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THE FATHER...THE SON...AND THE SWEET SIXTEEN

A COLLEGE'S BASKETBALL DISASTER

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A St. Bonaventure alumnus and faculty member chronicles the school’s basketball scandal.

Scandals in college athletics are almost a blip in today’s world of rapid telecommunications and cynicism. Wieland, who now serves as a lecturer in the school’s Journalism and Mass Communications department, seems to acknowledge this reality, but he also internalizes “a college’s basketball disaster.” It is the author’s closeness to the characters and setting that puts a face on an issue that almost seems to be something new. Wieland relates how an idyllic Franciscan university got swept up in the commonplace reality of money. The details of the story are fascinating, but perhaps not for the reasons one might expect. The reader is not inundated with the seemingly lavish aspects of big-time college sports, but rather the mundane pieces of daily academics and school survival. The book’s theme revolves around the changing of a single grade of a single student basketball player. The involvement of many individuals, their actions and their conflicting accounts of those actions sometimes read like a TV crime drama, one that poses the question of what really happened. What really happened is fairly clear to Wieland, however, and he pulls no punches in his criticisms. The chapters on the school president’s apparent boondoggle land purchase or salaries sometimes seem like gossipy payback. His recollections create unmistakable good guys and bad guys. Those same recollections, though, could still leave the reader doubting. That is because Wieland is a journalist who writes like a journalist. He bases his work on interviews with the figures involved and the investigative reports resulting from the scandal, but these are not formally cited as sources and no citations are provided. There are also a few statements that seem vague, such as, “It was a common belief” or “He is said to have told the agent…” Despite using an appropriate number of quotes, it is sometimes hard to tell who is doing the talking. Ultimately, Wieland is an authoritative source, especially considering his ties with the university. He sometimes waxes nostalgic about the days when athletics was not a business, but he also acknowledges similar improprieties in his day. Although he despises the actions of some who perpetuate this big business, he is wise enough to know that the problems are systemic and historical. Wieland offers a remedy for these evils, but has no illusions about their coming to pass anytime soon. A captivating, informative account that goes beyond local interest.

 

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0615478128

Page Count: 130

Publisher: Brown Hill

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2012

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A LITTLE LIFE

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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FIREFLY LANE

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...

Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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