That’s just right: Stanton’s is another entry in the roster of excellent works devoted to baseball, sure to please fans of...

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THE FINAL SEASON

FATHERS, SONS, AND ONE LAST SEASON IN A CLASSIC AMERICAN BALLPARK

A fan’s affectionate notes on America’s game—one whose spirit seems to be at grave risk.

Stanton, a Gen-X native of Detroit, is too young to remember the Tigers in their glory. He does, however, have a keen sense of history, one given full air in this account of a season spent in the city’s now-demolished Tiger Stadium. Detroit squads had played there since 1912, when (a few days after the Titanic sank and on the same day that Boston’s Fenway Park opened) Ty Cobb and his teammates faced off against Cleveland’s “Shoeless Joe” Jackson. Stanton’s pages are populated by countless baseball heroes, many of whom (Charlie Gehringer, Al Kaline) are not likely to be known to readers who did not grow up Tigers fans—or to those younger than Stanton. His hero worship for these players is a constant, but he has sharper words for the modern game—and especially for the New York Yankees, a longstanding bête noire whose current six leadoff hitters earn more than the Tigers’ entire roster. The latter-day Tigers turn in only a so-so performance to punctuate Stanton’s meditation on the meaning of baseball to generations of Americans, and on a park that would soon be demolished in favor of a soulless and corporatized replacement stadium that places fans ever farther from the players. Still, as his narrative closes, Stanton lapses into celebratory reveries not unworthy of Field of Dreams: standing in a baseball diamond, he writes, “if you listen beyond the silence, if you listen with your heart, you can hear all sorts of things. You can hear your childhood, you can hear your dad and your uncles, you can hear Kaline connecting, you can hear the muted cheers of distant, ghost crowds, and you can hear your grandpa calling out from the bleachers.”

That’s just right: Stanton’s is another entry in the roster of excellent works devoted to baseball, sure to please fans of the game.

Pub Date: June 15, 2000

ISBN: 0-312-27288-X

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

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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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A broad and deep look at Japan’s medieval referents, and a capable illustration of a martial art form steeped in rich...

PERSIMMON WIND

A MARTIAL ARTIST'S JOURNEY IN JAPAN

A reflective and entertaining journey through Japan, as the author seeks to reconnect with his martial arts sensei.

Lowry is a student of koryu (not to be confused with kendo), a style of Japanese classical swordsmanship. Koryu is a medieval art, like Noh and the tea ceremony, a style of combat born on the battlefield–but more importantly, it’s a way to address the world (though an esoteric one: Lowry may well be the only American practicing the art in the United States). Indeed, present-day practitioners refrain from exercising its fatal possibilities. Lowry’s sensei left the U.S. to return to Japan, urging Lowry to follow. Though his life headed in a different direction, he never forgot his training–when the time was ripe, he journeyed to Japan to join his sensei. The narrative revolves around this pivotal decision, and it provides a warm center from which the author expounds on such topics as the glories of a Japanese bath; the evolution of the Samurai caste; the peculiarities of Japanese landscape architecture; the elements of proper sandal-tying; the custom of the premarital shenanigans called yobai; and the teachings of mikkyo Buddhism. He also includes the vital story of the sword–what it reveals about Japanese life and technology, social structure and aesthetic values, etiquette, apprenticeship and the process of education. Lowry’s seriousness lends an earnest cast to the proceedings, but he’s not without a sense of humor–commenting upon his accomplished slurping of noodles, a friend’s wife notes, “He really sucks!”

A broad and deep look at Japan’s medieval referents, and a capable illustration of a martial art form steeped in rich tradition.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2005

ISBN: 1-890536-10-5

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2010

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