A VIEW FROM ABOVE

``When I play games I am so competitive that...I will take full advantage of any slip...to the point where many...kiddingly accuse me of cheating. How else are you going to accuse a seven- foot 300 pound man of cheating but kiddingly?'' Intimidating as ever, basketball great Chamberlain (Wilt, 1973, coauthored by David Shaw) reveals a lot more than probably intended in this wordy wit-and-wisdom collection. On the playing floor, Chamberlain was sensational—his arrival in pro basketball totally disrupted the established salary scale, after which he redesigned the game, popularized it, and set a pile of still- standing records. But at the writing table, he is, alas, opinionated, resentful, and unconcerned about continuity, organization, or consistency. (At one point he's a gourmet; later, his favorite food is white bread with peanut butter and mayonnaise.) Chamberlain is also concerned with his stature and sexuality (``few recognize the sensualness I have in this seven- foot frame'') to the point where his isolation, never really dealt with, is painful to consider (though he's not concerned ``to see [his] athletic prowess embodied in offspring''). And he just can't let others be great: Globetrotter Meadowlark Lemon is okay, but team-player centers like Celtic Bill Russell and L.A.'s Abdul Jabbar are limited pretenders. After some obligatory respect, Chamberlain gets to his point: ``There may never have been a star athlete used as a yardstick as much as I....'' (What about Babe Ruth, Pele, Joe Louis, Bobby Jones?) As for today's talent, ``centers now are making $2 million a year...if you pro-rated my salary for what I did...I'd be making $20 million.'' Like Muhammad Ali, Wilt was the greatest, but there's no lilt or wit to make his tale palatable. Ali knows it took Joe Frazier to make him immortal, but Wilt stands forever alone with those awesome records. (Thirty-two pages of b&w photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-679-40455-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1991

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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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In these insightfully droll essays, Gierach shows us how fishing offers plenty of time to think things over.

DUMB LUCK AND THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS

The latest collection of interrelated essays by the veteran fishing writer.

As in his previous books—from The View From Rat Lake through All Fishermen Are Liars—Gierach hones in on the ups and downs of fishing, and those looking for how-to tips will find plenty here on rods, flies, guides, streams, and pretty much everything else that informs the fishing life. It is the everything else that has earned Gierach the following of fellow writers and legions of readers who may not even fish but are drawn to his musings on community, culture, the natural world, and the seasons of life. In one representatively poetic passage, he writes, “it was a chilly fall afternoon with the leaves changing, the current whispering, and a pale moon in a daytime sky. The river seemed inscrutable, but alive with possibility.” Gierach writes about both patience and process, and he describes the long spells between catches as the fisherman’s equivalent of writer’s block. Even when catching fish is the point, it almost seems beside the point (anglers will understand that sentiment): At the end of one essay, he writes, “I was cold, bored, hungry, and fishless, but there was still nowhere else I’d have rather been—something anyone who fishes will understand.” Most readers will be profoundly moved by the meditation on mortality within the blandly titled “Up in Michigan,” a character study of a man dying of cancer. Though the author had known and been fishing with him for three decades, his reticence kept anyone from knowing him too well. Still, writes Gierach, “I came to think of [his] glancing pronouncements as Michigan haiku: brief, no more than obliquely revealing, and oddly beautiful.” Ultimately, the man was focused on settling accounts, getting in one last fishing trip, and then planning to “sit in the sun and think things over until it’s time for hospice.”

In these insightfully droll essays, Gierach shows us how fishing offers plenty of time to think things over.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6858-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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