Parks has no problem with the surrender of civility on Sundays in soccer stadiums. His readers probably will. (1 map)

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A SEASON WITH VERONA

TRAVELS AROUND ITALY IN SEARCH OF ILLUSION, NATIONAL CHARACTERS, AND . . . GOALS!

The prolific English-born novelist (Mimi’s Ghost, 2001), essayist (Hell and Back, 2002), and memoirist (An Italian Education, 1995) romps around Italy with the rarely civil but always rabid supporters of a mediocre professional soccer team.

Hoping to examine “the way the dream intersects with ordinary life, private and public,” Parks decides to see every Sunday soccer game of Hellas Verona, his beloved team in his adopted city. (More than 250 pages pass before he grudgingly acknowledges that Verona has another team, Chievo Verona, whose rise accompanies Hellas’s fall.) Parks’s passion for the game, for Italian language and culture, and for adolescent tomfoolery are at first sufficient. In clear, vibrant, gleefully un-PC prose he describes stadium crowds; jam-packed buses, trains, and planes; significant moments in games; and the surly, unpredictable way that chance becomes a player. But as the season continues, Parks cannot shield from view the ugliness of the fans whose acceptance he so desperately and even pathetically craves. They post toxic notes on the team Web site (many appear as chapter epigraphs). They scream obscenities at policemen, at other fans, at bus drivers. They grunt like monkeys at the black players on opposing teams. Objects and fists fly. In one horrifying episode on a train near the end, a scene out of A Clockwork Orange, they torment “a pretty young girl” (a phrase Parks uses throughout the book), urging her to spread her legs, show her breasts—or at least give them her brassiere. One of them brags about his erection. And what does Parks do while this virtual rape is occurring? “I begin to feel vaguely responsible,” he says. But he does nothing but watch, participate a little (the girl is seated beside him), remember it, enjoy it.

Parks has no problem with the surrender of civility on Sundays in soccer stadiums. His readers probably will. (1 map)

Pub Date: June 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-55970-628-7

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Arcade

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2002

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One of the NBA’s 50 greatest players scores another basket—a deeply personal one.

BACK FROM THE DEAD

A basketball legend reflects on his life in the game and a life lived in the “nightmare of endlessly repetitive and constant pain, agony, and guilt.”

Walton (Nothing but Net, 1994, etc.) begins this memoir on the floor—literally: “I have been living on the floor for most of the last two and a half years, unable to move.” In 2008, he suffered a catastrophic spinal collapse. “My spine will no longer hold me,” he writes. Thirty-seven orthopedic injuries, stemming from the fact that he had malformed feet, led to an endless string of stress fractures. As he notes, Walton is “the most injured athlete in the history of sports.” Over the years, he had ground his lower extremities “down to dust.” Walton’s memoir is two interwoven stories. The first is about his lifelong love of basketball, the second, his lifelong battle with injuries and pain. He had his first operation when he was 14, for a knee hurt in a basketball game. As he chronicles his distinguished career in the game, from high school to college to the NBA, he punctuates that story with a parallel one that chronicles at each juncture the injuries he suffered and overcame until he could no longer play, eventually turning to a successful broadcasting career (which helped his stuttering problem). Thanks to successful experimental spinal fusion surgery, he’s now pain-free. And then there’s the music he loves, especially the Grateful Dead’s; it accompanies both stories like a soundtrack playing off in the distance. Walton tends to get long-winded at times, but that won’t be news to anyone who watches his broadcasts, and those who have been afflicted with lifelong injuries will find the book uplifting and inspirational. Basketball fans will relish Walton’s acumen and insights into the game as well as his stories about players, coaches (especially John Wooden), and games, all told in Walton’s fervent, witty style.

One of the NBA’s 50 greatest players scores another basket—a deeply personal one.

Pub Date: March 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4767-1686-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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Effectively sobering. Suffice it to say that Pop Warner parents will want to armor their kids from head to toe upon reading...

CONCUSSION

A maddening, well-constructed tale of medical discovery and corporate coverup, set in morgues, laboratories, courtrooms, and football fields.

Nigeria-born Bennet Omalu is perhaps an unlikely hero, a medical doctor board-certified in four areas of pathology, “anatomic, clinical, forensic, and neuropathology,” and a well-rounded specialist in death. When his boss, celebrity examiner Cyril Wecht (“in the autopsy business, Wecht was a rock star”), got into trouble for various specimens of publicity-hound overreach, Omalu was there to offer patient, stoical support. The student did not surpass the teacher in flashiness, but Omalu was a rock star all his own in studying the brain to determine a cause of death. Laskas’ (Creative Writing/Univ. of Pittsburgh; Hidden America, 2012, etc.) main topic is the horrific injuries wrought to the brains and bodies of football players on the field. Omalu’s study of the unfortunate brain of Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster, who died in 2002 at 50 of a supposed heart attack, brought new attention to the trauma of concussion. Laskas trades in sportwriter-ese, all staccato delivery full of tough guyisms and sports clichés: “He had played for fifteen seasons, a warrior’s warrior; he played in more games—two hundred twenty—than any other player in Steelers history. Undersized, tough, a big, burly white guy—a Pittsburgh kind of guy—the heart of the best team in history.” A little of that goes a long way, but Laskas, a Pittsburgher who first wrote of Omalu and his studies in a story in GQ, does sturdy work in keeping up with a grim story that the NFL most definitely did not want to see aired—not in Omalu’s professional publications in medical journals, nor, reportedly, on the big screen in the Will Smith vehicle based on this book.

Effectively sobering. Suffice it to say that Pop Warner parents will want to armor their kids from head to toe upon reading it.

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8757-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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