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Sports fandom is a funny thing. Not only do we love talking about what happened in a given game or season or career, but we also love asking questions about all those things. Specifically … what if? What if something changed fundamentally about the games that we love? And what if those changes resulted in more changes and those changes led to still more changes and so on?

That’s the guiding force behind “Upon Further Review: The Greatest What-Ifs in Sports History” (Twelve Books, $28). Assembled and curated by Mike Pesca, this collection of essays takes a look at what might have happened if certain aspects of the sports world had played out differently. Some of them address the topic at hand with scholarly seriousness, while others work with tongue planted firmly in cheek, but all of them are engaging looks at diverging potential paths through sports history.

Published in Sports

Young adult fiction means different things to different people. The very label leaves loads of room for variance and interpretation. And while there are those who look down their nose at YA fiction, the reality is that there’s plenty of nuance and sophistication to the best work in the genre.

Maine author Gillian French’s work definitely demonstrates those qualities; her latest is “The Lies They Tell” (HarperTeen, $17.99), a thriller featuring a young woman trying to get to the bottom of a tragic mystery that haunts her small island town. Secrets and lies abound even as the dynamics between the town’s wealthy summer visitors and the year-round residents who serve them grow complicated.

Published in Style

What happens to people when fame is thrust upon them too soon? What if they can’t handle the spotlight, yet neither are they allowed to escape it? And when that shine finally does fade, what if they want to forget? Can they forget?

These are the sorts of questions that writer/illustrator Michael Kupperman asks in his new graphic memoir “All the Answers” (Gallery 13, $25). It’s the story of his father Joel Kupperman, who in the years during and immediately after World War II was one of the most famous figures in the country, thanks to his childhood participation on a wildly popular radio program. It was a past the elder Kupperman fought to forget, but when the specter of dementia loomed, Michael sought to learn more about this time in his father’s life before it was lost to the rapidly-blooming cloud of oblivion.

Published in Style

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Stephen King is the preeminent American storyteller.

Apologies for my broken-recordness on the subject, but it always bears repeating – there is no one in American letters over the past half-century who has managed to be as prolific and as culturally relevant as Stephen King.

And there’s a reason the zeitgeist is awash with King-inspired and -adjacent properties. Not only have the majority of his iconic earlier works withstood the test of time, but his late-career renaissance puts on display a King who has evolved while still maintaining an unprecedented degree of narrative skillfulness.

Oh yeah – and his stuff is still REALLY scary.

King’s latest is “The Outsider” (Scribner, $30), a pulpy, propulsive tale reminiscent of some of his earlier highlights. Yet even as he elicits memories of his own creepy stylings from 30 years ago, he infuses that throwback thriller with pointed references to the present. The end result is a book that is somehow both Now and Then, where early King and late King combine with an eerie smoothness. It is dark and creepy and thought-provoking and engrossing – everything you hope for from Stephen King.

Published in Buzz

“A book is a dream you hold in your hands.” – Neil Gaiman

PBS is underway on its quest to determine America’s favorite book.

“The Great American Read” is a months-long TV series airing on PBS. It’s an effort to celebrate and explore the joy of reading by way of an expert-curated list of American’s best-loved novels. It’s about how and why these beloved works were created … and why we feel the connections to them we do.

Published in Cover Story
Tuesday, 15 May 2018 15:06

Radical chic and the right stuff

Even the most devoted of book lovers, the most loving of lexophiles has only so much room in their personal literary pantheon. No matter how deeply your adoration runs, space at the top of the heap is limited. We’ve all just a scant few true favorites.

Tom Wolfe was one of mine. He passed away on May 14 at the age of 88.

Wolfe was the author of nearly 20 books, both fiction and non. He was one of the progenitors of the paradigm-shifting New Journalism of the 1960s and 1970s, penning some of the greatest works of nonfiction of the 20th century. He pivoted to fiction a bit later in his career and produced four excellent novels. He was one of the most gifted literary stylists of his – or any – generation.

And he drastically shifted my personal understanding of what writing could be.

Published in Style

So much of our country’s history is bound up in the sea. Our relationship to the ocean has defined us in many ways over the years. Even now, our waterways play vital roles in the way our nation operates. But all that time at sea comes with risk; it’s risk that we often forget or dismiss, but it never goes away.

And sometimes, it makes its presence known.

On Oct. 1, 2015, the merchant ship El Faro ran into Hurricane Joaquin off the Bahamas and sank, killing all 33 of the crew members and leading to months of questions about how something so tragic could have happened … and who should be held responsible.

Author Rachel Slade offers a comprehensive and compelling look at the disaster with her new book “Into the Raging Sea: Thirty-Three Mariners, One Megastorm, and the Sinking of El Faro” (Ecco, $27.99). Over the course of nearly 400 pages, Slade brings together hours of research and hundreds of interviews – along with transcripts of voice recordings of El Faro’s final hours – to dive deep beneath the surface of this tragedy, introducing us to many of the people involved and offering a meticulous and thoughtful analysis of it all.

Published in Adventure

There are few bonds as close as those that exist between brothers. And some fraternal bonds transcend even the typical, creating a tight-knit relationship built on an intimacy that no outsider could possibly fully understand.

It’s that latter dynamic that impacts every page of “Like Brothers” (Ballantine, $28) by Mark and Jay Duplass. The Duplass Brothers – patron saints of bootstrap DIY indie filmmaking – have been one of the most fertile and interesting creative partnerships of the 21st century. Their considerable talents in numerous aspects of filmmaking – acting, writing, directing, producing, you name it – helped, of course, but it’s the passion, ambition and determination inherent to their partnership that truly led to their success.

Published in Style

America’s master of transgressive literary satire is back at it again.

Chuck Palahniuk’s new novel – his first in four years – is “Adjustment Day” (W.W. Norton & Company, $26.95), a bleak look at the potential future implied by the logical (and not-so-logical) endpoints of our society’s current extremities. Filled with off-puttingly fascinating imagery, Palahniuk combines a belief in the power of the individual man with a nihilistic lack of faith in the judgment of mankind. It’s an anti-Randian treatise born of an extrapolation of Randian viewpoints, a libertarian fever dream of a dystopia populated by easily led men fueled by hatred and ignorance.

“Adjustment Day” also features Palahniuk’s standard well-honed prose and pitch-black humor, along with at least a few moments that’ll turn your stomach even as they force you to consider the heretofore unthinkable.

Published in Buzz

What is it that truly defines athletic genius?

While there’s no doubt that physique and physicality play massive roles in what makes a successful athlete, there’s more to it than that. True sporting greatness springs from not just one’s body, but also that body’s connection with the brain.

In his new book “The Performance Cortex: How Neuroscience is Redefining Athletic Genius” (Dutton, $28), Zach Schonbrun attempts to explore that connection; it’s a deep dive into the neuroscience behind movement that attempts to develop an understanding of the body-brain relationship and determining how the relationship impacts those performing at an elite athletic level.

Published in Sports
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