Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Of Anniversaries, Longshots, and Frank Deford

Before I give Mr. Deford's new memoir, Over Time, the once-over, I would like to wish myself a happy anniversary as it was six years ago this week that this blog was hatched.  It has grown some, the look has changed a bit but it is still essentially the same: my thoughts on what I read, like it or lump it.  I remain plagued by my procrastinating, something I still can't explain since I'm always much happier once I have written (perhaps a therapist would be of help here) and, of course, my longwindedness and inability to punctuate correctly.   Still, my belief in the book and my admiration for those who write them, publish them, and read them has never wavered.  If you've spent any time here on this site, read a book because of what I've written, avoided one because of same, or just guffawed a bit, I appreciate it immensely.  There are lots of places to go for book info featuring writers far more accomplished than your ol' pal, Reed Next.  That said, I do hope you'll stay with me.  Eventually, I might even get it write right.

I was terribly happy to see The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce's delightful debut, made the longlist for the Man Booker prize.  Likely a longshot but you never know with awards and with the Britons.  Mrs. Next is enjoying the book very much though Mrs. Next reads quite slowly so if I promised to lend you my copy, perhaps you may wish to hold yourself over with another book or purchase it yourself.  Her schoolmarming is about to begin for the year and that might mean she won't finish Harold until the holiday break in December.

Now, as for Frank Deford, let me just say this book was a joy.  I have long been a fan of his writing and his NPR commentaries.  His tenure has spanned a couple of generations of sportswriters and he has watched as sports became less about sport and more about big business. 

One of the things I have always admired about Deford is his honesty.  He knows college football is a shameless racket, that Americans will never embrace soccer as does the rest of the world, that pro tennis is dead.  He'll tell you so in an elegant but straightforward manner, two things lacking in both sports and sportswriting these days.  

Best of all, Deford is a gunslinger.  His vocabulary, his style, his turns of phrase always make me smile and appreciate how easy he makes it look and how hard it must be to write.  Even better, if you like his NPR commentaries, you will read this book and be able to hear his voice, that cadence, and that wink.  

To that end, I give you a graph from chapter two as a tiny taste of what I'm talking about:

"I have always believed that, ideally, your memoirs should be filled with anecdotes about other, more attractive people so that you might improve on the necessarily duller parts of the narrative, i.e., yourself.  David Niven, for example, wrote memoir after memoir, because he knew all the stylish folk in the world, and wherever they were together, in the Hamptons or Gstaad or on yachts in the Mediterranean, they all had big names and they absolutely adored lunches, so they ate and drank long, languid midday repasts and threw off priceless bons mots, one after the other, for Mr. Niven to dress up his own memoirs with.  Alas, although it was not my life's intention at the time when I chanced to become a sportswriter, I have thereafter mostly remained a sportswriter; and I'm afraid athletes don't traffic in bons mots, whether or not I am in their presence with a notepad."

Mmmm.  Scrumptious. Dooooo go on.

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