlander and naked child against a moody, mountainous backdrop. The work's evocative title? “The World Until Yesterday—What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?”
Another book he was born to write, I think to myself.