Sunday, September 28, 2014

More Books

Doris Kearns Goodwin- Wait Till Next Year. This book was highly recommended to me, and I understand why. Goodwin was raised by a baseball fan dad who taught her to score when she was young. Her memoir is as much of a memoir about growing up with the Brooklyn Dodgers as it is about being a kid. It's sweet and a little bit salty (just a little bit) and I should like it. But I don't. I remember trying to read something else by Kearns Goodwin and finding it unreadable, and, although I slogged through this one, the subject matter wasn't enough. It's a great story, and I love my dad and how he taught me (indoctrinated me?) baseball young just like she does, but some sappy writing just can't be overcome.

Melissa Mohr- Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing. I was really looking forward to reading this book. I requested it at the library months ago. And the first half did not disappoint. Mohr romps through the history of our most taboo words, which have, of course, changed over time. The "holy" in the title refers to the fact that swearing used to actually mean taking God's name in vain in various ways. "By God's bones" is one of Mohr's favorite examples- talking about God's various body parts was actually dangerous- you could injure God's bones by cursing in this way. Words that we consider exceptionally offensive (nasty words for our body parts, for example), were, at various points in history, quite inane words, used in dialogue and literature like no big thing. The thing is, Mohr's book goes on for way too long. I gave up when she gets to about the 1920s. Each section includes about 50 examples, and really could do with 25. I liked the book, but could have done with 200 pages, not 275. Sad, because 275 isn't even a long book.

Edward Achorn- The Summer of Beer and Whiskey. The best book of the bunch, Achorn tells the story of the 1883 season and, he says, the popularization and salvation of baseball as the American pastime. The National League (the only professional league at the time) was a stodgy place in the 1880s: no drinking, expensive (50 cents) tickets and no baseball on Sundays. Along came a German immigrant by the name of Chris Von der Ahe who wanted to make some money. He probably liked baseball, too. He owned a beer garden in St. Louis and realized that baseball could be highly profitable if gate fares were lowered, the game was played on a day when working class people could make it and beer was sold. So he founded a league- the American Association, which eventually merged with the National League- and, as in the Field of Dreams, they built it and they came. Achorn's lively book is a pretty awesome book for those interested in baseball (duh!) and also Americana. Baseball as capitalism and history and beer, well, not bad. Readable and short- maybe I should have saved this for the offseason (tomorrow!) to liven up the dull, sad days of winter.

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