A shocking, funny, and detailed record exposing the excessive market value of collectibles. Paisner (Horizontal Hold:The Making and Breaking of a Network Television Pilot,1992), who has pinch-hit for the likes of Ed Koch, George Pataki, Geraldo, Montel, and Whoopi, here depicts how Mark McGwire’s historic 70th home run ball was manufactured for about five bucks and ultimately sold for over three million. Paisner follows research scientist Phil Ozersky, who caught “the ball,” nearly gave it up (as some kids did with other valuable balls), and nervously held on while a string of agents, auction houses, and bidders led a financial feeding frenzy. Although a fan who understands sports collectibles, Paisner sees the absurdity of throwing around dollars “as if they—d been printed by Milton Bradley, when the market capitalization of fledgling Internet companies rivals the gross national product of, say, Belgium.” We are prepared for Ozersky’s ordeal and triumph when reading of the $93,500 for the Bill Buckner ball (1968 World Series) and the fates of other McGwire and Sosa balls in 1998. Paisner also reveals proposed product tie-ins, including a line of clothes, a credit card hologram of “the ball” and slugger Beanie Babies. It’s madness from the moment Ozersky catches “the ball” and is hustled to an office by Busch Stadium cops past beer-dousing fans. “He’s clutching so tight to the ball, it might hold a secret formula for world peace.” It might hold fortune, as Sotheby’s sold Tyrannosaurus rex bones for $8.6 million, and “stupid money” went for Princess Diana’s wedding gown. An auction at Madison Square Garden gets “the ball” to comic book czar Todd McFarlane. Ozersky gets his million clear, “but his life was no longer his own.” At least Ozersky finally gets to meet McGwire, the hero whose priceless trophy he has sold. A powerful metaphor of how our materialistic greed turns cowhide into a mutimillion-dollar holy grail.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-670-88776-5

Page Count: 206

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1999

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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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