Sports in Literature

Just as there are double plays in baseball, there are two ways to talk about sports in literature. One is to discuss sports fiction itself, and the other is to discuss non-sports fiction that includes some athlete characters. This post will do both — the blog equivalent of a two-point conversion in football?

Heck, I’ll also mention literature that’s not sports-oriented and doesn’t have athletes in the cast, yet mentions sports in other ways — for instance, via a character who’s a sports fan. So this post will actually be sort of like basketball’s triangle offense or a hockey player’s three-goal hat trick.

I think you get the idea why the metaphors I overdid in the above paragraphs are not an Olympic event… ๐Ÿ™‚

Among the non-sports novels with athlete characters are Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom (which includes former college basketball player Patty Berglund), John Irving’s The World According to Garp (wrestler T.S. Garp), F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (golfer Jordan Baker, inspired by real-life golfer Edith Cummings), and Stieg Larsson’s The Girl Who Played With Fire (boxer Paolo Roberto, based on real-life boxer…Paolo Roberto).

Football is the most popular pro sport in the U.S. while soccer (aka football) is the most popular elsewhere, but baseball novels often first come to mind when thinking about sports fiction. Some of the most famous titles in this category include Bernard Malamud’s The Natural (a very literary baseball book), Douglass Wallop’s The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant (turned into the Broadway play Damn Yankees), and W.P. Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe (turned into the movie Field of Dreams, minus the novel’s J.D. Salinger presence).

Kinsella’s baseball novels also include the offbeat Magic Time and The Iowa Baseball Confederacy.

Among other notable baseball titles: William Brashler’s The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings (starring a 1930s team of African-American players competing before Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s racist color barrier), Darryl Brock’s If I Never Get Back (time-travel plot with a Mark Twain appearance), John Grisham’s Calico Joe (good but not as much of a page-turner as the author’s legal thrillers), and E.R. Greenberg’s The Celebrant (Jewish fan admires and befriends New York Giants pitching legend Christy Mathewson).

In addition, there are many lesser-known baseball novels aimed at kids and teens. One of my favorites way back when was Dick Friendlich’s Relief Pitcher — about a Major League infielder who is injured by a showboating rookie teammate, goes to the minors, returns to the Majors as a pitcher for another team, and ultimately takes the mound to face the showboater at a crucial pennant-race moment.

Another memory from my youth is “The Mighty Casey” — a terrific Twilight Zone episode, starring a robot pitcher, that was adapted into a print tale for Rod Serling’s Stories From The Twilight Zone collection.

There are nowhere near as many football novels as baseball ones, but perhaps the most famous gridiron fiction is Peter Gent’s North Dallas Forty.

Why is some sports literature so riveting and popular? That kind of fiction is almost inherently dramatic — teams win or lose, underdogs sometimes triumph, egos clash, athletes do great or bumbling things, and those with mediocre talent might work hard enough to excel while those with immense talent might coast. Also, athletes flourish for a while and then fade because of age or injury — which can make for poignant scenarios.

Sports also get mentioned in literary works that are not really about sports and don’t have athlete protagonists. Zadie Smith’s On Beauty refers to a “cricket-club tie” worn by Monty Kipps that serves as another reminder of how that conservative academic possesses many more talents than his more liberal but equally annoying academic rival Howard Belsey. Don DeLillo’s Underworld recounts New York Giants third baseman Bobby Thomson’s famous 1951 home run — a real-life event that helps place part of that novel in a certain era and has an impact on the book’s plot and fictional characters. Also in the 1950s, young Irish woman Eilis Lacey experiences “America’s pastime” (like many recent immigrants did before) when accompanying her U.S. boyfriend to a Brooklyn Dodgers game in Colm Toibin’s Brooklyn.

What are your favorite literary works about sports, your favorite literary works that are mostly not about sports but have athlete characters, or your favorite literary works that just mention sports?

If you’d also like to mention your favorite nonfiction sports books, please do! Among mine are David Maraniss’s When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi (about the legendary Green Bay Packers football coach), Richard Ben Cramer’s Joe DiMaggio: The Hero’s Life (which depicts the Yankee great as anything but great as a person), Jane Leavy’s Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy (about the iconic Dodgers pitcher), Roger Kahn’s The Boys of Summer (about the Dodgers when in Brooklyn), George Plimpton’s Paper Lion (in which the author “plays” quarterback for the Detroit Lions), and Jim Bouton’s Ball Four (one of the first books to depict — in an often humorous way — pro athletes as warts-and-all human beings rather than whitewashed, mythic figures).

(The box for submitting comments is below already-posted comments, but your new comment will appear at the top of the comments area โ€” unless youโ€™re replying to someone else. Also, please feel free to read through comments and reply to anyone you want; I love not only being in conversations, but also reading conversations in which I’m not involved!)

For three years of my Huffington Post literature blog, click here.

I’m also writing a literature-related book, but still selling Comic (and Column) Confessional — my often-funny memoir that recalls 25 years of covering and meeting cartoonists such as Charles Schulz (“Peanuts”) and Bill Watterson (“Calvin and Hobbes”), columnists such as Ann Landers and “Dear Abby,” and other notables such as Hillary Clinton, Coretta Scott King, and various authors. The book also talks about the malpractice death of my first daughter, my remarriage, and life in New York City and Montclair, N.J. — where I write the award-winning weekly “Montclairvoyant” humor column for The Montclair Times. You can email me at to buy a discounted, inscribed copy of the book, which contains a preface by “Hints” columnist Heloise and back-cover blurbs by people such as “The Far Side” cartoonist Gary Larson.

177 thoughts on “Sports in Literature

  1. OOH, Jordan Baker is a good mention in a great post, She seemed so confident and other worldly when I first read that book. I am sure there is a cricket scene in The Go Between. It is certainly the kind of a book that would have one but I read it years ago and cannae mind. I also remember reading somewhere in the Jean Plaidy Catherine De Medici trilogy of the joust that killed the king of France. Jousting was certainly a pop sport of its day. My Mr was big on Dick Francis’ books all set in the horse racing world.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dave, Kinsella’s Iow Baseball Confederacy has to be one of the best written and quirky sports books ever. Let us not forget how much sports are covered in poetry. Baseball, especially, has a revered place there, such as this offering from John Updike, with beautiful metaphors galore:

    Tao in the Yankee Stadium Bleachers

    By John Updike

    Distance brings proportion. From here

    the populated tiers

    as much as players seem part of the show:

    a constructed stage beast, three folds of Danteโ€™s rose,

    or a Chinese military hat

    cunningly chased with bodies.

    โ€œFalling from his chariot, a drunk man is unhurt

    because his soul is intact. Not knowing his fall,

    he is unastonished, he is invulnerable.โ€

    So, too, the โ€œpure manโ€โ€”โ€œpureโ€

    in the sense of undisturbed water.

    โ€œIt is not necessary to seek out

    a wasteland, swamp, or thicket.โ€

    The opposing pitcherโ€™s pertinent hesitations,

    the sky, this meadow, Mantleโ€™s thick baked neck,

    the old men who in the changing rosters see

    a personal mutability,

    green slats, wet stone are all to me

    as when an emperor commands

    a performance with a gesture of his eyes.

    โ€œNo king on his throne has the joy of the dead,โ€

    the skull told Chuang-tzu.

    The thought of death is peppermint to you

    when games begin with patriotic song

    and a democratic sun beats broadly down.

    The Inner Journey seems unjudgeably long

    when small boys purchase cups of ice

    and, distant as a paradise,

    experts, passionate and deft,

    hold motionless while Berra flies to left.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the excellent comment, Telly!

      “The Iowa Baseball Confederacy” is indeed an terrific, offbeat novel.

      I don’t read a lot of poetry, and thus haven’t read a lot of baseball poetry — other than things like “Casey at the Bat” and whatever poem immortalized the early-20th-century Cubs infield of “Tinker to Evers to Chance.” So I greatly appreciate you mentioning verse, and pasting that John Updike poem (which I hadn’t been familiar with). I found it fascinating the way Updike juxtaposed an almost mythic view of baseball with his prosaic, back-to-real-life last line.

      Yogi Berra resided in my town for many decades; I believe he recently moved into some kind of assisted-living place.


  3. Morning Dave…as I was cleaning my stove had NPR on and heard this amazing interview of this author. It is a non fiction and about animals who were once working animals and about the amazing Donkey Simon.

    The author was saying in today’s world the working animals who loved to work like carriage horses are put to pasture actually lose their ability of enjoyment working with people. They love to work , be close contact with humans who touches them and the work helps them to build their muscles.
    Now have nothing else to do but to roam around in pastures.
    Same with Donkeys, extremely smart animals sometimes smarter than dogs are on their ways becoming extinct.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, jhNY, for the additional two titles! I think sports fiction is best when it’s “about more than the sport featured.” For instance, “Shoeless Joe” is partly about father/son relationships, “The Celebrant” is partly about immigrants getting assimilated into American culture, etc.


  4. William Hazlitt wrote quite a few marvelous things, but none more so than his largish non-fiction essay titled “The Fight”, which along with Byron’s dressing screen, is one of the few things we have today originating from the very earliest days of professional prize-fighting. The entire business, from tickets to coach to match to home is all marvelously well- described.

    Liked by 1 person

      • The Byron dressing screen is just what it sounds like– a folding screen to dress behind, to which Lord Byron had affixed various handbills and newspaper accounts of early boxing matches– years ago, when I was reading more on the history of the sport (re-introduced to moderns via the neo-classical revival), that screen contained much of what was known about the earliest days of the sport. Perhaps better and more complete documentation has been turned up since….

        Liked by 1 person

  5. This a topic that allows me to be brief, as I have, really, no other choice. The sports fiction genre has only very occasionally attracted me to partake, and even then, I have not often felt rewarded in the aftermath.

    I read Eight Men Out better than a decade ago, and remember mostly that Shoeless Joe got a raw deal and Comiskey was a cheap SOB and Kenesaw Mountain Landis was a poseur and publicity hound. So I suppose I should be grateful that something stuck…

    Also, even more years back, I read Lardner’s You Know Me All, from which I borrowed the principal’;s standard closing phrase ‘yer pal’ for my own letters and e-mails. The principal, however, as I only very dimly recall, was a most self-unaware jerk, as I aspire not to be. Apart from this, I have no other recollection.

    I also read The Knockout Artist by Harry Crews some years ago– I found it unsettling yet preposterous– and is only a little about boxing per se. It remains the only Crews book I’ve read.

    Funny thing: I watch baseball, boxing and football regularly, though football is a recent interest. My sports interests, I note, are more or less like most men’s– in the 1920’s.

    I guess I like the sports themselves, in themselves, and care nothing for movie depictions, and only a little for fiction deriving from sports.

    Liked by 1 person

    • No problem, jhNY — and a non-sports topic will be coming in four days!

      I’m not much into sports fiction anymore; many of the books I mentioned in my column were read by me a number of years ago. I still follow sports when I read The New York Times or listen to a sports-radio station while cooking, but, unlike you, I’ve stopped watching games — partly because pro athletes, and especially team owners, are now so entitled and wealthy. Hard to relate to them or admire them, even though a game in itself can be exciting. I’d rather admire public-school teachers.

      Also, as you and Donny alluded to, sports fiction is not always satisfying. Too symbolic/mythic at times, and often not “consequential” enough. But there are of course some exceptions that can rivet a reader.

      In the nonfiction sports area, “Eight Men Out” is a compelling read — and you do remember the essence of it!

      A couple of other people also mentioned Lardner here and on Facebook, and I plan to give his fiction a try. “Yer pal” — nice. ๐Ÿ™‚


      • As my mother spent a little while as a school teacher, and my father was a university professor, I have seen what really goes on behind the glittering and alluring curtain of education. The late nights, the wild faculty lunches, the free pencils. How anybody in that profession can look themselves in the eye when there are people across town pulling down $15 million a year for throwing a ball is beyond me.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Hilarious! Nothing like expert drollery and sarcasm to make a point.

          My wife is also a professor, and one of her most revealing experiences when job-hunting about a decade ago was seeing an ad for a VERY demanding Rutgers University academic position — requiring a doctorate and years of experience (both of which my wife had) — offering pay of about $28,000 in our pricey metro area. Meanwhile, the Rutgers football coach was getting a salary and perks of several hundred thousand or a million-plus or whatever.

          “…the free pencils” — bwahaha!


          • I remember a Mad magazine feature from my boyhood that pretended to be a newspaper for teachers, in which there was a want ad targeting those on summer break, which I recall more or less went like: Pick lemons. $1 an hour, and all the lemons you can eat.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Sounds like a classic, jhNY! The often-hilarious Mad magazine could really hit the nail on the head, and hopefully still does (I haven’t read it in years). Teachers are so underpaid and undervalued for what they do.

              When I covered cartooning, one of the highlights was meeting Mad legends like Mort Drucker (incredibly nice guy), Jack Davis, Sergio Aragones, etc.


              • I was crazy about Mort Drucker– loved his style…

                My big fave in the olde daze was Kelly Freas, who did covers for Mad, but also for Astounding Science Fiction Tales, which I learned only last year when my wife picked me up about 70 of them from the early ’50’s for a song from a thrift store– like a hole in the head, these I needed. They are pulp, yellowed and too brittle too be read, really. But those covers are still bright as ever, and Freas did several. Incidentally, it was between the covers of this august publication that L. Ron Hubbard chose to reveal scientology– I have the very issue….

                The cover guy I liked as a teen best, though for horror mags, was Frazetta….

                Liked by 1 person

                • Mort Drucker is a brilliant artist.

                  One of my memories of him was when the National Cartoonists Society met on a cruise ship to the Caribbean in 1990. I was on the beach with my first wife and then-six-month-old daughter, and my wife and I were alternating going into the water and watching my daughter. Then Mort and his wife offered to “babysit” so my wife and I could go into the water at the same time. Such a nice guy.

                  I’m not very familiar with Kelly Freas’ work, but it sounds like your wife got quite a bargain there! And that Hubbard issue must be a Mecca-on-paper for Scientologists. ๐Ÿ™‚


                  • The formal oil portrait of Alfred E Newman with the caption “what, me worry?” is, I think, Freas most famous work for Mad.

                    Yes, my wife did make a good find– but in practice, it’s just a cardboard box full of fragile mags that I had to find a corner in the closet for– and I’m running out of corners. My plan is to find somebody sometime who will treasure these things– I am not much of a scifi buff, and the stories I glanced over didn’t seem, on average, to be very good. Still, I’m sure there are some classics among the dross, and several arresting covers….

                    As for the L Ron aspect, I should look into that, I suppose, but fear engaging those who might be most interested. In addition to the article outlining scientology, there are recruitment ads. Humble beginnings, these….

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • Oh, so THAT’S Kelly Freas’ work! That portrait alone makes him a legend!

                      I hear you about “running out of corners.” I wrestled with that last year when I moved from a house to an apartment a third the size. Sold some stuff, gave away some stuff, threw out some stuff — ouch. And yet the apartment is still stuffed.

                      Yes, dealing with Scientology types may be more risk than reward!


    • Thanks, Brad, for the kind words and comment! “A Prayer For Owen Meany,” with that fateful foul ball hit by Owen, is a GREAT addition to this discussion.

      John Irving’s novel is quirky and excellent — as many of his books are.


      • Oh yes…Dave..Owen Meany and his love for baseball and the sadness followed that foul ball ๐Ÿ˜ฆ
        I donated so many books to the Public Library, some I regret now when I want to re-read them but I kept โ€œA Prayer For Owen Meany,โ€

        Liked by 1 person

        • Such a devastating moment in that book, bebe. Tabitha was a VERY nice person — and in a loving, fairly new marriage.

          When I moved last year, I had to give up some books I also now regret giving up. But there just wasn’t enough space. Glad you kept John Irving’s excellent novel! And it’s nice that library patrons are enjoying your donations. ๐Ÿ™‚

          Liked by 1 person

              • Yes Dave…they have limited budgets so anything helps…as Volunteering which is what I do. It is like a job but good thing is no one is evaluating my job performance..and I am basically the only regular they have ๐Ÿ˜€

                Liked by 1 person

                • Always a shame, bebe, when libraries have limited budgets — even as cities/towns might overspend on less important things. In my town, there are dozens of officials who continued to make well over $100,000 during the recession as the library budget got significantly reduced. Fortunately, some of the cuts have been restored during the past couple of years.

                  It’s wonderful that you are a (regular) library volunteer!!!


    • That IS a magnificent baseball name, Bill. Much better even than the evocative moniker of “The Natural” novel’s Roy Hobbs, a fictional amalgam of Rogers Hornsby and Ty Cobb — the two best hitters in baseball history, batting average-wise.

      Thanks for your VERY funny and engaging comment.


  6. Hey Dave (and J.J.)! Surprised to see no mention of Mark Harris’ “Bang the Drum Slowly,” made into an excellent movie with Robert DeNiro. Harris captures a great voice in “Author” Wiggins.
    “‘It is sad,” said Mike. ‘It makes you wish to cry.’
    ‘It is sad,’ said Red. ‘It makes you wish to laugh.'”
    And how can a couple of Jersey guys forget the opening line of “The Sun Also Rises”: Robert Cohn was once middleweight boxing champion of Princeton.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great to hear from you, Mark! Hope you’re doing well!

      “Bang the Drum Slowly” IS a major omission on my part. I’ve certainly heard of the book and movie, but somehow have never read it/seen it — and the books I mentioned in my column are all ones I read at some point. Will look for it again in my local library. Loved the dialogue excerpt you posted.

      Robert De Niro was certainly in a couple of major sports films (also including “Raging Bull”).

      Also, thanks for the excellent mention of boxing in “The Sun Also Rises”! Hemingway of course also included bullfighting in that novel. Whether bullfighting is a sport is a good question… ๐Ÿ™‚


    • Howdy, Fitz!

      โ€” Surprised to see no mention of Mark Harrisโ€™ โ€œBang the Drum Slowly,โ€ made into an excellent movie with Robert DeNiro. โ€”

      I love the film, but I have not read the novel. Yet. Actuarially speaking, it appears I may have another 21.75 years to get to it.

      โ€” And how can a couple of Jersey guys forget the opening line of โ€œThe Sun Also Risesโ€: Robert Cohn was once middleweight boxing champion of Princeton. โ€”

      Ay caramba! I limit my Ernest Hemingway references to every fifth week, so I believe Papaโ€™s out of the rotation until Daveโ€™s column Feb. 1.


      Liked by 1 person

      • “…I believe Papaโ€™s out of the rotation until Daveโ€™s column Feb. 1” — LOL, J.J.! I think that will work out well, because my next (Jan. 25) column is about computers and other digital stuff in literature. I don’t think “For Whom the Bell Tolls” is about the “ping” one hears when an email arrives… ๐Ÿ™‚


  7. Howdy, Dave!

    โ€” What are your favorite literary works about sports, your favorite literary works that are mostly not about sports but have athlete characters, or your favorite literary works that just mention sports? โ€”

    I like some things by Ring Lardner and other things by Damon Runyon, but I love James Thurberโ€™s โ€œYou Could Look It Up,โ€ even though I am not one to conflate Rube Marquard and Rube Waddell. (BTW: Intentionally or unintentionally, โ€œThe Saturday Evening Postโ€ version of โ€œYou Could Look It Up,โ€ with graphics by Norman Rockwell accompanying text by Thurber, encompasses a nifty visual joke, namely, an illustration including ducks in proximity to a mention of Waddell.)

    J.J. (Alias Magrew, I Mean, MugRuith1)

    Liked by 1 person

    • There was indeed more than one “Rube” in baseball a century ago, J.J. I guess that was a combination fond/insulting reference to a ballplayer from a very rural area? Of course, a lot of players back then were not from the city and not college-educated (with some exceptions such as Christy Mathewson and Lou Gehrig).

      Love that Waddell/duck proximity, the way you described it, and your comment in general! Lardner, Runyon, and Thurber are quite a writer threesome — and really evoke an era (first third or half of the 20th century, though Thurber lived a number of years past that).


          • โ€” There was also the cartoonist Rube Goldberg, and he was no dummy! โ€”

            And Dummy Hoy was no rube: Besides living almost a century โ€” an achievement in and of itself โ€” he was a Major League Baseball center fielder in one big city after another for 14 years during the dead-ball era, with a .288 batting average, .386 on-base percentage and .374 slugging percentage. The best deaf player in MLB history, he also stole 596 bases, which means he currently ranks No. 19 among all the many thousands who have played in the big leagues. Alas, I am unaware of any appearances he may have made in literature, discounting biographies and film documentaries.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Those are impressive stats, J.J., and an impressive life span — 1862-1961, says Wikipedia.

              That site also notes that Hoy threw out the first ball in a 1961 Cincinnati Reds-New York Yankees World Series game just two months before his death!


              • โ€” Those are impressive stats, J.J., and an impressive life span โ€” 1862-1961, says Wikipedia. โ€”

                Sorry, Dave! I should have sourced those stats to the redoubtable (, my go-to site for all things horsehide. (I also should have mentioned the site says Mr. Today AVERAGED 11 triples per 162 games during his career!)

                Liked by 1 person

                • That IS a great, comprehensive site, J.J. Though I’m not as much of a baseball fan as I used to be, I go to periodically to look at a player’s stats — such as when someone is elected to the Hall of Fame.

                  Averaging 11 triples a year — even in the era of the “Dead Ball” and more expansive outfields — is amazing.

                  I remember first getting interested in baseball stats during the pitching-dominated late 1960s, when one could win a batting title with an average of .301 (as Carl Yastrzemski did in 1968). Then I saw that Ty Cobb had averaged .367 for his whole career a half-century earlier, and was astounded.


                  • Stats were fun when i was young, but once they lowered the mound after Bob Gibson was just too good at getting people out, I learned how malleable stats are– and stats seemed at the outset to confer constancy on the game….

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • Great point, jhNY! Stats should be “objective,” but they can indeed be shaped to an extent — as they were when, as you note, hitters were given an advantage after 1968’s “Year of the Pitcher.” (Also the year, as you know, when Denny McLain became the last hurler to win 30 or more games in a season.)


    • Thank you, Ana, for the very kind words — and for suggesting I write on sports in literature. ๐Ÿ™‚ I hope the rest of your trip goes well, and I look forward to reading what you have to say about this topic!


      • My second favourite hobby growing up (after music of course) was swimming. Lots of local swimming holes along the British Columbia coast where I spent quite a few summers with my grandparents, and we (me and my sibs) used to swim every other day at the local Y during the rare summers that we didn’t go to B.C.

        I became a huge fan of Esther Williams, an actress and very popular swimmer back in the 30s and 40s. She was so pretty, so talented, and I loved her aqua musicals. That was a term given by show business people to describe the movies and public roles that featured her synchronized dive/swim shows.

        I was (and still am) a fan of Judy Blume books, and there was one title I held on to for years…”Starring Sally J. Freedman As Herself.” This book was set in the late 40s, and focused on a Jewish family from NYC who moved to Miami Beach due to the bad health of a brother. The main character, Sally Freedman, was very imaginative (think Anne Shirley). You know how little kids will sometimes say how they want to be this-and-that when they grow up? That’s how Sally was. She wanted to be rich and famous with millions of adoring fans. Then she wanted to be a smart, crime-solving detective. Then she set her sights on being a famous athlete. And a movie star. Ambitious little girl, lol.

        But the reason this book was given to me as a gift and why I kept it for so long was because of Sally’s love of Esther Williams. She worshiped everything about her…her make-up and hair, grace, swimming and diving abilities, Ms. Williams’ attractive co-stars/co-swimmers, the flowers she wore in her hair, the music played during the aqua musicals, even her designer swimsuits. In Sally’s imagination and fantasies, she WAS Esther Williams.

        I never made the connection until years later, but the Sally Freedman character sort of reminded me of Anne Frank. Just like Freedman, Frank was a young Jewish girl with a big imagination who idolised the glitz and glamour of Hollywood and pop culture of that era. In her diary, one of the things Anne Frank wrote about was the collection of pictures of actors and actress that she cut out and pasted on the walls from magazines smuggled to her by Miep. And just like Sally Freedman’s adoration of an athlete-turned-actress, Anne Frank was a major fan of an ice skater from Norway (I can’t think of her name right now) who appeared in several films and on the covers of magazines in the 30s.

        Man…I seriously want to go swimming now. Has the weather warmed up yet?????

        Liked by 1 person

        • Ana, thanks for the engaging/interesting comment covering swimming, Esther Williams, and more!

          Swimming IS a great sport/hobby — and there’s actually an important swimming scene in a college pool involving the Zora and Carl characters in Zadie Smith’s “On Beauty.” (Though the novel doesn’t say, I’m almost sure Zora’s black mother and white father named her after Zora Neale Hurston.)

          Any character who’s like Anne Shirley is a GREAT character. And I can understand why any person — fictional or real — would admire Esther Williams.

          And what can one say about “The Diary of Anne Frank”? One of the powerful things about the book is how “normal” Anne is with her likes and dislikes, in addition to being unusually smart for her age.

          By the way, I took out an Alistair MacLean book — “Where Eagles Dare” — from the library this weekend. I hope to get to it within a couple of weeks! I also borrowed “The Light Between Oceans,” which I believe you also recommended (along with Kat Lib).


          • Esther Williams lived a long time. I think she was in her 90s when she passed. What a career, and an inspiration and role model to little girls worldwide.

            Where Eagles Dare…is that the title we talked about in your piece about film adaptations of books? Let me warn you now: there might be some pages you’ll have to re-read because of the double-crossing that goes on between the agents. You might get lost somewhere. That’s ok; you will not be disappointed.

            The M.L. Stedman book. Kat Lib sang its praises, and I co-signed. You will enjoy that one as well.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Esther Williams did live a long time, Ana. It’s interesting how some Hollywood stars don’t appear on the screen much or at all for decades, and one almost thinks they’ve been dead a number of years, and then their obituary suddenly pops up. Certainly the case with Luise Rainer, who died last month at the age of 104. The sexist movie biz can be an awful place for aging actresses.

              Yes, we did discuss “Where Eagles Dare”! Thanks for warning me about the double-crossing! I just finished Lee Child’s “Worth Dying For” (Jack Reacher book), and there was a whole lot of double-crossing among some of the bad guys.

              I’m also looking forward to reading Stedman’s novel!


              • Oh, I didn’t know Luise Rainer past away. Wow. She was one of the queens of old Hollywood, right up there with Grace Kelly, Lana Turner, Dorothy Lamour, Audrey Hepburn, etc etc. It’s a shame how legends (women) are so quickly forgotten.

                See Dave, here I am minding my own business, and you just had to put Alistair MacLean back on my radar. You’re making me break my 3-book rule. I swearz, this blog is a bad influence on me…SMH.

                Liked by 1 person

                • Yes, a legend — from long ago. I believe Luise Rainer was the first person to ever win two Oscars in a row (for 1936’s “The Great Ziegfeld” and 1937’s “The Good Earth”). But she still couldn’t get enough of the strong roles she wanted, so she mostly quit the biz from the 1940s on.

                  Well, rules are made to be (occasionally) broken. ๐Ÿ™‚ I had to will myself to not read all 18 Jack Reacher books in a row. I made a clean break and am now reading a genteel Henry James novel (“Washington Square”) that’s somehow lacking in fistfights…

                  Thanks for your seriocomic comment!


                  • By only seeing new Reacher books in the Nashville airport news kiosk, I am limited in my intake by lack of opportunity, except on those rare glorious days when one of my bookselling street merchants has one on hand– instantly to be snapped up by me, on sight. So far, I’ve read about half of them….

                    I too have forced myself, meanwhile, to read something entirely else– in my case, the scant fiction output (short stories) of a fellow named Geza Csath (1887-1919), who was an opium addict and fantasist and doctor, whose specialty was neurology.

                    Now I’m assaulted in my imagination by the thought of Reacher being Reacher among the characters and circumstances of the James book you’re reading. My first conclusion: the book would have been even shorter and a bit more aggro, a word I hope I’ve borrowed accurately from Burgess.

                    I am still fitfully returning to The Wings of The Dove for a page or three of meticulous circumlocution. At my present rate of intake, I’ll be done next year, easy.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • jhNY, the thought of Jack Reacher wreaking vigilante havoc in a Henry James novel is just too funny! (Reminds me a bit of Jasper Fforde’s “The Eyre Affair,” in which present-day characters enter the pages of “Jane Eyre.”) Would love to see Reacher snap a few of Gilbert Osmond’s bones after Osmond psychologically mistreats Isabel Archer in “The Portrait of a Lady.” And the wandering Reacher not having a driver’s license shouldn’t be much of a problem in the 19th century…

                      Great that you’ve read about half of Lee Child’s novels!

                      I hear you about “The Wings of the Dove.” That novel is reputed to be one of James’ more difficult ones when it comes to its prose. In contrast, “Washington Square” is early enough in James’ career to be rather straightforward in the telling, as you know.

                      Geza Csath sounds fascinating, to say the least.

                      Appreciate your comment, including the wry humor!


        • Ana, I was very much into swimming when I was young and swam competively for years. We were very fortunate to have the wife of our coach be a former champion in synchronized swimming teach us the basics of what we called “water ballet.” We performed at our own club, but at others as well. The girls were older than I when we first started, so my debut was to be the one in the final routine who dove off the diving board into the circle of the others kicking below. It was the only thing I did, so everyone kiddingly called me the “star” of the show. But it was very Esther Williams-like. :). I too enjoyed watching her movies!

          Dave, as I was started to write this comment, I remembered a movie starring Burt Lancaster called “The Swimmer,” and I thought it had a literary connection. Turns out it was an adaptation of a short story by John Cheever. I don’t know if I read it or not, but I may just remember the movie, however vaguely.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Thanks, Kat Lib, for mentioning that Cheever short story! Wikipedia says it might be his most famous, most anthologized story.

            And you have an impressive background in swimming and “water ballet”!


          • I smiled while reading your post. I can only imagine how adorable you and your friends looked during your routines. Swimming just makes you feel happy. Maybe it has something to do with being in the open water, but I just love it. Always have and always will.

            Look at this clip I found on Youtube. Someone took clips from a variety of Esther Williams’ aqua musicals and created this video. That song playing in the background is from Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” movie. Gosh, those clips take me back. Look at her style, grace, and that gorgeous smile. And I love how she was wearing the tiara under water, lol…only a true diva could pull off that move.

            Esther Williams was truly a legend.

            Liked by 1 person

      • You mentioned soccer not being as popular in the U.S. as it is in other countries, and you’re right. In some countries, soccer is so incorporated into the culture; it’s a part of life. Africa United:Soccer, Passion, and Politics was released right before the ’10 World Cup. The author, Steve Bloomfield, traveled across the continent to discuss the role that soccer has in the unification and stability of Africans. Very insightful book on how the passion of soccer led to Africa’s hosting of the World Cup, which was historical.

        The Cup of Nations competition is going on now in Equatorial Guinea. It is encouraging and inspiring to see players from countries involved in political conflicts setting their differences aside to enjoy this one sport that millions on the continent adore. I am wearing a Cape Verde flag lapel pin all week to celebrate their advancement in the competition. Just trying to do my part, ya know:)

        And of course, I can’t even THINK about mentioning soccer without discussing the autobiography of Pele. He made the sport widely successful and popular, and used it as a way to foster unity. I can’t even put into words how Pele took the sport of soccer and transformed it into the global powerhouse that it is today.

        It is unfortunate that some soccer players face so much racism and discrimination from fans in the likes of Russia, Italy, and Brasil, but Pele teaches black players how to focus on the game and overcome the ignorance. I really enjoyed reading his autobiography…very uplifting story.

        Liked by 1 person

        • It’s interesting how much more popular soccer is outside the U.S., as you descriptively note, Ana.

          A lot of American kids play soccer when they’re school-aged (during recess, in town recreational programs, etc.), but then a good portion of them lose interest as adults. Maybe it has something to do with the instant-gratification nature of much of American culture, and soccer doesn’t have enough scoring to give people an instant-gratification fix.

          Great comment! You’re a real soccer expert (in addition to being an expert in music, literature, and more). Pele is indeed a legend, and racism is indeed apparent in the way soccer players of color are treated by some fans, some fellow players, etc. Of course, soccer doesn’t have a monopoly on bias rearing its ugly head. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ


          • Soccer really doesn’t have the American symbolism that a sport like baseball (or football) has. What are some of the things you associate baseball with? “America’s pastime, hot dogs, bonding time for dads and sons, patriotic, good clean all-American fun.”

            Soccer doesn’t really share those connections. It’s seen as a foreign sport. Some Americans even make fun of the fact that it’s called football, as if it’s a badge of shame for *foreign football* to have a similar name as American football, the “real” football.

            I got caught up in watching the Cup of Nations matches and forgot to include writers from the Harlem Renaissance in my first post. There is a boxing scene in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man where the young talented college student is forced to engage in a boxing match before he is awarded a college scholarship.

            Richard Wright described a similar experience in Black Boy. Fights were often arranged between the young black men who all worked in nearby businesses. But it was a calculated effort by white managers of these young men. They planted seeds of distrust amongst the men by telling them “this person is after you”, or “that person wants to fight you.” The deception worked. All of the young black men became furious with each other, and white bosses told them to settle their differences in the boxing ring. Bets were placed, boxing room was set up, everything was arranged.

            Richard Wright did engage in some of those fights. He talked with the other young men and informed them of the set-up. Some believed him; some didn’t.

            Alrighty…gonna watch a little more of these soccer highlights, then get ready for work. Have a good day, Dave.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Excellent points, Ana, about soccer seeming “foreign” and not having American cultural (and culinary!) touchstones.

              Thanks for bringing up the boxing match in “Invisible Man”! It has been so long since I read that novel that I’ve forgotten virtually everything except the fact that it’s a masterful book.

              Disgusting to think of the way black people, impoverished people, etc., are manipulated into turning against each other by the white/rich power structure — instead of jointly turning against that power structure. It happened in Richard Wright’s time, and it’s still happening. One of many examples is how private-sector workers are manipulated into resenting the benefits (pensions rather than 401k’s, better health plans, etc.) some government workers have (benefits which often aren’t all that much). So instead of private-sector workers feeling “I should have those benefits, too,” many want to pull down government workers into having lesser benefits. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

              Have a good day, too!


      • Ya know, I haven’t properly been introduced to the state of Ohio. Really haven’t explored the Midwest that much beyond Chicago, St. Louis, and Hammond.

        I did get lost somewhere along the Ohio-West Virginia border with my older brother and his idiot friends back in the 90s. We were driving from Memphis to Philly. I saw where we were heading in the wrong direction (I saw wayyyyy too many signs for Kentucky) and tried to get them to stop.

        Because of stubborn male pride, we went several miles outside of our route. Still don’t remember how we got to the southern tip of Ohio when the directions we had didn’t require us to go anywhere near that state. LOL. I swear…what IS it about some men and their inability to stop and ask for directions???

        Liked by 1 person

        • Even in here.the local folks prefer to have a GPS device ..

          What is with men ? Interesting question lol…
          Lemme rack my brain to think..oh wait..don`t need to go hubby…why doesn`t he go to doc. when needed. We have the same physician and when I gripe to the doc. he goes why would he call me, he is a Man…so go figure ๐Ÿ˜‰

          Sorry Dave you are absolutely not like that at all ๐Ÿ™‚

          Liked by 1 person

          • GPS would’ve made my trip easier. We finally made it to Philly, but when our event was over, I took a flight back home. And they got lost AGAIN driving back to Memphis.

            One thing I can’t allow my guy to do is grocery shop because he gets the exact opposite of what I put on the list, then tries to convince me that his purchases have some merit.

            If I ask for fresh mushrooms, what am I going to do with the jar kind??? “See Ana, these jar mushrooms are almost the same as the ones in produce, so I figured it would be ok.” LOL. Sure…once you get past the processing, salt, and brine, jar mushrooms are just like the fresh ones…SMH. So what I do now is have him grocery shop with me sometimes so he can become a more knowledgeable shopper.

            Stay on your hubby bebe about going to the doctor. Our men may cause us to rub our temples and shake our heads over some of the things they do, but we love and need ’em, and want ’em to be healthy.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Ha…when John Kerry was running for Presidency I remember Teresa Heinz Kerry his supportive wife made a comment ( I could be wrong, the reported could have made the whole thing is a fantastic man but could be a pain on a daily basis..
              That could be me saying.

              Well…now he is walking around the house with a huge foot brace which reduces the pain considerably and it is just getting used to it, later comes the therapy. Could have gone long ago but it is better late than never.

              Rubbing my temples and shaking my head now…

              Liked by 1 person

              • I can see her saying that. His team began putting a spotlight on her to counter the negative things said about John Kerry’s personality in the media. She was trying to paint a picture of him as a loving husband. She was right. No doubt that we love our’s those little annoying things that make us shake our heads. But those little things can be cute sometimes:)

                Did your husband have foot surgery??? Poor thing. I am sure you will take excellent care of him:)

                BTW, winter clearance sales are going on now at Avon. I’m pretty much set with my body washes that I got from Target earlier this year, but I could always use a few bottles of Skin-So-Soft body oil.

                Liked by 1 person

                • No he is trying to avoid surgery hence all many things could go wrong with surgery. Hopefully therapy would be helpful.

                  Yes on Kerry a war hero was severely ridiculed by Republicans.., they mocked..Max Cleland during that time…no end to what they could do..ugh,,,

                  Tomorrow I will go to target…to check on South Korean product Laneige I understand it is one of the best. . But too pricey Amazon carries that too. Skin so soft is a great mosquito repellent . have fun shopping..

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • Speaking of Republicans, did you get a chance to watch the president’s SOTU speech?? Senator Ernst delivered the Republicans’ response. That was one of the worst things I’ve ever seen on live TV. Her “ahm a folksy ole gal who can relate to Americans” act was so insulting. Her party claims they relate to average people, but their policies say otherwise.

                    And if I hear one more “put on your bootstraps and get off welfare” speech, I am going to scream. It is beyond laughable that Republicans from big farming states can reap hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money, yet have the nerve to decry WIC/SNAP/EBT benefits for the working poor.

                    Corporate tax breaks are ok, farming subsidies for wealthy farmers are ok, but social programs to help feed and educate children are not ok. Only on the planet Conservative Republicon does that make sense.

                    Ok, I’m getting off my soapbox now. LOL.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • VERY well said, Ana. A stellar soapbox “speech”!

                      I didn’t see President Obama’s SOTU address or the Republican response, but I’ve read a lot about both. I totally agree that Joni Ernst’s talk was a complete joke. Weird, faux-populist GOP pols make me sick. They’re like caricatures of caricatures.

                      Yes, the GOP never decries welfare for the rich — even as they try to cut, cut, cut almost everything that benefits the poor and middle class. THAT is class warfare, not the “class warfare” conservatives accuse liberals of when liberals criticize economic inequality that keeps growing and growing.


                    • I didn’t think anything could top Gov. Jindal’s response in ’09…until I saw this one. When Senator Ernst started talking about how poor people in her community used to put bread bags over the ragged shoes of kids, I temporarily stopped eating my soup. I am not joking, Dave. My spoon was in mid-stir. LOL. I could not believe what I was hearing.

                      And what exactly has the Republican congress been focused on so far? Abortion, more corporate tax breaks, slashing education/financial protections/environmental regulations, beating the drums of war with (insert Russia or any Middle Eastern country), and repealing the ACA that is benefiting about 10 million Americans. That doesn’t sound too pro middle-class/pro-American to me.

                      I have to question the intelligence levels of voters who put these yahoos in office. I can’t believe that I’m living in a country where voters are impressed by a candidate’s hog-calling and gun-shooting expertise. This is like living in one long episode of Hee-Haw.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Oh yes, that bread bag thing. Astounding.

                      And, Ana, you’re absolutely spot-on about the GOP’s priorities now that Republicans control both houses of Congress. All awful stuff that only benefits the rich, non-rich extremists, corporations, arms manufacturers, etc.

                      It’s very true that many non-rich people vote stupidly and vote against their own interests. But there’s also so much manipulation, shenanigans, and other things that contribute to that. Voter suppression, much of the mainstream media skewing their coverage to rich/powerful interests, ultra-wealthy people like the Koch brothers pouring money into ads that bend the truth or outright lie, poor people with little time to think about politics because they’re just trying to survive, and so on. The game is rigged. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ


                    • I did listen to most of Obama`s speech but turned my TV off for the Republican response…what would be the point I thought.
                      Remember last year…Marco Rubio`s nervous response as he was busy gulping water down his throat. Then before Bobby Jindal walking like a schoolboy ?

                      This time I will enjoy the circus of the Republicans , 2016 will be their turn to lost.
                      Then this year the bountiful man-hug of Chris Cristie…oh boy…

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • bebe, I agree — those Republican SOTU responses are so weird, year after year. Makes one wonder how many normal politicians the GOP has left (on the national level).

                      I also agree that it would be a shock if the Republicans won the presidency in 2016, given the kind of nasty/bumbling people who want the nomination (Jeb, Chris Christie, Mitt, Cruz, Rubio, Huckabee, Rand Paul, Scott Walker, etc.). Hillary is a flawed candidate, but I think she would beat all those guys easily.

                      Christie’s hug with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones WAS hilarious. New Jersey’s governor showed again that he’s a real “man of the people,” hugging a fellow vile multimillionaire.

                      Liked by 1 person

  8. Dave, on the non fiction side of things I wonder if you’re familiar with the story of Mo Berg. He was a mediocre back up catcher who played 15 years mostly in the American League during the thirties. A true intellectual he was labeled “the brainiest man in baseball” though Casey Stengal called him the strangest duck to ever play the game. A history of the Red Sox I own dismissed him with the remark ” he knew 15 languages and couldn’t hit a curveball in any of them”. Anyway with the onset of WW2 he joined the OSS and was active in the Balkans with various resistance movements and Italy trying to recruit Physicists. At one point it’s believed he was sent to a conference ,1943, in Zurich to determine from a talk if Warner Heisenberg and the Germans were close to producing an A-Bomb. His orders were to shoot the scientist if he thought the German’s development far enough along. I recall a few years back a respected history of his story being published, I’ll see if I can’t hunt the title down.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Donny, I had heard about the amazing Mo Berg, but thanks for filling in some fascinating details I didn’t know. As you noted, perhaps the smartest man to ever put on a baseball uniform (take that, Tony La Russa! ๐Ÿ™‚ ).

      “…he knew 15 languages and couldnโ€™t hit a curveball in any of them” — that is SO funny. But of course it’s more impressive to be that smart than to hit a dang curveball.

      I also vaguely remember a biography of Berg in the not too distant past.


  9. Dave ” Calico Joe” by John Grisham the author took a break from his legal thrillers and wrote a simple story full of kindness and redemption in this book.

    This is the story about a kid who grew up in a destructive home with a bully of a father who terrorized him and a star of a baseball player ” Calico Joe” ( his hometown man) he idolized.

    It is a simple story of so much goodness could come out of evil. The young man Paul made a journey in his life to correct the damage done by his Father in a fateful day in 1973. Joe was then a 21 year old rookie with an unstoppable batting average and Warren Tracy 34 year old pitcher Paul’s Father who was known to damage pitchers .

    On that day then 11 year old Paul saw it coming but could not warn his Idol Joe and the ball hit Joe`s head.

    Paul grew up and spend his adult life determined to set the record straight to arrange a meeting with his Father he despised and Joe he idolized.

    This was a story of forgiveness from a simple man whose whole career and life was completely destroyed by an alcoholic revengeful bitter man.

    Liked by 1 person

    • bebe, that’s a WONDERFUL description of “Calico Joe”!

      As I alluded to in my column, I didn’t like that John Grisham novel as much as a legal thriller like Grisham’s “The Client,” but I still found “Calico Joe” absorbing and poignant. I think I read it in one day. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      • It is a small book a total diversion from his thrillers bit I liked the book a lot, of course it is not a suspense but more of a good hearted fable.
        In today’s world particularly in Dr. King`s day I decided to make a point of it after I found this quote.

        “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies. ”
        ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

        Liked by 1 person

        • More of a fable than a suspense novel — that’s exactly right, bebe! Within those parameters, Grisham did a great job. And forgiveness was indeed a big part of “Calico Joe.”

          Wonderful MLK quote, and, as you note, the perfect day to post it.

          By the way, I finished Lee Child’s “Worth Dying For” about a hour ago after just two days. A page-turner of a page-turner! The Jack Reacher character is so charismatic (in a low-key way), resourceful, physically fearsome, and justice-seeking. Plus he’s a drifter, which make things even more interesting.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Thrilled to know..Dave that you are becoming a fan of Lee Child`s Jack Reacher…I am sure in this ruthless unforgiving world there are a lot of Reachers who silently help others…and not talk about it .

            Also Lisbeth some character…who in spite of her tiny stature was out to set the record straight and would risk her life to protect those she cares for. Too bad…Stieg Larsson did not live long enough to write more. then there was boxer Paolo Roberto, based on real-life boxerโ€ฆPaolo Roberto…and now you have read the trilogy to talk about it Dave ๐Ÿ™‚

            I have a Tai Chi instructor ( there are three in three different days two were student of the Sunday Teacher for years are now have become instructor themselves). She is so thin almost wiry in structure until I found out how strong she was. Tells me she lost 30 lbs over the years just exercising ..huh….

            Liked by 1 person

            • Good morning, bebe!

              Yes, Jack Reacher helps people without bragging about it, and expects nothing in return. He’s a vigilante, but a very moral vigilante. I can see the possibility of eventually reading every Lee Child book… ๐Ÿ™‚ (There’s an advantage to getting hooked on an author AFTER they’ve written a lot of novels; one doesn’t have to wait to read them!)

              You’re right — the amazing, original Lisbeth Salander was also very moral in her way. It IS a shame Stieg Larsson didn’t live to write as many books as Lee Child has written.

              I hadn’t realized Paolo Roberto was a real person until I looked him up on online while writing the column. I was just trying to make sure I got the spelling of his name right, and then found he really exists.

              Sounds like a VERY impressive Tai Chi instructor you have.

              Thanks for the terrific comment!

              Liked by 1 person

              • Actually I did not know about Paolo until I read do all these research for us on the books we read.

                Yaa…My Sunday Instructor is a shrink in profession and talks so beautifully and to my shock last Sunday out of the blue he asked me to show a few steps to a couple of new comers. Then I find out he does that..I am relatively new started from May as other are there from 2-12 years..
                I have a feeling he was trying to build up my confidence was thinking if he reads our minds as well…ouch :).
                As I find out also some have gone to him professionally as well…

                Liked by 1 person

                • Your instructor sounds like a multi-talented person, bebe, and it’s very nice that you were asked to do some teaching. Maybe he was trying to build up your confidence, but I’m sure he also saw you were very capable of showing those steps!

                  That Paolo thing is so interesting. I assume Steig Larsson asked him if he could put him in the novel, and it must have been both weird and flattering for the real-life boxer to see himself in that brutal, fictional fight with Lisbeth Salander’s huge half-brother!

                  After all the wonderful Larsson and Lee Child reading, I thought I better dip back into the 19th century for a book or two — so I just started Henry James’ “Washington Square.” It’s excellent so far, despite lacking a much-taller-than-Tom Cruise drifter with a military-police past… ๐Ÿ™‚

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • Great…hubby being unwell…staying home today..oh my I am not used to this, normally he gone 13 some hrs. ๐Ÿ˜€
                    His left heel…went to orthopedic doc today and got those humongous shoe which eased the pain altogether, now just getting used to wearing those then come therapy.,

                    Liked by 1 person

  10. Michael Koryta’s “The Prophet” includes a lot of high school football history and info. It’s obvious he has a passion for it. I became a fan after meeting him at the NSNC conference in Bloomington and loved his novel “So Cold the River”…I’m sure you remember, Dave.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do remember him at that 2010 conference, Susan. High school football is certainly rife for fictional or nonfictional book treatment, as “Friday Night Lights” has proved.

      Thanks for the comment, and for bringing back memories of that great meeting, the very appealing town of Bloomington, and the beautiful Indiana University campus.


  11. Dave, Kat Lib has already mention “Murder on the Links” which is a great novel.

    I still haven’t read W.P. Kinsella’s “Shoeless Joe” which was adapted into the great movie “Field of Dreams” though perhaps I should. Costner also starred in the adaptation of Michael Shaara’s “For Love of the Game” another book I should probably read someday. Both movies were great, in my opinion, and revolved around Baseball. Of course as a poet I should mention “Casey at the Bat.” Baseball holds a very special place in American fiction as you noted, and it probably always will.

    The game of Cricket takes an important roll in “Life the Universe and Everything” by Douglas Adams. The Sci-Fi comedy really takes the idea of sports in novels to a whole new dimension.


    • Thanks, GL, for discussing all those relevant titles — including the poem “Casey at the Bat.” Given that you’re an excellent poet, I’m not surprised that you mentioned an excellent poem. ๐Ÿ™‚

      I saw “Field of Dreams” before I read “Shoeless Joe,” and there are a LOT of differences. But the novel is at least as good as the great movie.

      I did not know that the game of cricket figures in “Life the Universe and Everything.” I’m intrigued!


        • Thanks, GL! On my list! I still need to try two other authors — Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett — you suggested months ago. As you know, I did try and love James Fenimore Cooper’s “Leatherstocking” series on your recommendation. If a shooting competition was a sport (I don’t think it is), Natty Bumppo would certainly be a champion. ๐Ÿ™‚


          • Yes, Natty would win. I remember a non=fiction book, but not the title, about Norwegian soldiers in WWII. It loosely described how the sport Biathlon was formed as part of the story, a couple of the soldiers competed before or after I think. It was interesting and made me want to try it when I was younger.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Thanks for the comment, GL!

              Biathlon’s origins DO sound interesting. But I find it strange that biathlon is an Olympic event. I guess the skiing part is a sport, but the shooting part? The winter Olympics do have some offbeat events! ๐Ÿ™‚


  12. Alfred Slote’s baseball books written for kids remain the sports-themed books I’ve most enjoyed. “Jake,” “Hang Tough, Paul Mather,” and “Rabbit Ears” were my favorites. The main characters are all Little League baseball players. The books are set in Arborville, a stand-in for Ann Arbor, Michigan, where I grew up, so I liked that aspect of them, as well. I also learned a lot about horse racing from Dick Francis. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Sheila, for mentioning Alfred Slote! I read one of his baseball books a few years ago, and thought it was terrific. I’m drawing a blank on the title, but I think it involved a mother taking over as manager of a boys’ team.

      I like the way the “Arborville” name is only the barest disguise for Ann Arbor — a VERY nice city (with a rather large university football stadium, to mention another sport ๐Ÿ™‚ ).


  13. Hi Dave, the first book I thought of was “Double Fault” by Lionel Shriver, which you can probably guess is about tennis. Willy is a mid-level ranked pro when she meets, falls in love with, and marries Eric, who is aspiring to become a tennis pro. When the book begins, Willy can beat Eric, but as the book progresses, he becomes a better player than she. Willy actually loses ground following a humiliating loss, then suffers an injury. The novel is more than about tennis; it is more about how competitiveness (mostly on Willy’s side from jealousy), which changes the dynamics and balance of power in their relationship. It’s an interesting book, but Willy is not a very sympathetic character. Another Shriver book is “The Post-Birthday World,” in which the main character goes back and forth in alternate futures, based on a decision she makes on her birthday. I bring this up because one of her futures has her in love with a champion Snooker player (considered a cue sport), and I now know more about Snooker than I’d ever wanted to. It obviously takes place in England. Shriver is probably known best for “We Need To Talk About Kevin,” in which archery plays a part.

    Moving over to mysteries, there is of course “Murder on the Links,” by Agatha Christie. Also, it turns out that not only is Lord Peter brilliant, extremely well-read, rich, a quite good singer (tenor, I believe), he was also a famed cricket player at Balliol. This is a minor plot device in “Murder Must Advertise.” Yes, he’s also very good at writing copy for ads!

    I didn’t get a chance to get back to your last post, so I just read this morning some follow-up questions from other commenters:

    Ana – any of Liane Moriarty’s novels are good, but I think her biggest success was “The Husband’s Secret,” and “Three Wishes” was quite charming (her first, I believe).

    drb19810 – the Lisa Scottoline book I referenced was “Daddy’s Girl,” and Wilmington plays a role in that book as well, neighbor!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Kat Lib, for your wide-ranging comment — and for the great mentions/descriptions of several sports-related books I wasn’t familiar with. Is Lionel Shriver (a woman, I see from Wikipedia) related to former tennis player Pam Shriver? I realize “Shriver” is not that uncommon a name…

      “I now know more about Snooker than Iโ€™d ever wanted to” — nice line!

      And it’s always nice to see a mention of Agatha Christie. ๐Ÿ™‚

      On another subject, I found “The Light Between Oceans” at the library this weekend, and will read it as soon as I can. Thanks for recommending it!


      • Dave, I hope you enjoy “The Light Between Oceans.” I look forward to your thoughts on this novel. OK, now I’m going completely off topic. I mentioned in my last comments that I was going to read other genres as opposed to only thrillers now that my life had settled down somewhat. Last Friday my sister and I met at B&N, we each picked out a hardcover book, then switched them and paid for the other one’s book, then switched bags and said “Merry Xmas!” How lame is that? Anyway, I picked out the memoir by Roz Chast, “Can’t We Talk About Something More PLEASANT?” It is mostly in the form of cartoons along with some handwritten prose to flesh out the story of dealing with her aging parents, especially once they have entered their 90’s. Chast has been as a long time cartoonist for The New Yorker, and I found the strips of her and her parents hilarious, even though at times very poignant. Chast had a more difficult relationship with her parents than I did with mine, but I could recognize many of her feelings that she had trying to take care of my own aging mother and father. Were you aware of this book (I only heard about it on, when several of their writers picked it as one of the best books of 2014.) Did this book or this cartoonist ever come across your radar?

        Liked by 1 person

        • Kat Lib, I’m looking forward to reading “The Light Between Oceans” after the way you described it earlier this month!

          Loved how you and your sister did the gift exchange! Brilliant and funny system. ๐Ÿ™‚

          When I covered cartooning, I covered newspaper creators rather than magazine ones, so I only knew of Roz Chast from occasionally seeing The New Yorker. I like her work better than a lot of other cartoonists in The New Yorker, but I’m not a huge fan of the style of cartoons in that magazine. Hard to describe why: A little too safe? A little too self-satisfyingly sophisticated? Or something.

          That said, Chast does have a nice, casual drawing style, and is indeed funny. The book of hers you described sounds excellent, with some serious and affecting aspects.


          • Haven’t had a subscription for years, but what you say about The New Yorker’s cartoons can by said, only more so, about the poetry published therein. Unless things have radically changed.

            But I differ with you re the cartoons– or at least the cartoonists. Some who have appeared between the covers of The New Yorker are first-rate, in conception, in drafting, everything. Steig, Steinberg, Booth. And who doesn’t appreciate Charles Addams?

            The problem is the cartoon editors, who, over the years, have exerted all sorts of petty power from their lofty spot, all while paying a ridiculously low rate for what they decide will appear. The overall impression their editorial slant leaves among the readership– smug, self-regarding urbanity– unfortunately rubs some the wrong way– for all the right reasons.

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            • Very true, jhNY. Some of The New Yorker’s cartoonists are/were top-notch, and you named several. But a lot of others elicit nothing more from me than perhaps a middling smile and — in your superb phrase — offer “smug, self-regarding urbanity.”

              And, yes, the magazine’s cartoon editors over the years have been, um, problematic in certain ways.

              I have a bit of personal bias. I was a freelance cartoonist for six or so years in the late 1990s/early 2000s, and, after successfully selling some cartoons to small magazines, submitted several dozen ideas to The New Yorker — all rejected. Not that the ideas were necessarily stellar, but some were better than a lot of what I saw in the magazine. I guess I didn’t have the “smug, self-regarding urbanity” thing down. ๐Ÿ™‚


              • From what I’ve read, even cartoonists with a following who had enjoyed several appearances twixt the pages could not count on having what they sent in accepted– most seemed to have to settle for seeing only a fraction of their submissions come to light.

                Any chance you might make a cartoon every once in a while for us here? I’d love it!

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                • Thanks, jhNY! ๐Ÿ™‚ My cartooning days are probably over; writing takes a lot of my time. One of these days I should scan some of my old cartoons into my laptop; if I do, I’ll post a couple or email you a couple. Unfortunately, they’re all in boxes I decided not to unpack when I moved last year.

                  The New Yorker indeed buys only a small percentage of submissions, and, as we discussed, they have to have a certain look, sensibility, etc. Many already-famous cartoonists whose work lacks that look and sensibility have been rejected. (I knew some of them — famous syndicated comic-strip cartoonists.)


    • This past weekend, I asked the staff at the used bookstore I frequently shop at to be on the lookout for any Liane Moriarty books. They texted me this morning; 4 books were available. I picked them up about an hour ago. The title I am eager to read first is The Shobble Secret because it has a sci-fi/fantasy angle. Thank you so much for turning me on to Liane Moriarty…I just love discovering authors!

      @Dave. While I was out, I returned that Mark Twain book you recommended to me to the library. Loved it. Thank you as well for telling me about it. See you later.

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      • Congrats, Ana, for getting those Liane Moriarty books after that author was recommended by Kat Lib! I’ll also try to read something by Moriarty in the not-too-distant future. It IS wonderful to discover other authors, as I’m sure I’ll soon experience when I get to Alistair MacLean and M.L. Stedman!

        You’re very welcome re Twain’s “Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc.” So glad you liked it! A great work of historical fiction.


      • Ana, I must admit I had a momentary panic attack, because I didn’t know there was a book by Liane Moriarty that I’d never heard of. My first thought was that you’d picked up books by Laura Moriarty (I know some people who always get them confused), but after looking it up, of course there is a book “The Shobble Secret” by Liane. It’s a teen/YA book, which I love to read, but it threw me for a loop since I wasn’t aware she wrote any in that genre or sci-fi/fantasy books..I obviously can’t comment on this one, but I’d love to hear about it and also which other three you got.

        Liked by 1 person

        • These are the other 3 titles I purchased:

          (1) Three Wishes
          (2) Big Little Lies
          (3) What Alice Forgot (the bookstore clerk raved about this one)

          The Shobble Secret was one of those rare finds because you won’t find too many Liane Moriarty YA books in bookstores period. That’s what I was told by the clerk. She could be right because we checked the inventory databases of several area bookstores and didn’t have any luck. We even checked Powell’s in Portland…nothing.

          Shobble is part of the Nicola Berry series. The only other title from this series that I’ve been able to track down so far is book #3, War on Whimsy. One copy is available at the library.

          I promised myself not to read The Shobble Secret until next week, but I couldn’t resist thumbing through it last night. Nicola and her space crew are seriously taking care of business. And the best part? Planet Shobble is literally covered in CHOCOLATE. LOL. Better make sure I have a couple of Hershey’s kisses while reading this because I’m sure I’ll get a taste for chocolate.

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  14. Hi Dave — I hope you’re having a great weekend! I can’t remember having read any sports-themed books, although the movie “Eight Men Out” made me want to read the book on which it was based (I have yet to do so). I have read books with athlete characters, but none I can think of beyond what you’ve already mentioned … but I know there must be others I’ve read and I’m going to give it some thought this week. Thank you so much for mentioning “The Mighty Casey” — I love that episode. Well, as you can see, I have very little to contribute this time … just wanted to stop by and say “hi”. Have a wonderful week, Dave ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • Thanks, Pat! Hope you’re having a good weekend, too!

      I read Eliot Asinof’s “Eight Men Out” many years ago, and it’s an excellent book. I should have included it in the last paragraph of my column. ๐Ÿ™‚

      One interesting thing about the book (and also about the movie, I assume; I haven’t seen it) is how some of the eight “Black Sox” players were shown to be a lot more guilty than others. And a big impetus for their “throwing” the 1919 World Series was that VERY wealthy White Sox owner Charles Comiskey grossly underpaid them. A greedy, nasty “One Percenter” of his time.

      You contributed plenty in your comment!


  15. You Must Remember This by Joyce Carol Oates was the first novel I read by this esteemed writer. Felix,a boxer,is one of the main characters,his virility attracts Enid as does his overall prowess in and out of the ring. Oates also wrote an acclaimed novel called On Boxing, the sport is a recurring theme in many of her novels. She talks about the sport not only for its brutality, but competition,beauty of the athletes,stability, mental and physical strength as just a few of what has fascinated her about this sport since she was a child when her father took her to boxing matches.

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    • Thanks for the excellent comment, Michele! I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve never read a Joyce Carol Oates novel, and of course should. I didn’t realize she focused on boxing in at least two books. I guess attending matches with her father had a big impact on her.

      By the way, this weekend I finished “On Beauty” by Zadie Smith — an author you had highly recommended. You were right — her writing is excellent. Believable/natural dialogue, interesting family dynamics, multicultural cast befitting our multicultural world, and often quite funny.


  16. The novel that comes immediately to mind is Stephen King’s “The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon.” A little girl gets separated from her family on a hiking trip in the wilderness and the novel tells of her experiences while lost in the woods alone. Tom Gordon is her favorite baseball player, and he figures prominently in her thoughts/dreams/hallucinations while she is lost. It’s a fascinating read!

    The only other “sports” novels that I can immediately recall reading are those by Dick Francis who was a retired steeplechase jockey who became a prolific crime novel writer. His novels always had something to do with horse racing. I enjoyed his books immensely!

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    • That’s a great novel to mention, lulabelleharris! I haven’t read “The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon,” but I had heard something about it. Thanks for your stellar summary.

      Jockey to crime novel writer. Interesting transition! Horse racing is practically foreign to me; I’ve only attended one group of races — at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky., when a convention I covered included that as a side trip.

      I noticed you rightly put sports in quote marks when mentioning horse racing. When animals (or vehicles, in things like NASCAR) do much of the work, that’s obviously a different kind of “sport” than baseball, football, basketball, hockey, tennis, etc.!

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Hey Dave, Sports always struck me as a tough one to pull off in the arts, it seems easy but in my opinion symbolism, nostalgia , and metaphor tend to get in the way of good story telling and real characters. That said you have some stellar examples above ,in particular I loved the Ebbets Field visit in Brooklyn . Anyway below is a link to my favorite Dave Barry column ever ,hope you enjoy ” best game I ever saw”

    Liked by 1 person

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