Halberstam, David. The Amateurs: the Story of Four Young Men and Their Quest for an Olympic Gold Medal. New York: William Morrow and Company, 1985.
Reason read: Halberstam’s birth month is in April. Additionally, the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge has the category of a group working towards a goal. This time it’s a team of amateur rowers trying to qualify for the 1984 Olympics.
An interesting look at a little-known sport. Even though Halberstam’s story centers around the mid-1980s not much has changed with the popularity of rowing. People can name basketball stars, football greats, even Olympic marathon runners and sprinters, but not many can name one let alone all of the members of the last Olympic crew team. I never thought about crew being a faceless sport; a sport that is not very camera friendly. Think about it – to photograph the action accurately you cannot focus on any one particular face. I never thought about it that way. As an aside, I was doing an iFit hike with a trainer named Alex Gregory. He casually mentioned he was a rower on the U.S. Olympic team and retired in 2016. See? I had no idea who he was. Additionally, I recently finished a different iFit walk around Boston and the Charles River. The trainer talked about Harvard, rowing, and competition. Sure enough, a team of eight rowed by. It was cool to see the sport I had been reading about as I worked out.
Halberstam digs deep into this relatively unknown sport to reveal how for athletes like Tiff Wood, the seeds of a competitive spirit were planted in childhood by these rowers’ families: emulating older brothers or spurred on by critical fathers wanting to win, win, win. Encouragement was expressed by failure, (“better luck next time”), and compliments were reserved for the fastest times and first place wins. Reverse psychology at play. The Amateurs is a veritable who’s who of the 1980s rowing world. The dozens of names bogged down the writing and made it difficult to remember who was supposed to be in which boat. I catalogued all the names of the rowers and coaches but I am sure I missed a few:
- Andy Fisher
- Andy Sudden
- Al Shealy
- Bill Hobbs
- Bill Purdy
- Blair Brooks
- Bob Ernest (C)
- Bobby Pearce
- Brad Lewis
- Bruce Ibbetson
- Buzz Congram (C)
- Charley Altekruse
- Charley Bracken
- Chris Allsopp
- Cleve Livingston
- Dan Goldberg
- Dave Potter
- Dick Cashin
- Ed Chandler
- Eric Stevens
- Frank Cunningham (C)
- Fritz Hobbs
- Fritz Hageman
- George Pocock
- Gordie Gardiner
- Greg Montessi
- Gregg Stone
- Hans Svensson
- Harry Burk (C)
- Harry Parker (C)
- Jim Dietz
- Joe Biglow
- Joe Bouscaren
- Joe Burk (C)
- Joe Ratzenburg (C)
- John (Jack) Frackleton
- John Kelly, Jr.
- John Von Blon
- Karl Adam (C)
- Kris Korzeniowski
- Larry Klecatsky
- Mad Dog Loggins
- Mike Ives
- Mike Livingston (C)
- Pat Walker
- Paul Enquist
- Paul Most
- Pertti Kappinen
- Peter Raymond (C)
- Peter-Michael Kolbe
- Ricardo Ibarra
- Richard Davis (C)
- Ridgley Johnson
- Rudiger Reiche
- Sean Colgan
- Steve Klesing
- Stuart McKenzie
- Sy Cromwell
- Ted Nash (C)
- Ted Washburn (C)
- Tiff Wood
- Tony Johnson (C)
- Uwe Mund
- Uyacheslav Ivanov
- Vasily Yakusha
As another aside, I was too young to remember Jimmy Carter boycotting the United States’ participation in the 1980 Olympics. What a disappointment to all those athletes!
A third aside,
Author fact: Halberstam has written a good many books. Nancy Pearl has dedicated a whole chapter to his work. I think I am reading twenty for the Book Lust Challenge.
Book trivia: there are a few black and white photographs in the book.
Nancy said: Pearl said she noted her favorite Halberstam books with an asterisk. The Amateurs did not have an asterisk. Oh well. Overall, she said, she has never read a dull book by Halberstam. That’s good.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “David Halberstam: Too Good To Miss” (p 112).
Abramsky, Sasha. Little Wonder: the Fabulous Story of Lottie Dod, the World’s First Female Superstar. Brooklyn, New York: Akashic Books, 2020.
Reason read: as a member of LibraryThing, I was chosen to review this for the Early Review program.
Charlotte Dod. If you don’t know her name, you don’t know the history of women in sports. Don’t feel bad though. Despite being a multitalented athlete, her fame as a star burned bright in many arenas, but faded from all of them just as quickly. First known as a tennis sensation at the age of fourteen, Lottie (as she was known), only played competitively for five years. In that time she became the doyenne of tennis, winning five Wimbledons. The only years she didn’t win she didn’t even compete. Sadly, it was as if she grew tired of smashing the competition and needed new thrills. She left the sport…at twenty one years of age. After tennis, Dod set her sights on field hockey. She helped pioneer the sport for women. Then came skating. Obsessively training for hours on end, Dod was not only able to pass the rigorous women’s skating test, she passed the much more difficult men’s test as well. When she was done with ice skates and cold weather , she moved on to golf and mountaineering and archery and Voluntary Aid Detachment nursing and choral singing. She climbed mountains in support of women seeking equal rights and won a silver medal for archery at the 1908 summer Olympic games.
While Abramsky does a great job detailing Lottie’s life, he has to fill in the gaps with speculation because sadly, much of her correspondence was lost or deliberately destroyed. Expect words like “maybe” and “perhaps” and “might.” The photographs are fantastic.
Arabella Garrett Anderson, Agatha Christie, Emmeline Pankhurst, and Nelly Bly were contemporaries of Dod’s.
Weber, Matt. Making Tracks: How I Learned to Love Snowmobiling in Maine. Yarmouth, Maine: IslandPort Press, 2019.
Reason read: Christmas gift from my
mother oops! sister!
Making Tracks thoughtfully combines a love of snowmobiling with an obvious respect for Maine, marriage, and mother nature. Part memoir, part comedy, Matt playfully tells stories and shares black and white photographs of his adventures riding with family and friends all over the great state of Maine. Despite the casual language, Matt is incredibly informative for beginners or those experts seeking advice on adventure riding in Maine. A list of resources is included. [As an aside, because the references include websites, it is always best to do your homework and make sure the links are still available.]
The title is a little misleading. Matt never hated to ride a snowmobile so the loving to ride came quite easily. He implies he was forced to love it when in actuality, his love of riding grew.
Favorite part: Tarzan. Without a doubt, Tarzan. My husband and I once found Tarzan hopelessly stranded amid sand and seaweed on a beach at low tide. His leash had gotten tangled around mid-sized rocks and no matter how he struggled, he couldn’t break free…and the tide was coming in, as it is bound to do twice a day. We did what any pet lover would do, and even though he didn’t need to, a grateful Matt repaid us in sea critters. Yum. Can’t refuse those things! But back to Making Tracks. It was touching to learn of Tarzan’s life, beginning and end.
Author fact: Confessional – Matt is “my” island neighbor when I am home-home. I have to wonder how differently I would view his book if I could have situational amnesia and forget my favored prejudice. True, Matt and I do not have a friendship per se; we have never had a meal together and we aren’t even friends on social sites, but I also know if my mother needed anything, anything at all, I could call Matt. He is just that kind of guy.
Second confessional: Weber’s book got me through a near two hour wait at the DMV. I was waiting to renew my license to get the all-important “real” identification card when their system ominously “went down.” Anxious employees wrung their hands and with eyes downcast, admitted it could be “hours” before it came back up. A few people who couldn’t stomach that kind of wait quietly gathered their things and slipped out the door. Me, I had no choice but to stay.
Book trivia: Making Tracks is super generous with photographs and includes a section on resources. I said that already. Meh.
I don’t even know where to begin with September. It was the month from hell in more ways than one. The only good news is that I was able to run twice as many miles as last month. That counts for something as it saves my sanity just a little bit more than if I didn’t do anything at all.
Here are the books:
- In the City of Fear by Ward Just
- Jim, The Boy by Tony Earley
- The Shining by Stephen King
- Thank You and OK! by David Chadwick
- Foreign Correspondence by Geraldine Brooks
- Ayatollah Begs to Differ by Madj Hoomin
- Agony and Ecstasy by Irving Stone
- Tripwire by Lee Child
- Foundation and Earth by Isaac Asimov
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- My Life on the Line by Ryan O’Callaghan
O’Callaghan, Ryan with Cyd Zeigler. My Life on the Line: How the NFL Damn Near Killed Me. and Ended Up Saving My Life. Brooklyn, New York: Edge of Sports, 2019.
Reason read: as part of the Early Review program for LibraryThing.
When I requested My Life on the Line I was not prepared to have my heart broken. This is the simple story of an NFL football player trying to conceal his true self throughout his sports career. For twenty eight long years he had a secret. Hiding behind anything and everything to make himself look “manly” Ryan O’Callahan was in constant fear of being outted as a homosexual. No one could find out. No one. Tough language, big trucks, country music, guzzling beer, deer hunting, drugs, and bullying were all part of the smoke and mirrors game; all tactics O’Callaghan used so no one could accuse him of even a hint of being gay. His perception was a homosexual man wouldn’t use foul language. A gay man wouldn’t drive a big truck or take drugs and he certainly wouldn’t listen to Garth Brooks! At the center of it all was being a professional football player. For as long as O’Callaghan was playing this manly game he reasoned he could stay alive. Without football he was convinced he couldn’t hide; being exposed meant certain death at his own hand. Even when people close to him started to suspect, O’Callaghan would emphatically deny it, thinking the NFL was his perfect cover.
Then came the injuries and the surgeries and the pain, one after another like unrelenting sea surge. The more O’Callaghan damaged his body the faster his addiction to pain killers grew. He had easy access to prescriptions and at one point was using from nine different doctors. The prospect of playing football professionally hung in the balance as his drug use spiraled out of control and like all dangerous games, it had to come to an end sooner or later.
An added bonus to O’Callaghan’s story was learning a little more about NFL quarterback, Aaron Rodgers. His story was a little disappointing…
It feels like it’s still summer. Never mind the nights are getting somewhat cooler. Never mind that we are back in school. Never mind there is a seasonal hurricane ripping its way up the eastern seaboard. Never mind all that. I’m still in summer mode. I started the month off by a good 3.24 run. Yes!
Here are the books planned for the month:
- The Shining by Stephen King – in honor of King’s birth month.
- In the City of Fear by Ward Just – in honor of Just’s birth month.
- Thank You and OK!: an American Zen Failure in Japan by David Chadwick – in honor of September being Respect for the Aged month.
- Foreign Correspondence: a Pen Pal’s Journey From Down Under to All Over by Geraldine Brooks – in honor of International Reading Day.
- The Ayatollah Begs to Differ: the Paradox of Modern Iran by Hooman Majd – in memory of the Iran-Iraq War of 1980.
- Tripwire by Lee Child – to continue the series started in July
- Foundation and Earth by Isaac Asimov – to
continuefinish the series started in January.
- My Life on the Line: How the NFL Damn Near Killed Me and Ended Up Saving My Life by Ryan O’Callaghan. If you have been keeping score, I started this last month.
- The Miracle on Monhegan Island by Elizabeth Kelly – because of the title.
When I look back at August my first thought is what the hell happened? The month went by way too fast. Could the fact that I saw the Grateful Dead, Natalie Merchant (4xs), Trey Anastasio, Sirsy, and Aerosmith all in the same month have anything to do with that? Probably. It was a big month for traveling (Vermont, Connecticut, NYC) and for being alone while Kisa was in Charlotte, Roanoke, Erie, Chicago, Indianapolis, and Colorado. And. And, And! I got some running done! The treadmill was broken for twenty days but in the last eleven days I eked out 12.2 miles. Meh. It’s something. Speaking of something, here are the books:
- African Queen by C.S. Forester
- Antonia Saw the Oryx First by Maria Thomas
- Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object by Laurie Colwin
- Strong Motion by Jonathan Frazen
- Beauty by Robin McKinley
- Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes
- American Chica by Marie Arana
- Florence Nightingale by Mark Bostridge
- Secret Life of Lobsters by Trevor Corson
- Die Trying by Lee Child
- Foundation’s Edge by Isaac Asimov
Early Review cleanup:
- Filling in the Pieces by Isaak Sturm
- Open Water by Mikael Rosen
Rosen, Mikael. Open Water: the History and Technique of Swimming. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2019.
Reason read: part of the Early review program for LibraryThing.
Open Water is everything and anything you need to know about the sport of swimming; or dare I say the art of swimming; the obsession of swimming? Rosen’s book is practically an encyclopedia of swimming facts as well as biography of famous swimmers and a how-to for improving your own technique in the water. It’s a well laid out, beautiful to look at book complete with maps, photographs and more. Fascinating.
As an aside, I have heard many, many stories about how my maternal grandmother used to be a beautiful swimmer. Just recently my aunt reminisced about watching her mother cut through the water with such powerful grace it brought tears to her eyes. I would have liked to have seen that. My maternal died of cancer long before I was born when my own mother was thirteen.
Confessional: Until recently I hoarded my early review books knowing I couldn’t sell them or really donate them anywhere. I tried giving some away but that wasn’t really successful either, so in my basement they languish (still). Open Water will be my first and only gift to Natalie Merchant. She is an avid swimmer and I feel she might, just might, find it interesting. What else am I going to do with it?
Postscript to the confessional: I gave the book to her tour manager. I will probably never know if she liked it.
Last month (okay, yesterday!) I whined about how I have been feeling uninspired writing this blog. I think it’s because I haven’t really been in touch with what I’ve been reading. None of the books in July jump started my heart into beating just a little faster. “Dull torpor” as Natalie would say in the Maniacs song, Like the Weather. Maybe it comes down to wanting more oomph in my I’mNotSureWhat; meaning I don’t know if what I need or what would fire me up enough to burn down my yesterdays; at least so that they aren’t repeated tomorrow. I’m just not sure.
Hopefully, these books will do something for me:
- African Queen by Cecil Forester – in honor of the movie. Can I be honest? I’ve never seen the movie!
- Antonia Saw the Oryx First by Maria Thomas (EB/print) – in honor of August being Friendship month.
- Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object (EB/print) by Laurie Colwin – in honor of August being National Grief Month.
- Strong Motion by Jonathan Frazen (EB/print) – in honor of August being Frazen’s birth month.
- Beauty: the Retelling of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley (EB/print) – in honor of August being Fairy Tale month.
- Florence Nightingale by Mark Bostridge (EB/print) – in memory of Florence Nightingale. August is her death month.
- American Chica: Two Worlds, One Childhood by Maria Arana (EB/print) – a memoir in honor of August being “Selfish Month.”
- If there is time: What Just Happened by James Gleick – in honor of Back to School month.
- Foundation’s Edge by Isaac Asimov (EB/print) – the penultimate book in the Foundation series.
- Die Trying by Lee child (AB/EB/print) – the second book in the Jack Reacher series.
- Filling in the Pieces by Isaak Sturm (started in July).
- Open Water by Mikael Sturm.
Grisham, John. Playing for Pizza. New York: Bantam Dell, 2007.
Reason read: the Verdi Fest in Parma is traditionally held in October.
When we first meet Rick Dockery he is laid up in a hospital bed after a nasty American Football Conference championship game collision. After this latest concussion third string quarterback Dockery’s career is more than over. His agent, Arnie, is told over and over no one will touch him with a ten foot pole. Don’t even ask. Like many athletes with a less than stellar career, but the passion to play, Dockery heads to another country to continue playing the game he loves so much. He arrives in Italy with the stereotypical chip on his shoulder. Where are the cheerleaders? In his mind, it’s only a matter of time before he’ll be back in the States, playing for the NFL…or so he dreams. What follows is Dockery’s slow acceptance of Italy, his education of what Europeans consider football, and (gulp) what true loyalty means. Grisham keeps the plot light and uncomplicated for a quick and easy read.
Confession: when Dockery gets tangled up in a budding romance with a woman already involved in a seven year relationship I thought I would see more drama. Not so. I think that plot line was designed to introduce opera and not much else.
As an aside, Grisham’s descriptions Italy made me want to plan a visit. I made a list of every region and landmark he mentioned.
Funny quote, “Later he learned that Sly and Trey had been driven away by a drunk uncle who couldn’t find Parma” (p 101).
Author fact: Grisham makes a huge departure from his legal mysteries with Playing for Pizza but he didn’t go into it blind. Parma really does have a football team with a few American players.
Book trivia: Playing for Pizza is short enough to read in a weekend.
Nancy said: Nancy called Playing for Pizza “captivating” and described the plot a little.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter simply called “Parma” (p 172).
- The Chronoliths by Robert Charles Wilson – in honor of October being Star Man month.
- Bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andric (EB) – in memory of Mehmed Pasa Sokollu’s passing. He designed the bridge over the Drina river.
- Playing for Pizza by John Grisham (EB) – in honor of the Verdi Fest in Parma that takes place every October.
- Call It Sleep by Henry Roth (AB) – to remember the Tom Kippur War.
- Oxford Book of Oxford edited by Jan Morris – in honor of Morris’s birth month.
- African Laughter by Doris Lessing – in honor of Lessing’s birth month.
- Always a Distant Anchorage by Hal Roth – October is Library Friend Month & I had to borrow this from a distant library.
- Tandia by Bryce Courtenay – to finish the series started in September in honor of Courtenay’s birth month.
- The Race of the Scorpion by Dorothy Dunnett (EB) – to continue the series started in August in honor of Dunnett’s birth month.
- Finding the Dream by Nora Roberts (EB) – to finish the series started in August in honor of Dream Month.
- Joey Goes to Sea by Alan Villiers – a gift from my aunt Jennifer.
Early Review for LibraryThing: nada. I have the promise of three different books but they haven’t arrived yet.
One of my all time favorite 10,000 Maniacs songs is “The Painted Desert” off the album, Our Time in Eden. If you have never heard it, the premise is simple. A couple is trying to have a long distance relationship. Or…one of them is anyway…While one is off in the Southwest, the other waits patiently for the time when he? she? can join the other. But, soon the patience tarnishes and the one left behind find themselves pleading, “I wanted to be there by May at the latest time. Isn’t that the plan we had or have you changed your mind? I haven’t heard a word from you since Phoenix or Tuscon. April is over. Can you tell how long before I can be there?” The underlying poison is that the partner has moved on and the answer to the question is “never.” How ironic.
Having said all that, April IS over. As far as the run is concerned, I begrudgingly ran a half mara and a 10k and despite not training for either, I am pleased with both races.
And I read a fair amount of books:
- Amber Beach by Elizabeth Lowell
- Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
- The Corner: a Year in the life of an Inner-City Neighborhood by David Simon and Edward Burns
- The Evolution of Everyday Objects by Henry Petroski
- Bogey Man by George Plimpton
- To the Is-Land: an Autobiography by Janet Frame
- Charmed by Nora Roberts
- The Venus Throw by Steven Saylor
- “Unexplorer” by Edna St. Vincent Millay
- “Travel” by Edna St. Vincent Millay
- “Wild Geese” by Edna St. Vincent Millay
- New and Collected Poetry by Czeslaw Milosz
- Deeply Grateful and Entirely Unsatisfied by Amanda Happe
Plimpton, George. The Bogey Man: A Month on the PGA Tour.
Reason read: the Professional Golf Association tour usually ends in April. This year it ended on April 1st but there are other tournaments still going.
George Plimton was a journalist who liked to get into the thick of things when writing about his subjects. When composing articles for Sports Illustrated he played tennis, boxed with, and swam with professionals. Later he found himself pitching with the Yankees and throwing the football with the Detroit Lions. His involvement with professional golfers was no different when writing Bogey Man. He played as a participating amateur in the Bing Crosby National Pro-Am, the Lucky International, and the Bob Hope Desert Classic for a month. During that time he absorbed stories about the professional golf circuit, from the caddies to the fans and, the professional golfers and the game, of course.
Author fact: The perception I have of George Plimpton is that he had quite the ego. For starter, many of the photographs in Bogey Man are of Plimpton. Then, there is the author information. Most authors chose a short paragraph to be inserted on the back flap of a book. Plimpton’s takes up the entire back cover.
Book trivia: There are a smattering of photographs in Bogey Man mostly of Plimpton looking wistfully after an ill-struck ball.
Nancy said: Pearl said she would buy Bogey Man for “David” who eats, sleeps, and dreams golf (p 117).
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the catch-all chapter called “A Holiday Shopping List” (p 115).
Yes, it is now April 4th and I am just getting to this. April is slowly becoming one of those coulda, woulda months. I was supposed to run nine miles on Sunday. Instead, I had Easter dinner with the family and chilled out. I could have run on Monday but it snowed and I had Cairo. Coulda, shoulda, woulda, didn’t. April is supposed to he a half marathon (and you can see how well the training is going) and a 10k one week later. Here are the books:
- Amber Beach by Elizabeth Lowell – in honor of Lowell’s birth month being in April.
- Zeitoun by Dave Eggers – in honor of April being the month Louisiana was founded.
- Bogey Man by George Plimpton – in honor of the PGA tour.
- Corner by David Simon – in honor of Maryland becoming a state in April.
- Evolution of Useful Things by Henry Petroski – in honor of April being Math, Science, and Technology month.
- Venus Throw by Steven Saylor – to continue the series started in March for Saylor’s birth month.
- Charmed by Nora Roberts – to continue the series started in February for Valentine’s Day.
- New and Collected Poetry by Czeslaw Milosz – to continue honoring Poetry Month
- A Few Figs From Thistles by Edna St. Vincent Millay – see above.
- “Wild Geese” by Edna St. Vincent Millay – see above.
If there is time:
- To the Is-Land by Janet Frame – in honor of Anzac Day in New Zealand.
- Jargoon Pard by Andre Norton (I had to request this one through interlibrary loan so I’m not sure it will be read in time to be in the April category.
Here’s the singular thing I love, love, love about March: the St. Patrick’s Day Road Race in Holyoke, MA. I adore running this race. Runner’s World magazine has mentioned it more than once, calling it the mini Boston Marathon for it’s toughness. I PR’ed this year! But what I am more excited about is that this time I was only five seconds away from breaking an hour. Unlike last year (1:07:and something seconds) I was 1 hour and a measly four seconds. But, enough about running! Here are the books finished for March, 2017:
- Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote (AB +EB)*
- Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel (AB + print)
- Falling Angels by Barbara Gowdy*
- Treachery in the Yard by Adimchinma Ibe*
- Breaks of the Game by David Halberstam (DNF)
- Big Empty edited by Ladette Randolph and Nina Shevchuk-Murray (EB)
- No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin (AB)
- Red Bones by Ann Cleeves
- Hall of a Thousand Columns by Tim Mackintosh-Smith (DNF)
- Endymion by Dan Simmons
Early Review “won”:
- Ma Speaks Up by Marianne Leone (received and finished)
- My Life with Bob by Pamela Paul (This has arrived & I have started it)
*Short enough to read in one day.