A rousing saga of sports and spirituality.

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HEAVEN ON THE HARDWOOD

A COACH'S JOURNEY IN FAITH & BASKETBALL

A young man obsessed with basketball tries to puzzle out God’s game plan in this sprightly Christian motivational memoir.

Hammond, a high school basketball coach in Missouri, starts out by recounting his boyhood dream of becoming an NBA star, which he pursued with single-minded intensity through amateur leagues, summer camps and school teams. It’s a story full of juvenile drama—last-second wins and losses, an agonizing wait to find out if he made the varsity starting squad—that the author tells with panache and a dollop of self-deprecating humor, which obliquely registers the pain of discovering that he’s not quite good enough for the college level. But when the pre-med direction doesn’t pan out—he faints while observing an operation—Hammond feels called to recommit to the game by becoming a coach and teacher, an ambition that’s not quite as lofty as his former dreams of NBA glory, although, in its way, it can be just as absorbing. His career scramble takes him to a small-town school with a flagging team in dire need of a turnaround, then on to a metropolitan Kansas City high school basketball powerhouse, where some of his more important revelations come from supervising a humble detention class. Threaded through this picaresque is his growing Christian faith, which affirms itself through trials great (his mother’s bout with cancer) and small—his struggle to break with a soulless collegiate party culture; a soured romance; and the persistent doubt about whether he’s choosing the right path in life. Hammond’s love of the game animates the narrative, which is full of gripping play-by-play, subtle explications of on-court strategies and leadership insights both gratifying and harsh, especially when a losing season forces him to take a hard look at his unwieldy coaching system. But basketball is also a hook for his probing, complex take on religious priorities. The game serves as a metaphor for his active, fighting faith, not to mention a possible false god that can distract from a life of deeper meaning and purpose. Hammond’s lively prose and down-to-earth perspective make his lessons in devotion unusually resonant.

A rousing saga of sports and spirituality.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2012

ISBN: 978-1624191916

Page Count: 236

Publisher: Xulon Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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