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Sports biographies are tricky things.

The history of professional sports in this country is built on a foundation of legacy. The lionization of athletic giants is an underlying tenet of pro sports, with the games in a constant conversation with their own history. Protecting that history – that legacy – is paramount to many if not most pro athletes.

At the same time, leaving that history unexamined does a disservice to the reader. A simple and glowing account of an athlete’s feats, all buffed glossiness, is nothing more than hagiography – overly simplistic, unchallenging … and incredibly dull.

And it only gets trickier when the subject isn’t directly involved.

That’s the juggling act Scott Howard-Cooper has undertaken with his new book “Steve Kerr: A Life” (William Morrow, $28.99). It’s the story of the rich and fascinating life lived by Steve Kerr. From his globetrotting boyhood to an underdog basketball journey to the pinnacle of his profession, Kerr’s is a tale almost too interesting to be real, marked by triumph and tragedy.

Published in Sports

Fame can be fleeting. No matter how talented a person, no matter how renowned in their time, oftentimes it comes down to mere chance whether an artist is forever feted or ultimately forgotten.

For the author Rachel Field, the latter was true. Field, best known for her Newbery Award-winning book “Hitty, Her First Hundred Years,” was also a winner of the National Book Award among other accolades. For years, she spent her summers in a house on Sutton Island, a small private island off the southern coast of Mount Desert Island. She was incredibly prolific and generally beloved by both critics and readers.

And I had never heard of her.

Thanks to author Robin Clifford Wood, however, I have been relieved of my ignorance. Wood’s new book is “The Field House: A Writer’s Life Lost and Found on an Island in Maine” (She Writes Press, $16.95), which tells the story of this notable woman of letters who produced celebrated work right up until her untimely passing at the age of just 47.

But this isn’t your typical literary biography. While Wood undeniably digs deep with her research into the life and work of Rachel Field, the book’s strength lies in the author’s connection with the subject matter. Her fascination with Field plays out in many ways throughout the book, binding together Wood’s own story with that of the once celebrated and now obscure writer.

Published in Style
Wednesday, 28 October 2020 11:45

The fastest of them all – ‘Dalko’

Baseball is a sport of legends. The game’s devotion to and celebration of its long history means that titanic figures from the past remain important to the ongoing conversation. Men who haven’t played in a century or more are still vital parts of baseball’s narrative fabric.

And while the majority of those legends are recognized as titans of the game – accomplished hitters and pitchers, deft with the glove or on the basepaths – not all of baseball’s folk heroes show up in the major league record books. Indeed, there are players who, while never appearing in a big league box score, nevertheless became nigh-mythic figures.

Players like Steve Dalkowski.

The new book “Dalko” (Influence Publishers, $26.95) – co-authored by William A. Dembski, Alex Thomas and Brian Vikander – tells the story of Dalkowski, a career minor leaguer whose lightning bolt of an arm could never be properly be tamed. A figure whose career was wreathed in myth and whose subsequent life was one of struggle and strife, many claimed to have never seen his like before or since.

Published in Sports
Wednesday, 16 January 2019 14:04

‘Philip K. Dick: A Comics Biography’

I’m never sure if I want to know more about my heroes. Specifically, literary heroes.

It’s not that I have any aversion to biography as a genre – I even enjoy a good memoir now and then – but for whatever reason, I tend to tread carefully when it comes to books about the people who write the books I love. There’s a separation between art and artist that just feels more important when it comes to authors I admire.

But then I stumbled across a graphic novel biography of Philip K. Dick and I couldn’t say no.

“Philip K. Dick: A Comics Biography” (NBM Publishing, $24.99) – written by Laurent Queyssi and illustrated by Mauro Marchesi – tells the story of one of the most prolific and belatedly iconic science fiction writers of the 20th century. It follows Dick through the trials and tribulations of his life, from his early concerns to his later paranoia to his lifelong struggles with money. While there’s not much new here for longtime fans, those with limited knowledge of the writer whose work inspired movies like “Blade Runner” and “Minority Report” and TV shows like “The Man in the High Castle” will encounter some surprises.

Published in Buzz

Sarah Bernhardt is one of the most legendary names in the world of the theater. She was the first global superstar actress, renowned for her beauty and talent on both sides of the Atlantic. Her performances were considered iconic, once in a lifetime experiences to behold. Her fame has transcended centuries; even today, lovers of the stage know her name and have heard of her exploits.

And yet … she had a rival. A rival whose naturalistic approach to acting bore a much closer resemblance to the modern theater than any of the highly stylized work being presented by Bernhardt. A rival who might have been even better. Eleonora Duse’s name has been lost to history, unfamiliar to all but the most devoted of theater historians, but in her heyday, she stood shoulder to shoulder with Berhardt’s greatness.

Peter Rader’s “Playing to the Gods: Sarah Bernhardt, Eleonora Duse, and the Rivalry that Changed Acting Forever” (Simon & Schuster, $26) takes a deep dive into this once-storied and largely-forgotten chapter of theater history, looking at the relationship between two women who ascended to the greatest heights of their profession, but took drastically different paths to get there.

Published in Style

There’s a compelling argument to be made – and many have made it – that comic books serve as the mythology of contemporary American culture. These brightly-colored, spandex-clad archetypes of good and evil have become ubiquitous, a pop culture pantheon that serves as a common reference point spanning generations.

Published in Buzz
Wednesday, 29 March 2017 12:06

The life and times of the Old Perfesser

“Casey Stengel: Baseball’s Greatest Character”

Published in Sports
Wednesday, 20 April 2016 11:35

Twain's epic tour Chasing the Last Laugh'

Book tells story of Mark Twain's 1896 round-the-world tour

Published in Buzz
Wednesday, 06 February 2013 13:04

Riveting new Springsteen bio receives Boss' input

(Bruce) said, 'If you found out anything about me that you didn't put in the book because you thought it might make me uncomfortable go back and put it in.'

You feel that you can almost reach out, touch Bruce Springsteen and hear his nervous laugh within the pages of 'Bruce,' an absorbing new biography by Peter Ames Carlin, published by Simon & Schuster, Inc.  

Carlin's previous bios of Paul McCartney and Brian Wilson generally succeeded in shining light on subjects for whom new information was thought to be exhausted, and he does it again in 'Bruce.' The book retains its 'unauthorized' status despite Springsteen's unusual decision to participate.

Published in Music
Wednesday, 29 August 2012 13:45

A biography of brilliance

New book recounts the life of David Foster Wallace

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines 'genius' thusly:

      - A single strongly marked capacity or aptitude.
      - Extraordinary intellectual power especially as manifested in creative activity.
      - A person endowed with transcendent mental superiority.

The late writer David Foster Wallace was an embodiment of all of these definitions. The author of the seminal novel 'Infinite Jest' along with a wealth of beloved work both fiction and non died in September of 2008 by his own hand. He was just 46 years old.

Published in Buzz

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