Portraits of Our Times

Beverly Cleary was put on academic probation after first grade, having fallen behind in reading. She found the assigned stories to be boring and unrealistic and wished somebody would write books about real kids.

Michael K. Williams had his face sliced open inside a Queens bar on his 25th birthday. Years later, Tupac Shakur saw a photo of the dramatic scar, and it changed Williams’s life.

Rosalind Cartwright was a pioneering sleep researcher with a focus on the dreams of divorced women. Dreams, she believed, were “designed not to erase experience but to highlight it, to help us monitor and update our internal picture of ourselves.”

Larry King had eight marriages, seven wives, six kids, two bankruptcies, a larceny arrest, a quintuple bypass surgery, a case of lung cancer — and one of the most successful talk shows of the past 40 years.

Brigitte Gerney, known as the Crane Lady because of a horrific accident in Manhattan that transfixed the country in 1985, responded to a life full of misfortune with resilient optimism. She helped the crane operator stay out of jail by asking a judge to show compassion.

Cloris Leachman, in two defining acting roles, proved that middle-aged characters could be complex and draw huge audiences.

Jim (Mudcat) Grant improvised his own ending to the national anthem at a Major League Baseball game in 1960 — “This land is not so free, I can’t even go to Mississippi” — and later became both a star pitcher and a star R & B artist.

Yasuhiro Wakabayashi, the photographer known as Hiro, epitomized a mentor’s mantra: “If you look into the camera and you see something you recognize, don’t click the shutter.”

One of my favorite annual Times features is the Lives They Lived issue of The Magazine that runs every December. (Close newsletter readers will recognize that we pay homage to it with our daily obituary, called Lives Lived.) The Magazine issue includes both the famous and the less famous, with a focus on lesser-known or forgotten stories. Together, the reflections offer a portrait of the recent past.

In addition to the people mentioned above, this year’s issue includes Colin Powell, DMX, Janet Malcolm, Mary Wilson, Norm Macdonald, Christopher Plummer, James Hormel, Rennie Davis and more. You can find it here.

Related: Joan Didion, the novelist and essayist who chronicled California and the 1960s, died yesterday at 87.

I’ll be taking off most of next week, and my colleagues have planned a fun collection of year-end newsletters for you. They will also continue to keep you posted on the latest developments with Omicron and the rest of the news.

To everyone celebrating: Merry Christmas.

  • A jury found Kim Potter, a former Minnesota police officer, guilty of manslaughter in the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright.

  • Canada will pay billions of dollars to Indigenous residents who have lived with tainted water.

  • A 14-year-old girl was killed when a Los Angeles police officer opened fire on a man who was involved in an assault at a clothing store, the police said.

  • More than 120 Times employees and family members barely escaped Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover, enduring gunfire, beatings and hunger.

Even if you’re not gathering in person, you should still give yourself the joy of a feast, says Abhijit Banerjee.

Our old lives are gone. Embrace it, Lindsay Crouse, Kirby Ferguson and Emily Holzknecht recommend in a video.

At the end of the year, we like to expand our weekly news quiz into something more ambitious: one big quiz that tries to capture as much of the year’s news as possible. News junkies will probably ace it. Do you know …

But those who aren’t news-obsessed will enjoy it, too. We’ve got words to spell, maps to click and more — from vaccination rates to meme stocks to Bernie Sanders’s mittens. Play it here.

The pangram from yesterday’s Spelling Bee was acquaint. Here is today’s puzzle — or you can play online.

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Small drinks (four letters).

If you’re in the mood to play more, find all our games here.

Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you Monday. — David

P.S. Three Apollo 8 astronauts became the first humans to orbit the Moon 53 years ago today. “Please be informed there is a Santa Claus,” one of them radioed NASA.

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