The book doesn’t quite hit the insightful levels of those by Scott Eyman or David Thomson, just as the film isn’t quite The...




An everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know-about look at a cult movie whose reputation has grown in the four decades since its initial release.

Entertainment Weekly film critic Nashawaty (Crab Monsters, Teenage Cavemen, and Candy Stripe Nurses: Roger Corman: King of the B Movie, 2013) ventures that Caddyshack (1980) first took shape as a kind of lesser entry in a flurry of films born of the nexus of Saturday Night Live, the National Lampoon, and massive piles of cocaine: The Blues Brothers, Meatballs, Animal House, etc. It was also a more pointed exercise in class warfare at the outset than when it eventually emerged, many drafts later, to critical indifference. Putting on his Peter Biskind hat, Nashawaty connects this subversiveness to more serious films such as Mean Streets and Easy Rider while seeing it as a generational repudiation of comparatively treacly fare such as Clint Eastwood’s orangutan comedies and the Smokey and the Bandit franchise. Though born of the free-wheeling, madcap cohort of fledgling director Harold Ramis (who called the movie his “$6 million scholarship to film school”) and writers Brian Doyle-Murray and the doomed Doug Kenney, Caddyshack was thoroughly vetted by studio hacks—fortunately, no one listened to them. Nashawaty steers readers through now-familiar scenes, such as Bill Murray’s near-lethal wielding of a pitchfork and Chevy Chase’s suave twitting of the uber-rich Ted Knight, brought to warp speed with the arrival of Rodney Dangerfield. What is constantly surprising, and most pleasantly so, is how these scenes could have been very different had other roads been taken—e.g., had the overburdened Bill Murray not found a spare few weeks to film and not been given free rein to improvise or had the casting director been able to land Mickey Rourke in the place of Michael O’Keefe for the central (though, in the final product, somewhat diminished) role of Danny Noonan.

The book doesn’t quite hit the insightful levels of those by Scott Eyman or David Thomson, just as the film isn’t quite The Maltese Falcon. Still, Nashawaty provides an eye-opening pleasure for Caddyshack fans.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-10595-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.


A study of swimming as sport, survival method, basis for community, and route to physical and mental well-being.

For Bay Area writer Tsui (American Chinatown: A People's History of Five Neighborhoods, 2009), swimming is in her blood. As she recounts, her parents met in a Hong Kong swimming pool, and she often visited the beach as a child and competed on a swim team in high school. Midway through the engaging narrative, the author explains how she rejoined the team at age 40, just as her 6-year-old was signing up for the first time. Chronicling her interviews with scientists and swimmers alike, Tsui notes the many health benefits of swimming, some of which are mental. Swimmers often achieve the “flow” state and get their best ideas while in the water. Her travels took her from the California coast, where she dove for abalone and swam from Alcatraz back to San Francisco, to Tokyo, where she heard about the “samurai swimming” martial arts tradition. In Iceland, she met Guðlaugur Friðþórsson, a local celebrity who, in 1984, survived six hours in a winter sea after his fishing vessel capsized, earning him the nickname “the human seal.” Although humans are generally adapted to life on land, the author discovered that some have extra advantages in the water. The Bajau people of Indonesia, for instance, can do 10-minute free dives while hunting because their spleens are 50% larger than average. For most, though, it’s simply a matter of practice. Tsui discussed swimming with Dara Torres, who became the oldest Olympic swimmer at age 41, and swam with Kim Chambers, one of the few people to complete the daunting Oceans Seven marathon swim challenge. Drawing on personal experience, history, biology, and social science, the author conveys the appeal of “an unflinching giving-over to an element” and makes a convincing case for broader access to swimming education (372,000 people still drown annually).

An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61620-786-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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In these insightfully droll essays, Gierach shows us how fishing offers plenty of time to think things over.


The latest collection of interrelated essays by the veteran fishing writer.

As in his previous books—from The View From Rat Lake through All Fishermen Are Liars—Gierach hones in on the ups and downs of fishing, and those looking for how-to tips will find plenty here on rods, flies, guides, streams, and pretty much everything else that informs the fishing life. It is the everything else that has earned Gierach the following of fellow writers and legions of readers who may not even fish but are drawn to his musings on community, culture, the natural world, and the seasons of life. In one representatively poetic passage, he writes, “it was a chilly fall afternoon with the leaves changing, the current whispering, and a pale moon in a daytime sky. The river seemed inscrutable, but alive with possibility.” Gierach writes about both patience and process, and he describes the long spells between catches as the fisherman’s equivalent of writer’s block. Even when catching fish is the point, it almost seems beside the point (anglers will understand that sentiment): At the end of one essay, he writes, “I was cold, bored, hungry, and fishless, but there was still nowhere else I’d have rather been—something anyone who fishes will understand.” Most readers will be profoundly moved by the meditation on mortality within the blandly titled “Up in Michigan,” a character study of a man dying of cancer. Though the author had known and been fishing with him for three decades, his reticence kept anyone from knowing him too well. Still, writes Gierach, “I came to think of [his] glancing pronouncements as Michigan haiku: brief, no more than obliquely revealing, and oddly beautiful.” Ultimately, the man was focused on settling accounts, getting in one last fishing trip, and then planning to “sit in the sun and think things over until it’s time for hospice.”

In these insightfully droll essays, Gierach shows us how fishing offers plenty of time to think things over.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6858-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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