Thursday, June 21, 2012

 I recently finished After Annie by Michael Tucker. The novel centers on the intersection of two people: Herb Aaron and the beautiful bartender, Olive. The two are at polar opposites. Herb is decades removed from his success as an actor, such that when people recognize him he is merely "that guy who played on that show." Olive is a young actress who needs Herb to be there for her in order to make in the business. Problem is Herb is exhausted, cantankerous, and in mourning over the loss of his wife and lover, Annie. One evening, while Annie is fading away, Herb tells her about meeting Olive and Annie insists that she meet her. The two connect deeply and when Annie passes Herb becomes Olive's surrogate mentor. Annie serves as the tether that holds Olive and Herb together even though Herb does his best to escape. He soon learns that his final memory and connection to Annie is in Olive. Often funny, sometimes bizarre, Tucker creates a fun story in which two characters learn there is so much more to life after Annie.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Calico Joe by John Grisham

The game of baseball has its traditions. Yankee Pinstripes. The Green Monster. The Babe. All conjure images of a game that is as much part of our collective culture as the American Dream. Perhaps that is why baseball is so much a part of our heritage of hope. So many children grow up and see themselves one day playing the game like the pros. Baseball has its vernacular like so many American institutions do. The fastball. The full count. The moon shot. The three bagger. Nicknames run rampant as well. The film The Sandlot captured the heroic nature of the nickname when the boys thought of the Babe Ruth: The Sultan of Swat, The Great Bambino, The Colossus of Clout.

One such player, Joe Castle, added to the nostalgia of baseball by having arguably the greatest rookie start in the history of the game and showed unparalleled promise. Joe Castle emerged as a Chicago Cub in the summer of 1973 and immediately captured the attention of everyone. In just 38 games he hit an astonishing .488, including 21 home runs. He captured most rookie records and had the entire baseball country following him like a road map. Then, with one pitch high and inside, he was knocked out of the game forever.

John Grisham retells this story as a work of fiction from the point of view of the son of the pitcher for the New York Mets who hit Calico Joe. Joe's nickname came from his hometown of Calico Rock, Arkansas, a place that took him back in after his injury and protected him from the media that was so intent on chronicling his fall from potential baseball immortality. The novel explores the troubled relationship of a young boy, Paul Tracey, and his father, Warren Tracey, who the child initially idolized and eventually despised because he knew the truth that he was a womanizer and drunk who hit Calico Joe with the intent of knocking him out of the game perhaps out of jealousy. As his father's health begins to fail, Paul tries to get his father to accept one of the many mistakes he made in his life and apologize to Calico Joe before he loses the opportunity. This is a short novel, quickly read in one day if one so wishes. This is the first Grisham novel I read and plan to get to know his work better.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

NOW READING: Mover over Melville, make room for Moby Duck.
An interesting book about sisters. It also about collecting things: money, objects, ideas, lovers, lessons...Allegra Goiodman's novel is set during the explosion of dot com start companies that took the stock market by storm and made millionaires out of brilliant programming kids. Juxtaposed with the young energetic generation, is an older wiser one that warns the youth about their wild extragavance. Like most young people, experience is the best teacher. And experience can never be predicted. Nor could the effect of learning the true identity of a mother who passed away early in the lives of two young girls, nor could the love affair between distant generations, nor the day two airplanes crashed into two towers.

Goodman shows us that in collecting things, the objects themselves lose their luster once they are possessed. Once the luster has vanished, we either become content with what we have, yearn for something more, or understand that one will always lead to the other, and, that with this knowledge comes a possession that no one can ever take away: wisdom to recognize the difference.