A wise, funny, eminently quotable, but woefully overplotted feel-good novel about cycling, friendship, aging, and the...

VENTOUX

Decades after losing a companion on Mont Ventoux, five friends reunite to make peace with the mountain—and each other—by cycling it once more.

In the summer of 1982, six teenagers travel from their home in Holland to Provence. Three of them—Peter, a rising star in the poetry world; Joost, a gregarious math genius; and Bart, the narrator—plan on biking up Mont Ventoux, a brutal climb steeped in cycling history. The other three—David, the steady homebody; André, the pothead; and Laura, the beautiful, brilliant woman with whom all five men are, in their own ways, enamored—tag along for the camaraderie. The ascent, though grueling, is a success, but Peter dies while descending, and his surviving friends, each carrying a new cargo of guilt and confusion, go their separate ways. Thirty years later, they remain estranged. Bart is a crime reporter, André is a forcibly retired (i.e. “acquitted due to lack of evidence”) high-end drug dealer, Joost is an underhanded but prizewinning physicist, and David (who still dislikes travel) owns a successful travel agency. No one has heard from Laura. So when she makes contact, they’re eager to reconvene (with bikes) in Southern France to analyze what they were and what they’ve become. Though debut novelist Wagendorp excels in his depiction of middle-age male friendships, Laura, the love object, is less convincing and at times seems more like a device than a person. The novel is further hamstrung by overly self-conscious literary elements (it is not enough, apparently, for a book to be concerned with past and present; one must add a string theorist’s thoughts on timelessness to the mix) and excessive, blockbuster-style plotting. But for every flaw, the humorous rapport between the longtime friends offers serious counterweight: André: “Sorry…for all those years of silence. I should have responded, at least to the announcement of your daughter’s birth.” Bart: “I expect you were busy.” André: “Pretty.” Bart: “No excuse, bastard….She’ll be 21 soon.” André: “Yes, well anyway, congratulations on your daughter’s birth.”

A wise, funny, eminently quotable, but woefully overplotted feel-good novel about cycling, friendship, aging, and the remedial nature of athletics.

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64286-017-7

Page Count: 300

Publisher: World Editions

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

One of the NBA’s 50 greatest players scores another basket—a deeply personal one.

BACK FROM THE DEAD

A basketball legend reflects on his life in the game and a life lived in the “nightmare of endlessly repetitive and constant pain, agony, and guilt.”

Walton (Nothing but Net, 1994, etc.) begins this memoir on the floor—literally: “I have been living on the floor for most of the last two and a half years, unable to move.” In 2008, he suffered a catastrophic spinal collapse. “My spine will no longer hold me,” he writes. Thirty-seven orthopedic injuries, stemming from the fact that he had malformed feet, led to an endless string of stress fractures. As he notes, Walton is “the most injured athlete in the history of sports.” Over the years, he had ground his lower extremities “down to dust.” Walton’s memoir is two interwoven stories. The first is about his lifelong love of basketball, the second, his lifelong battle with injuries and pain. He had his first operation when he was 14, for a knee hurt in a basketball game. As he chronicles his distinguished career in the game, from high school to college to the NBA, he punctuates that story with a parallel one that chronicles at each juncture the injuries he suffered and overcame until he could no longer play, eventually turning to a successful broadcasting career (which helped his stuttering problem). Thanks to successful experimental spinal fusion surgery, he’s now pain-free. And then there’s the music he loves, especially the Grateful Dead’s; it accompanies both stories like a soundtrack playing off in the distance. Walton tends to get long-winded at times, but that won’t be news to anyone who watches his broadcasts, and those who have been afflicted with lifelong injuries will find the book uplifting and inspirational. Basketball fans will relish Walton’s acumen and insights into the game as well as his stories about players, coaches (especially John Wooden), and games, all told in Walton’s fervent, witty style.

One of the NBA’s 50 greatest players scores another basket—a deeply personal one.

Pub Date: March 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4767-1686-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Effectively sobering. Suffice it to say that Pop Warner parents will want to armor their kids from head to toe upon reading...

CONCUSSION

A maddening, well-constructed tale of medical discovery and corporate coverup, set in morgues, laboratories, courtrooms, and football fields.

Nigeria-born Bennet Omalu is perhaps an unlikely hero, a medical doctor board-certified in four areas of pathology, “anatomic, clinical, forensic, and neuropathology,” and a well-rounded specialist in death. When his boss, celebrity examiner Cyril Wecht (“in the autopsy business, Wecht was a rock star”), got into trouble for various specimens of publicity-hound overreach, Omalu was there to offer patient, stoical support. The student did not surpass the teacher in flashiness, but Omalu was a rock star all his own in studying the brain to determine a cause of death. Laskas’ (Creative Writing/Univ. of Pittsburgh; Hidden America, 2012, etc.) main topic is the horrific injuries wrought to the brains and bodies of football players on the field. Omalu’s study of the unfortunate brain of Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster, who died in 2002 at 50 of a supposed heart attack, brought new attention to the trauma of concussion. Laskas trades in sportwriter-ese, all staccato delivery full of tough guyisms and sports clichés: “He had played for fifteen seasons, a warrior’s warrior; he played in more games—two hundred twenty—than any other player in Steelers history. Undersized, tough, a big, burly white guy—a Pittsburgh kind of guy—the heart of the best team in history.” A little of that goes a long way, but Laskas, a Pittsburgher who first wrote of Omalu and his studies in a story in GQ, does sturdy work in keeping up with a grim story that the NFL most definitely did not want to see aired—not in Omalu’s professional publications in medical journals, nor, reportedly, on the big screen in the Will Smith vehicle based on this book.

Effectively sobering. Suffice it to say that Pop Warner parents will want to armor their kids from head to toe upon reading it.

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8757-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more