Well-conceived and sharply drawn, a thinking fan’s biography.

SANDY KOUFAX

A LEFTY’S LEGACY

Taut biography of the Dodger great’s playing years: baseball savvy and as far from tall-tale–telling as former Washington Post sportswriter Leavy (Squeeze Play, not reviewed) can get.

Koufax lent himself only incidentally to this work—to verify stories and allow the author access to his friends and family—but Leavy has produced what appears to be a very convincing portrait. She concentrates on the player’s six last, mind-blowing years, when his fastball and curve ruled. His plays on the mound are adeptly recorded—including, as interspersed chapters, his perfect game, told with consummate skill and containing the only hint of hyperbole here: “the ball headed toward home like an eighteen wheeler appearing down the highway out of a mirage.” But it’s a sense of Koufax’s character that Leavy most wishes to convey. Never one for promiscuous self-promotion, Koufax has been shoehorned into the recluse category; because he is reserved and Jewish, he was typecast as “moody, aloof, curt, intellectual, different.” Yes, he wouldn’t pitch the opening game of the World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur, an act with profound cultural impact, and yes, he liked to read, a positive egghead by sporting standards, though he also says: “I may have read Huxley once in my life, but if I did, frankly, I don’t remember.” His 1963 self-profile is true to form: “a normal twenty-seven-year-old bachelor who happens to be of the Jewish faith. . . . I like to read a book and listen to music and I’d like to meet the girl I’d want to marry.” But Leavy reveals also a man of dignity, honesty, and courtesy, not to mention his having that shaman’s touch with a baseball. He is, simply, a standard: “In virtually every way that matters, ethically and economically, medically and journalistically, he offers a way to measure where we’ve been, what we’ve come to, what we’ve lost.”

Well-conceived and sharply drawn, a thinking fan’s biography.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-06-019533-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2002

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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The book begins in Sri Lanka with the tsunami of 2004—a horror the author saw firsthand, and the aftermath of which he...

LIVES OTHER THAN MY OWN

The latest from French writer/filmmaker Carrère (My Life as a Russian Novel, 2010, etc.) is an awkward but intermittently touching hybrid of novel and autobiography.

The book begins in Sri Lanka with the tsunami of 2004—a horror the author saw firsthand, and the aftermath of which he describes powerfully. Carrère and his partner, Hélène, then return to Paris—and do so with a mutual devotion that's been renewed and deepened by all they've witnessed. Back in France, Hélène's sister Juliette, a magistrate and mother of three small daughters, has suffered a recurrence of the cancer that crippled her in adolescence. After her death, Carrère decides to write an oblique tribute and an investigation into the ravages of grief. He focuses first on Juliette's colleague and intimate friend Étienne, himself an amputee and survivor of childhood cancer, and a man in whose talkativeness and strength Carrère sees parallels to himself ("He liked to talk about himself. It's my way, he said, of talking to and about others, and he remarked astutely that it was my way, too”). Étienne is a perceptive, dignified person and a loyal, loving friend, and Carrère's portrait of him—including an unexpectedly fascinating foray into Étienne and Juliette's chief professional accomplishment, which was to tap the new European courts for help in overturning longtime French precedents that advantaged credit-card companies over small borrowers—is impressive. Less successful is Carrère's account of Juliette's widower, Patrice, an unworldly cartoonist whom he admires for his fortitude but seems to consider something of a simpleton. Now and again, especially in the Étienne sections, Carrère's meditations pay off in fresh, pungent insights, and his account of Juliette's last days and of the aftermath (especially for her daughters) is quietly harrowing.

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9261-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2011

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