24 April 2007

Spring of '07

My mother grew up near Fenway Park and will kick you out of her house if you suggest that Ted Williams is anything other than the Greatest Player of All Time. Naturally, I keep my mouth shut about Barry. She sent me David Halberstam's Summer of '49 for Christmas in 1996, which I devoured eagerly. I was only familiar with his famous The Best and the Brightest, and reading that had spurred a frenzy of Vietnam study: Phillip Caputo, Neil Sheehan, Stanley Karnow, Michael Herr, and William Westmoreland's A Soldier Reports. But Summer was about baseball, more precisely, the Yankees and the Red Sox, and that's my territory. I'm skeptical and critical by nature, and have little patience for scholarly tomes about The World's Greatest Game. Mr. Halberstam can write, though, with great verve and passion, and his story about the 1949 pennant race feels like a novel. It was so good that when I discovered October 1964 about the Cardinals and Yankees in the World Series, I gobbled it like chocolate candy. Halberstam has the ability to tell you history and give you the sense of the times without losing the narrative flow of the main story. The characters are iconic--Williams, DiMaggio, Mantle, Gibson--but the men in the book are real, and so are the tumultuous times they play in. Great reads, both of them. David Halberstam was killed yesterday in a car crash in Menlo Park, California, after speaking at my alma mater, U.C. Berkeley. From the SF Chronicle: "On Saturday, Halberstam talked about the importance of craft, advising the audience at one point that if they wanted to learn storytelling, they should read mysteries, where it was paramount to build suspense and keep the reader interested." I knew there was a reason I liked this guy. Requiescat in Pacem.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the very well done blog on David Halberstram, one of my favorites. What a loss to us all. NOC