Tag Archives: Sports Illustrated

Run Through the Jungle

running after prefontaine (med.-lg.)

Running After Prefontaine: A Memoir by Scott F. Parker (Inside the Curtain, $15.00, 271 pages)

“I’m like people who meditate for the insights it gives them. They do it for a reason, but the reason is no reason. I run for a reason, and the reason is running – and this is no small joy.”

In this compilation of articles, Scott F. Parker seems to be trying to convince himself of the redemptive power of running. He offers some interesting stories, such as the one about the time he ran a marathon without preparation (been there, done that…). He comes to discover that some run simply because it’s something they like to do; doing something one likes in life is important in itself. The two best chapters of Running After Prefontaine have to do with idolizing the late Oregon runner Steve Prefontaine, and about a woman’s battle to save her son’s life from a rare disease.

“I had recently made a very conscious decision to change the way I thought about myself, with the hope that a change in thinking would be followed by a change in self. I was to be the kind of person who could do things beyond his means by a simple and persistent force of will.”

The other parts of Running After Prefontaine do not work as well because we’ve been there before. The runner as philosopher genre was created by Dr. George Sheehan, and perfected by Haruki Murakami. Parker’s attempt to write about mindfulness and running doesn’t work so well, again, because he still appears to doubt some of his own arguments.

A new runner might enjoy reading what amounts to a personal journal of a life in running, but those with more miles under their soles and/or souls may wish to investigate the real thing. Murakami’s classic, What I Think About When I Think About Running, is a very good place to start. And the late Dr. George Sheehan’s books, Running & Being: The Total Experience, Personal Best, and Running to Win, constitute a great place in which to finish.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

The complete title of George Sheehan’s second book is Running to Win: How to Achieve the Physical, Mental & Spiritual Victories of Running. “George Sheehan is perhaps the most important philospher of sport.” Sports Illustrated, 1978

For more on Steve Prefontaine, the classic account is PRE: The Story of America’s Greatest Running Legend, Steve Prefontaine by Tom Jordan.

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Empty Pages

Sometimes, but fortunately not too often, I receive an e-mail from an author or publicist that says, in effect, “Why haven’t you reviewed the book that was sent to you?”   In thinking about this, there are probably a lot more reasons for a book to fall off of the TBR (to be read/reviewed) stack than are readily apparent to the average person.   I’ll go over some of them here.

Please Mr. Postman

Some books get lost in the mail, or mistakes are made in the mail room.   On occasion, I’ve received a book that looks like it shouldn’t have been sent to me but it’s usually from a publisher I know.   That leads me to think that another reviewer has been sent the book that I was interested in.   I’m sure it happens.

Obviously, since the people staffing publishers’ mail rooms are human, mistakes can and do happen.   There was a particular book that I had slotted to read at a specific time and it never arrived.   I brought this to someone’s attention and was told that another copy was going out that evening.   What I wound up receiving was a very nice package with nothing inside of it – no book and no papers.   Good intentions, but no luck.

Oh, and mail is certainly delivered to the wrong place these days.   I now know which of our neighbors receives ESPN Magazine or Sports Illustrated or Power Tools Today based on the mailman dropping them in my box.   It’s not too hard to figure that some of the books intended for me wind up as a free gift enjoyed by a close or distant neighbor.

Time is Tight

When I request a particular book – weeks before a review will appear – I have no way of knowing what other similar books will be released at the same time.   And on this site we deliberately try to review a wide variety of books, not just one of a kind.   So if I request a legal thriller and it shows up when I thought it would, and at a time when I’ve just finished a family novel and a children’s book, I will go ahead and read/review it as earlier planned.   But let’s say that I’ve just read two legal thrillers, and my wife has finished one, when your legal thriller arrives.   It’s going to be put aside because, unfortunately, it arrived at the wrong time.   We don’t want to be known as Legal Thriller Review.   (The same story gets played out for many genres, unfortunately.)

There’s also the fact that books arrive either earlier than expected or later.   Publication dates also change.   I have instances where I’m reading a book for a review to appear shortly, only to find that the publication date has been moved back a few months.   That leads me to close the book.   Contra, I may plan to read a forthcoming, not yet released book by a particular author, only to go to Borders and find out – yes, this did recently happen to me – that it’s been released for sale earlier than expected.   Again, the apple cart gets upset.

I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party

Every now and then, for a sense of variety, I agree to take part in a book blog tour.   What this usually means is that I’m sent a forthcoming book and asked to select a date, within a particular window (usually a period of 2 or 3 weeks), when my review will appear.   I usually try to pick one of the final dates available.   If I start reading the book and love it, and everyone whose review appears prior to mine loves it, everything is fine.   But now and then I’m reading a blog tour book that I just do not like.   If I see that everyone else has written a glowing review and mine is going to be the one extremely negative one, I will tell the publicist that I’m pulling out of the tour.   I will still post my own review but on my own schedule.   I have no need to rile things up on the blook tour party.

I’m Down

As I’ve said before, there are some books that I receive and read but I refrain from writing reviews about them.   Why?   It’s generally not that they are bad, just not unique enough to make for an interesting review.   Let’s say, for example, that I’m reading one of five new Paul McCartney bios that are out this year.   I finish it and find that it’s full of the same stories told in 10 prior McCartney-related books.   Do I really want to write a rather boring review stating, “This book is a rehash of the same old stories…”?   OK, sometimes I will write that but only if I think I can say it in an interesting way.   Often, though, the same old thing is just not worth writing about.

Joseph Arellano

To be continued…

Pictured:  The Neighbors are Watching: A Novel by Debra Ginsberg, which will be released by Crown on Tuesday, November 16, 2010 (and which will be reviewed on this site on that date or earlier).

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Running On Empty

She’s Gone Country: A Novel by Jane Porter (5 Spot; $13.99; 384 pages)

Coping with imposed life changes is the main theme for Jane Porter’s new novel, She’s Gone Country.   The central character, Shey Darcy, is an almost-forty-year-old former fashion model whose image appeared in Vogue and in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition.   Shey’s glamorous life in New York City is cut short when her husband declares that he’s gay and wants a divorce.  

What follows is a sprint back to Shey’s roots in Texas.   She takes her two sons to live in her mom’s house on a sprawling family-owned ranch in a bid to feel more secure.   This is a tale of growing up to reality and grasping a sense of how to navigate life when the veneer of New York life’s distractions is peeling away.

Author Jane Porter presents the story in a stream of consciousness first person narrative in the present tense.   Shey is stuck in her feelings about the life she has been forced to leave behind.   She dwells on her husband’s betrayal, the trials of motherhood and her very shaky self-image.   Shey’s monologue is often repetitive, and it is a perfect example of self-talk by the mind vs. being in the now, as detailed in Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now.   Shey loses her way, her sense of now and she’s stuck trying to cope with her brain chatter.

An odd combination of contrasts crop up throughout the story.   Men are generally described as hunky or highly attractive, and comfortable with old cars and the peeling paint on the Texas ranch house where Shey lives.   Women are depicted less charitably.   Porter describes their actions and fashion choices in a way that is just shy of brutal.

The notion of raising boys is foreign to this reviewer, but Jane Porter is the mother of three boys.   She makes it seem like a lot more work than having girls.   Even though the story is told in the first person, the feelings and actions of the other characters are well-developed.   This is especially true for Shey’s two sons.   Each has his own personality and needs as together they struggle with having been uprooted from post private school city life and plopped down onto a small country setting.

Since this book is clearly of the chic lit genre, it was amazing to this reviewer that the most sympathy and tears were brought out by someone other than the main character – who knew?

This is a most enjoyable read for women of a certain age.   Recommended.

This review was written by Ruta Arellano.   A review copy was provided by Hachette Book Group U.S.A.   She’s Gone Country was released by 5 Spot on August 23, 2010.

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