PEOPLE WHO SWEAT by Robin Chotzinoff


Ordinay People, Extraordinary Pursuits
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A lighthearted but insightful investigation of plain folks” drive toward athletic activities. Despite the title’s resemblance to a Jerry Springer episode (and to Chotzinoff’s previous book on garden-mania, People With Dirty Hands, not reviewed), this is a serious inquiry on why the garden-variety amateur, or a person even less athletic than a weekend warrior, would sweat for sports without promise of money or fame. In fact, most of Chotzinoff’s noncelebrity subjects (Ted Nugent is known for his music, not his bow-hunting) actually pay for play, lessons, or special camps. Several of them, like a surfing housewife, have to put up with local infamy. The author, herself attracted to unladylike sports, sets out to discover why middle-aged women (her chief target) take up snowboarding, surfing, hunting, dog sledding, or artistic roller skating’sports better suited for hyperactive boys with goatees who won—t face a change-of-life crisis for decades. Denver-based journalist Chotzinoff uncovers some truths about the human condition but always delivers them with humor. Large-bodied amateur athletes are termed “Clydesdales,” and the mediocre athlete-author concludes her description of an attempt to surf with: “I end up on shore, both arms bruised, thrilled to the core.” One “Bad-at-Gym Girl” stuns her classmates and proves something to herself by winning a 10K cross-country race in the Senior Olympics. Some of the few men presented here include septuagenarians who walk (never shop) in indoor malls, and a monk who confesses, “All of us who run marathons know it’s a masochistic pursuit.” Others pursue athleticism for the aesthetics, the challenge, the need to be in control, the fear of frumpiness and desire to keep fit, or, especially for those whose cardiovascular systems take them out to confront Nature, the “contact with something larger.” All the richer for providing almost as many answers as the author has subjects.

Pub Date: May 26th, 1999
ISBN: 0-15-100286-X
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1999