A smug, wearisome catalogue.



Sportswriter Zirin (Welcome to the Terrordome: The Pain, Politics, and Promise of Sports, 2007, etc.) looks through the eyes of the left at the political forces shaping the history of American sports.

Americans who care little about sports probably know something about track stars Jesse Owens, Jim Thorpe and Wilma Rudolph; baseball players Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente; football greats Paul Robeson, Jim Brown and Pat Tillman; basketballers Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson; tennis giants Arthur Ashe, Althea Gibson, Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova; boxing champions Jack Johnson, Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali; and soccer standout Mia Hamm. We know these biographies precisely because of the political stands each has taken on behalf of racial, sexual, economic or religious fair play. Even a casual sports fan knows something about the story of baseball’s Negro Leagues, the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, the Black Power demonstrations at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, or the all-black, 1966 Texas Western NCAA basketball champions, largely because of their still-reverberating social implications. Zirin’s purpose, then, is somewhat of a mystery. Can there be anyone besides the ghost of Grantland Rice and possibly the Chinese Olympic Committee who believe sports can be severed from politics? Chronologically, with serial entries of seemingly arbitrary length, Zirin covers all this, as well as many other, genuinely obscure tales that serve his unrelenting, Howard Zinnian take on sports history. The cast of villains includes capitalism, patriotism, Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley and executive Al Campanis, Olympic czar Avery Brundage, Don Imus, longtime Redskins owner George Preston Marshall and, of course, George W. Bush. Zirin’s selection of rebel athletes is worthy, but he does them no honor by comparing them to his political heroes—the Rosenbergs, the Jena Six—for whom he has unreserved admiration.

A smug, wearisome catalogue.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-59558-100-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2008

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


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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A broad and deep look at Japan’s medieval referents, and a capable illustration of a martial art form steeped in rich...



A reflective and entertaining journey through Japan, as the author seeks to reconnect with his martial arts sensei.

Lowry is a student of koryu (not to be confused with kendo), a style of Japanese classical swordsmanship. Koryu is a medieval art, like Noh and the tea ceremony, a style of combat born on the battlefield–but more importantly, it’s a way to address the world (though an esoteric one: Lowry may well be the only American practicing the art in the United States). Indeed, present-day practitioners refrain from exercising its fatal possibilities. Lowry’s sensei left the U.S. to return to Japan, urging Lowry to follow. Though his life headed in a different direction, he never forgot his training–when the time was ripe, he journeyed to Japan to join his sensei. The narrative revolves around this pivotal decision, and it provides a warm center from which the author expounds on such topics as the glories of a Japanese bath; the evolution of the Samurai caste; the peculiarities of Japanese landscape architecture; the elements of proper sandal-tying; the custom of the premarital shenanigans called yobai; and the teachings of mikkyo Buddhism. He also includes the vital story of the sword–what it reveals about Japanese life and technology, social structure and aesthetic values, etiquette, apprenticeship and the process of education. Lowry’s seriousness lends an earnest cast to the proceedings, but he’s not without a sense of humor–commenting upon his accomplished slurping of noodles, a friend’s wife notes, “He really sucks!”

A broad and deep look at Japan’s medieval referents, and a capable illustration of a martial art form steeped in rich tradition.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2005

ISBN: 1-890536-10-5

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2010

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