Monday, August 17, 2015

The Further Adventures of Slugger McBatt by W P Kinsella - A Short Story Collection - BookReport #142

Before I get into the stories let me just say that if you love baseball, the history of it, the pace, the slow understanding of it; you will love this book.  The collection is about people, legends, history, summer heat, scams and troublemakers.

It is a wonderful collection.  Kinsella can tell a story.

Distances - 32/100. A stranger comes to town and befriends two young men.  Together they arrange a challenge game made up of the local high school team and a Division One team.

The stranger treats the boys well but he's certainly up to something. 

This was a wonderful story, perfect for a sunny day with a cold beer.  Good thing that's how I read it.

Reports Concerning the Death of the Seattle Albatross Are Somewhat Exaggerated - 33/100.  Wow.  This story took me by surprise but I liked it.  Just sit back and enjoy a story of an extraterrestrial who just happens to look exactly like sports mascot.

The Further Adventures of Slugger McBatt  - 34/100- A touching story of an awkward boy who befriends the jocks of his school through his cartooning abilities.  It is a universal coming of age story that is directed to those of us who struggled with athletics. 

Frank Pierce, Iowa - 35/100- This story read like poetry, a lazy remembrance of a hot, midsummer day on the prairies. It's about the legend of how a small Iowa town just - disappeared. 

Of course it's more than that; what truly stuck with me was the heat of a blazing hot afternoon. 

K Mart - 36/100 - This was an emotionally complicated story about a high-schooler growing up in a remote town, his friends, a young girl and a suicide. 

Regret and release. Memories and diverging paths. 

Sad and lovely. 

The Valley of the Schmoon - 37/100 - A one sided conversation in the dead of night driving to Seattle. The driver, an old player turned catcher's coach, is telling stories to his passenger, a rookie about to play his first games in the big league. 

The world is passing our narrator by as he reminisces on how life used to be and how the game has changed. 

It seems to be a truism of aging that the world can somehow leave you behind without your realizing it. 

Punchlines -38/100 - There's one on every team - a trouble maker, somebody who always winds up in some kind of trouble either with the law, a husband or in a hospital.  The kind of person who has never grown up can be fun in small doses but can wear a team down if he can't be controlled.

There tends to be a reason these types of guys keep acting out and in this story it still kind of works but it won't be long before in makes a reader groan.  Still it's a good read.

The Eddie Scissons Syndrome. - 39/100 - I'm not quite sure how I feel about this story. It ends too soon and too abruptly.

A college student and former designated hitter prospect is injured and takes a job as a teacher's aid with a professor studying pathological sports liars: people who brag about playing in the big leagues but haven't.

They track down an old man in a VA hospital to uncover his story.

The professor's motivation is never made quite clear and the reaction of the student made little sense to me either.

Sadly, this is the first story that did not work for me.

Come to think of it, the opening paragraph was wonderful. I must have read it four or five times just for the joy of it.

I could have been another Greg Luzinski.  A sportswriter wrote
about me that I run forward with the same speed a mixer full of
concrete moves backward.  I'm built close to the ground; my
teammates used to call me Dumpster.  Just like the "Bull" I was big
and slow, but I could hit the ball a mile with great regularity.

Diehard - 40/100 - An old friend has died.  What to do with the ashes.

Beautiful, hopeful and heartwarming. A lovely story.

Searching For Freddie - 41/100 - A sports reporter chases a base stealing legend across time and across America.

Yet another hart-warming story about a baseball legend who spent very little time in the Bigs but made an impression on people.   There is an understated magic to this story that made me sigh and sit back in my chair with a smile.

Conclusion - 

Let me say this book was a joy from start to finish. Highly recommended.

You can find Kinsella's website here:

W. P. Kinsella

Monday, August 10, 2015

Star Trek: The Typhon Pact: Paths of Disharmony by Dayton Ward - BookReport #141

Let me first say that I love Dayton Ward's work but I hated this book.

I so wanted to like it, I really did but the plot was so dull and you can tell that Ward's hands were tied behind his back. 

The plot revolves around the Andorians and their eventual backing out of the United Federation of planets. 

What?! You think I spoiled it? This is the fourth book in the series - knowing that you can bet that the alien race being explored is, or will be, in the Typhon Pact. The whole "Gasp!" surprise was telegraphed in the title!  Which made the first 400 pages nearly meaningless. 

The best parts of the book, and what I love about Ward's writing, is how real and believable the secondary characters were; conversations and humour came naturally and made me believe in the Star Trek universe. 

That boring political shit that Ward was forced to write about felt stiff and unnatural.  I could only read ten pages at a time before I would either fall asleep or wish I could do something more interesting, like clean the toilet or, well, clean the toilet again. 

Hey, you can't win them all. But after this one I am considering donating the rest of the un-read books in this series to my local library. Or I might just recycle them; so far this series is beyond dull. Every author has been shackled by the editors at Pocket and made to row the ship in their decreed direction. There seems to be far too much editorial control going on. 

Dayton Ward is a fantastic author who can plot and pace a book like no one else and I love his ability to breathe life into characters.  His ability to create believable and humorous dialogue is his best quality as an author.  To be honest I think I need to read is non-tie-in books to get the true measure of the man.  Reading this particular book I can hear him pounding his fists against the walls of the tiny editorial cell he was dropped in.  There is a large talent lurking here and it needs to be set free.

Don't be afraid to visit Ward's blog, The Fog Of Ward, you'll get a measure of the man there.  Trust me, he's worth reading.

Dayton Ward

Monday, August 3, 2015

Triumph of the City by Edward Glaeser - Book Report #140

One more in my quest for the good in the world. Here Glaeser makes a compelling and well researched argument that the city is humanity's best invention.

I came to this book after listening to the Freakonomics podcast from May 6, 2015 titled Could The Next Brooklyn Be ... Las Vegas?!  Listen to that as a good companion to the book.  You can find it here:

Everything you love and hate about city life is explored; the very nature of crowds,  people bumping into each other and exchanging ideas has led to advancements in science, business and the arts. 

By compressing people and building up, instead of sprawling out we take up much less land and reduce our individual carbon footprint. 

My favourite thought came from chapter 8, titled Is There Anything Greener Than Blacktop?  "If you love nature, stay away from it."

He also tackles the difficult subject of cities in decline, think Detroit of today and New York of the 1970's and how cities have re-imagined themselves over and over again. 

All in all I found this book to be a fascinating read. It made me think of where my city is doing things right and where it is not.

Edward Glaeser