A lot of people want to know about this Tomek Jankowski guy. And not just the authorities. Let's start by looking at his official bio on the New Europe Books website:
grew up in a Polish family in Buffalo, New York—worked, studied, and
traveled in Poland, Hungary, and other regions of Eastern Europe from
the late 1980s to the mid-1990s. He gained a functional literacy in
Polish, Hungarian, Russian, and German, while also studying other Slavic
languages. Jankowski holds a degree in history from the State
University of New York at Buffalo. Since the late 1990s he has held
positions in the business sector ranging from bond analysis to data
research. Currently he is a senior analyst at a research firm that
specializes in producing market analysis for the management consulting
world--a capacity that has seen him author numerous reports focusing on
Eastern Europe--as well as the financial services industry. He lives in
Londonderry, New Hampshire.
In the mid-1960s, communist Hungary's Soviet-style economy was beginning to circle the drain, and a senior government minister famously responded to a question about the state of the economy with: A
helyzet reménytelen, de nem komoly" -- "It's hopeless, but not serious." And he said that with a straight face. That pretty much sums up my approach to history, and writing in general. Getting the research right, striving for an unbiased approach, managing and integrating all the contradictory elements, getting the key expert input for your analysis -- these are all key to any history effort. But what has often been neglected is the presentation, the part where the findings are presented in some meaningful way that makes sense to somebody. This is where I try to excel, in making often complicated things accessible and understandable.
In part, this was the result of my encountering some great writers who were able to convey things in plain language, and make reading fun. Some were professional comedic writers like Dave Barry, Pat McManus, Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams. More serious authors like Sławomir Mrożek, Ryszard Kapuściński, and Kálmán Mikszáth also made some dents in my head, but some folks in the social sciences like the popular British historian James Burke and the British archaeologist Geoffrey Bibby ("Looking for Dilmun") showed me how history could be presented in an entertaining but informative way.
Well-written history makes history fun, and takes the focus off the endless stream of names and dates that history is so often reduced to. It puts people, real people, center stage and brings you into their world. And I have to confess that I'm a fan of the Grand Narrative -- the broad, sweeping overview that ties it all together but also serves as a gateway into the countless sub-topics one can plunge into on a deeper dive. There are those, especially in the study of American history, who believe that anything but the narrowest topic is too artificial and abstract to be studied seriously, but the Grand Narrative puts these sub-topics into context, and makes them more accessible for non-professionals. Context, baby; context.
In the end, though, it's about a good story -- and I can't think of a better story than the one we're living. We've been working on this baby for some 10,000 years. Yes, some of this has been pretty cringe-worthy but that's what makes for a good story. Sucks to live it, but it sure is fun to read. And hey -- remember, this is our story. This is us. And you don't get a re-write; we have to take all our blemishes and lumps with the good. It's who we are. So I hope you enjoy my own journey as I explore our triumphs and foibles, and look for the connections that transcend our usual assumptions. We may not always be who we want to be, but we keep adding to the definition of what it means to be human. Besides - it's a living. ;)