RACING THROUGH PARADISE

A PACIFIC PASSAGE

Buckley's third volume of experiences al sea (following Airborne and Atlantic High) and the fluffiest of the three, full of charm and vacancy. His latest voyage finds WFB trading the Atlantic for the deep, sweet peace of Pacific sunsets. He sets forth on a 4500-mile crossing from Honolulu to New Guinea, with stops along the way at various Edens. He might have started from California, but he couldn't spare the two weeks extra since the Sealestial was not his own yacht and had to be delivered on time. The paradisal voyage has its built-in limitations, starting with the captain's personal messiness: WFB apparently drops wet shorts anywhere underfoot and lets other clothes fall and marinate where they will. He is accompanied by his son Christopher, the writer-Esquire editor, and Richard Clurman, the chain-smoking Time journalist, among others, all of whom are expected to keep private logs that they will later hand over to WFB for distillation. What results, thus, is a book that is all distraetion and padding, with very little straight-ahead narration, Earlier voyages are cannibalized; newspaper articles reprinted whole; David Niven's taped autobiographics are quoted at length. We leap from log to log, and lectures on navigation abound that will interest only fellow yachtsmen. WFB comments that he rarely reads books by those antisocial types who may undertake solo voyages. This snobbery would of course exclude one-legged Tristan Jones' The Improbably Voyage (p. 533), a work of great narrative brio and muscularity, especially when set beside this example of WFB's slack muscles. WFB's voyage is a consciously Grand High Yuppie performance, featuring the usual overwhelming inventory of wines (32 cases at a cost of $2,525.74), beers (50 cases), evening cigars, GooGoo candy bars, Swedish crackers and other delectables, plus a large inventory of classical and jazz cassettes and evening movies for the whole voyage. Even so, at one point, Clurman tells WFB that voyages aren't much fun and are much better to tell about than to experience. Surprisingly, WFB agrees. What with excerpts in The New Yorker and an earlier run-through in Life, and with 200 ravishing color photographs, this coffeetable enricher will likely outstrip its highly successful forebears. What drama appears herein stems mainly from the logs quoted, which show naked nerves.

Pub Date: May 27, 1987

ISBN: 0316114480

Page Count: 344

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1987

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An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

WHY WE SWIM

A study of swimming as sport, survival method, basis for community, and route to physical and mental well-being.

For Bay Area writer Tsui (American Chinatown: A People's History of Five Neighborhoods, 2009), swimming is in her blood. As she recounts, her parents met in a Hong Kong swimming pool, and she often visited the beach as a child and competed on a swim team in high school. Midway through the engaging narrative, the author explains how she rejoined the team at age 40, just as her 6-year-old was signing up for the first time. Chronicling her interviews with scientists and swimmers alike, Tsui notes the many health benefits of swimming, some of which are mental. Swimmers often achieve the “flow” state and get their best ideas while in the water. Her travels took her from the California coast, where she dove for abalone and swam from Alcatraz back to San Francisco, to Tokyo, where she heard about the “samurai swimming” martial arts tradition. In Iceland, she met Guðlaugur Friðþórsson, a local celebrity who, in 1984, survived six hours in a winter sea after his fishing vessel capsized, earning him the nickname “the human seal.” Although humans are generally adapted to life on land, the author discovered that some have extra advantages in the water. The Bajau people of Indonesia, for instance, can do 10-minute free dives while hunting because their spleens are 50% larger than average. For most, though, it’s simply a matter of practice. Tsui discussed swimming with Dara Torres, who became the oldest Olympic swimmer at age 41, and swam with Kim Chambers, one of the few people to complete the daunting Oceans Seven marathon swim challenge. Drawing on personal experience, history, biology, and social science, the author conveys the appeal of “an unflinching giving-over to an element” and makes a convincing case for broader access to swimming education (372,000 people still drown annually).

An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61620-786-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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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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