I expected this book to be good - but not great - but it was remarkable. Whenever these first-person stories are billed as "funny," I always role my eI expected this book to be good - but not great - but it was remarkable. Whenever these first-person stories are billed as "funny," I always role my eyes - obviously the book isn't THAT funny, and no nerd is as funny as they think they are. But the book is an authentically funny delight.
The central tension of the book is about use of data vs. the conservate instincts of "old-school" baseball men. And the characters are all men - although the Sonoma Stompers, the stars of the book, did feature the first openly gay active ballplayer and the first Japanese manager, they didn't debut the first female professional player until the subsequent season. At times I think the authors - who kept reminding us how self-aware they were - weren't really self-aware enough about some of the underlying social conflicts laid bare in the clubhouse, but they were generally very empathetic about the people they were covering. Unlike Buzz Bissinger's Friday Night Lights, in which the author is similarly embedded in a small town passionate about sports, their is no "twist" in the narrative focus.
At times the copy feels loosely compiled as the two primary authors alternate chapters. They offer the conceit that it's like the home & away innings in a baseball game, but that doesn't quite hold up. It's easy to lose track of who is writing which chapter, and the two authors, who have been collaborators for years on the web and a co-hosted podcast, have similar voices. What's more, tension between the two authors is often referenced but never explicitly placed on narrative front-burner, which is frustrating.
But I can't recommend this book highly enough. It's got great baseball — a broken-bat home-run, a pennant chase, sudden-death playoff and the debut of the first openly gay professional ball-player —but it also features entrepreneurship, cognitive bias, R. Kelly and a whole boatload of spreadsheets. ...more
More of a "novella" than a novel. I read this in one night and one round trip to Brooklyn, it's quite short. This book is fun for fans of Tess MonaghaMore of a "novella" than a novel. I read this in one night and one round trip to Brooklyn, it's quite short. This book is fun for fans of Tess Monaghan but I'd like a little more....more
Stacy Schiff has crafted, somehow, a new angle on one of the world's oldest great stories. By focusing on the first degree sources we have from the peStacy Schiff has crafted, somehow, a new angle on one of the world's oldest great stories. By focusing on the first degree sources we have from the period (mostly from Roman scholars & historians, since Alexandria was destroyed by earthquakes), Schiff at once claims expertise but only in a context that is also accessible to the reader. At times Schiff's explanation of the sources and the perceived motivations of their authors feels plodding, but the framing of these sources is essential to Schiff's project. Some classicists (most significantly Mary Beard in the New York Review of Books) have been catty about the book, passing it off as lightweight or finding nits in the text. This makes me only want to love it more.
Even with thin sourcing and scrubbed of the orientalism and oversexualized mythologies, Cleopatra's life story is incredible. The last quarter of the book dedicated to Rome's war on Egypt and Cleopatra's eventual suicide is taut storytelling, not just "classicism for amateurs."
Here's one of my favorite passages from the book, about a fishing trip that Cleopatra and Antony took during a time of relative peace and prosperity in their lives.
Appian has Antony exclusively in the company of Cleopatra, “to whom his sojourn in Alexandria was wholly devoted.” He sees in her a poor influence. Antony “was often disarmed by Cleopatra, subdued by her spells, and persuaded to drop from his hands great undertakings and necessary campaigns, only to roam about and play with her on the sea-shores.” More likely the opposite was true. And while Cleopatra focused exclusively and intently on her guest, she did so without sacrificing her competitive spirit, her sense of humor, or her agenda. Here are the two on an Alexandrian afternoon, relaxing on the river or on Lake Mareotis in a fishing boat, surrounded by attendants. Mark Antony is frustrated. He commands whole armies but on this occasion somehow cannot coax a single fish from the teeming, famously fertile Egyptian waters. He is all the more mortified as Cleopatra stands beside him. Romance or no, to prove so incompetent in her presence is a torture. Antony does what any self-respecting angler would: Secretly he orders his servants to dive into the water and fasten a series of precaught fish to his hook. One after another he reels these catches in, a little too triumphantly, a little too regularly; he is an impulsive man with something to prove, never particularly good at limits. Cleopatra rarely misses a trick and does not miss this one. She feigns admiration. Her lover is a most dexterous man! Later that afternoon she sings his praises to her friends, whom she invites to witness his prowess for themselves.
A great fleet accordingly heads out the following day. At its outset Cleopatra issues a few furtive orders of her own. Antony puts out his line, to instantaneous results. He senses a great weight and reels in his catch, to peals of laughter: From the Nile he extracts a salted, imported Black Sea herring. She is no scold, having instead mastered that formula for which every parent, coach, and chief executive searches: She has ambition, and no trouble encouraging the same in others. “Leave the fishing rod, General, to us,” Cleopatra admonishes, before the assembled company. “Your prey,” she reminds Antony, “are cities, kingdoms, and continents.”
Fun read. We'd been buying these books on the kindle ($7-$12 each), but for these middle editions, we decided to buy the trade paperbacks off of amazoFun read. We'd been buying these books on the kindle ($7-$12 each), but for these middle editions, we decided to buy the trade paperbacks off of amazon (usually $2-$2.50, shipping included). Horrible decision - the trade paperback paper & type is near unreadable (and I have good eyes!) I hadn't quite processed that the new kindle is actually superior to paper for the majority of books published & sold today. Our friends haven't picked up on this yet since we probably tend to buy more highfalutin books. ...more
I haven't read the prequel (Adriana is reading it), but I thought this was a thrilling book. Connelly is learning to let scenes flow into each other,I haven't read the prequel (Adriana is reading it), but I thought this was a thrilling book. Connelly is learning to let scenes flow into each other, instead of the crisp (too abrupt) pace of his previous books. ...more
This was a fun read - but it does feel like a little bit of a reboot of some of the characters - especially Harry Bosch. I expected some more legal wiThis was a fun read - but it does feel like a little bit of a reboot of some of the characters - especially Harry Bosch. I expected some more legal wizardry from Mickey, but it was fine without. ...more