AN ACCIDENTAL SPORTSWRITER

A MEMOIR

TV contributor, biographer, veteran sportswriter and young adult novelist Lipsyte (Center Field, 2010, etc.) revisits key events in his life, the sporting world, the lives of professional athletes and the evolving cultural significance of sports in America.

The author begins with an account of how he stumbled into journalism, landing a copyboy job with the New York Times not long after graduating from Columbia University. He had a skeptical eye practically from the beginning. As a chubby schoolboy, he had endured harassment from jocks. “I was,” he writes, “a fat kid trapped at the bottom of the masculinity chart.” His remarks about the Times, scattered throughout, range from grateful to caustic (he has only ill to say of Howell Raines). But he acknowledges some mentors, too, principally Gay Talese and Howard Cosell. He charts the vicissitudes of his relationships with some athletic legends, among them Muhammad Ali, Mickey Mantle (he praises Jane Leavy’s 2010 The Last Boy), Joe DiMaggio and Billy Jean King. However, Lipsyte doesn’t focus entirely on athletic celebrities. He provides sections on lacrosse players on the New York Onondaga Indian reservation and on Gerard Papa (a youth-basketball pioneer), and he talks about two huge stories he started, then abandoned for various reasons: the drug investigations that became the story behind The French Connection and the life of David Berkowitz (the “Son of Sam” murderer). The author also tells about his experiences with NASCAR and cycling, and he writes sensitively about women in sports and about the emergence of openly gay athletes. He reserves his harshest criticism for his sports-writing colleagues, many of whom he views as little more than dim cheerleaders. Though frank about his struggles with cancer, Lipsyte bobs and weaves about other aspects of his personal life (three marriages ended for reasons unrevealed) and ends with a moving tribute to his late father. At times a bit detached for a memoir, but packed with bright, biting insights about America’s obsessions with athletics.

 

Pub Date: May 3, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-176913-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2011

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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