Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Mas Bookblogging

Finished #40 over the weekend (and it was a doozy), but need to get caught up after the quickies from last week.

#32 "In the Shadow of the Law" by Kermit Roosevelt: Probably this year's winner of the "Wolf" memorial "all setup, no payoff award." Continuing my trend of doing unwise things before a big life change, (like viewing "The Paper Chase" the night before my first day of law school...and then my torts prof turns out to look just like Kingsfield. Of course, he turned out to be a real sweetheart, but I was yet to know that and was thoroughly terrified...) I read this legal thriller (use of term is advised) the weekend before starting the new job.

From what I can tell, Roosevelt gets BigLaw culture pretty right on. There's the superstar, the striver, the frat-boy, the burn-out, the old coot, etc.

And then, well, it gets silly. I won't spoil it for you because describing the various plot set ups would take too long, but suffice it to say that there is not one, but two ridiculous deus ex machina reversals that would have John Grisham himself shaking his head and saying "no f'in way." Not quite as cringe-worthy as Dan Brown's hand held parachute in Angels and Demons, but close.

#33 "Assassination Vacation" by Sarah Vowell. If only "Killing Yourself to Live" had been as witty, fun, and oh yeah about the advertised topic as this one. A meandering journey through the twists and turns of the Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley assassinations, and the motley cast of characters each seemed to throw up. Most intriguing and tragic was the story of Lincoln's son, who, Forrest Gump-like was more or less present for all three. Just the right dose of modern politics for my liking as well (Vowell, unsurprisingly considering her oeuvre, is decidedly, though not viciously, left-of-center.)

#34 "What's My Name, Fool? Sports and Resistance in the United States" By Dave Zirin. Is it odd to be a Marxist sportswriter? It would have to be - I can't imagine a more perfect "opiate of the masses" than spectator sports. In some places *cough*NotreFreakinDame*cough*, football really is religion. But anyway, Zirin is in fact a Marxist sportswriter. Unfortunately for this reader, he spent a little too much time in the Rick Reilly School of Overwrought Simile. Combined with his decidedly Leftist politics, there are some profoundly silly passages. I'm all for more Dick Cheney jokes. But just not bad ones.

Anyway, some parts of the book are actually decent - the historical sections dealing with Jackie Robinson, Ali, and the Carlos/Smith black power salute. Easy enough where events have shown the protagonists to be on the Right Side of History, as they say. The more recent stuff, not so much. Too often, he confuses "wit" (advisedly used) with substance. Further, sports seen through a completely political lens is uh, lame. He can't decide whether the players are the avenging angels or class traitors. I get confused.

That said, there are some decent bits in the more recent stuff. He takes a nice healthy run at George Foreman, and actually had two very thought-provoking essays defending Barry Bonds. Overall, too much vinegar, not enough...(huh?)

More soon...


Tim said...


Two related questions. Did Zirin have anything of interest to say about Curt Flood? And do you have any interest in the new book on Flood? I picked it up but have been, let's just say, otherwise engaged.

Pooh said...

Yeah, the standard "spare a thought for Curt Flood" thing. Which is fine, so far is it goes, but there was nothing substantively different then the section of Burns' "Baseball." Plus, it was less effective in large part because Zirin never really decides whether the players as a whole are proles or bougie (generally, when he's saying something nice, their humble working men. When he's taking a get the point.)

Re: the new book on Flood. In the abstract, sure, but it's so far down the list that I'd never get to it. So I guess that's a "no".

I am looking forward to diving into Zimbalist's (you familiar with him? "May the Best Team Win" is a great little book. Like Costas' book but by someone who actually knows something instead of a gifted, famous amateur) book about the reign of Selig.

Tim said...

I read May the Best team win and, like you, I enjoyed it. I must say I hadn't given the book on Selig much thought but I look forward to Pooh's views.

DJ Ninja said...

That's a Don Marshall reference if I ever heard one! I had him, too.

Pooh said...

That's a Don Marshall reference if I ever heard one! I had him, too.

CORRECT! He was there for so long that when the judge I clerked for was at the U, Marshall was his torts prof...