Books by Donald Katz

THE VALLEY OF THE FALLEN by Donald Katz
NONFICTION
Released: Sept. 4, 2001

"Engaging, if not always compelling, and best seen as a journalist's time capsule, not as an ultimate work. Enjoy it for Katz's ability to convey adventure, and for his prescient takes on the 1970s and '80s—like his bright view of the young Arkansas governor from a town called Hope."
A smooth collection of previously published articles on late-20th-century politics and places, by the observant author of, most recently, Just Do It: The Nike Spirit in the Corporate World (1994). Read full book review >
HISTORY
Released: June 1, 1994

An agreeably fervid take on what makes Nike Inc. a consistent winner in the ultracompetitive sports-and-fitness trade. Accorded apparently open access, Katz (Home Fires, 1992) made the most of his unusual opportunity, capturing the in-your-face Çlan and imperatives that keep the company (best known for its athletic footwear) ahead of a pack that includes the likes of Adidas, LA Gear, and Reebock. Eschewing the more familiar forms of corporate history, he simply reports on the hectic pace maintained by Nike (named after the Greek goddess of victory) over a turbulent 17-month span that began shortly before the Summer Olympics of 1992 and ended at the start of this year. In the course of tracking Nike minions in venues ranging from corporate headquarters (in Beaverton, Ore.) through Europe, Pusan, South Korea (site of key manufacturing facilities), and inner-city shoe stores, the author provides just enough background on how the company managed to become a multinational force to keep his running commentary on contemporary events in clear perspective. Katz offers something for almost everyone in his vivid warts-and-all accounts of the moves made by Nike's executives, high-profile spokesmen (Michael Jordan, Bo Jackson, et al.), and lesser lights. Sports fans get to meet superstar athletes up close, while armchair investors can focus on the megabuck rewards afforded by an organization whose annual revenues top $3.9 billion barely two decades after its founding. In like vein, students of psychology can make what they will of the author's efforts to explain how a global enterprise is able to sustain its entrepreneurial drive in a long-distance race with no apparent finish line, and trend spotters may wonder at Nike's uncanny capacity to keep one step ahead in fashion while not breaking faith with the world-class athletes and wannabes who gave the company its jump start. An engrossing and illuminating appreciation of a distinctive corporate culture. Read full book review >
NON-FICTION
Released: June 17, 1992

An in-depth personal/sociological/cultural saga of one US family, 1945-90. Beginning with Sam Gordon's 1945 return from WW II to his wife and two-year-old daughter in Brooklyn, Katz (The Big Store, winner of the 1988 Heartland Prize for nonfiction) tells the life story of the Gordons and their three daughters and son. Integral to Katz's narrative are the social trends, generational perspectives, movies, books, and music that shape and texture the Gordons' lives. Thus in the Fifties, the Gordons live by the widely touted ideal of ``togetherness,'' all sitting down after dinner to an evening of TV. By the late Sixties, though, when the daughters have their own families, psychological pundits have declared that the nuclear family's rigid togetherness breeds psychoses and emotional damage. Sam Gordon, the personification of American blue-collar, work-hard-and-better-your-lot ethic, is bewildered when his daughter moves into the East Village squalor of his childhood, and disappointed in his only son, who grows up to be a gay art-song composer (though Ricky eventually becomes the apple of Sam's eye). Susan, born in 1943, enjoys the most dramatic story. Winning a scholarship to Vassar, she becomes a successful writer—covering the 1967 ``First Human Be-in'' in Golden Gate Park for Newsweek, and receiving a $10,000 advance from Random House for a pre-Kate Millett feminist analysis of sex. By 1987, though, she's a junkie living on the street. The trouble with Katz's account is that, despite its immense detail and careful meshing of familial foreground and social background, it sometimes seems historical and cold, with the cultural artifacts surrounding the Gordons often the most typical and obvious ones of years past. Of interest but not quite a match for William Manchester's The Glory and the Dream (1974), the brilliant cultural history to which Katz's book, with its twist of family overlay, owes much. (Sixteen-page b&w photo insert—not seen.) Read full book review >